As tree planting gets underway in B.C., especially in areas impacted by wildfires in 2017 and 2018, several new measures are being implemented due to COVID-19 precautions. This photo was taken in a previous planting season. (Paige Mueller photo)

B.C. tree planting season ramping up with COVID-19 measures in place

Every year about 5,000 tree planters from B.C. and other areas travel to the province

As planned reforestation efforts get underway in B.C. many new COVID-19 precautions are being implemented to protect the safety of workers and the public.

“Every year about 5,000 tree planters from B.C. and other areas travel to the province to work in remote camps throughout the province,” said forests minister Doug Donaldson during a press conference with chief forester and assistant deputy minister Diane Nicholls and John Betts, executive director of the Western Forestry Contractors’ Association (WFCA) Friday. “Following extensive discussions with the ministry of health we believe this important work can proceed.”

Some of the new rules involve mandatory social distancing, reduced interactions between employers and nearby communities, handwashing stations at camps and the hiring of third party security companies to monitor planting crews when they are staying at motels or hotels.

Read more: B.C. tree planting season delayed until early May due to COVID-19 precautions

Donaldson said developing the new measures has been a non-partisan effort and he has support from Liberal forest critic MLA John Rustad.

Nicholls said she asked contractors and licencees last month to delay any planting until the beginning of May so a COVID-19 plan could be implemented.

“I did this to provide the planting community time to ensure that the most current guidance to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus is being applied to planting start up and implementation, ensuring the health and safety of workers and the nearby communities they were going to operate within.”

She thanked the contracting communities for their co-operation.

The ministry has worked with the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C., BC Timber Sales, licensees, and the WFCA to ensure the appropriate procedures are in place to reduce the risk and spread of COVID-19, she added.

“We have worked extensively with the ministry of health to develop silviculture guidelines specific to COVID-19,” she said, noting they are in addition to the existing B.C. Centre of Disease Control guidelines for industrial plants.

Employers will use the guidelines to develop operational protocol at work camps and risk-assessment plans.

Employer plans must be submitted to government and all forestry camps and work sites will be inspected by provincial infection and control inspectors to make sure all health requirements are in place.

“All employees must participate in COVID-19 training and education provided by the employer.

Hand sanitizing stations must be in place, all common area surfaces cleaned daily, and physical distancing of at least two metres must be maintained at all time. If hotels and motels

The target was to plant 314 million seedlings, with a large portion in areas impacted by the 2017 and 2018 wildfires, and Nicholls said they are hopeful to meet that goal.

Betts said it isn’t unusual to deal with upsets such as fires and floods during the regular tree planting season, although there hasn’t been experience working through a pandemic up until now.

When the prospect of the pandemic began to be realized, Betts said the parties started talking about the pressures by January and by February were planning on how to operate in such a scenario.

Best said they began building best practices that are already being implemented on the Coast where 400 workers have been planting and so far they have been COVID-19 symptom free.

“There were a lot of concerns so on our own we were working with communities and letting them know how differently things were going to be managed to have a safe season,” he added.



news@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Coronavirusforestry

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Park to partially reopen June 1

The Meadows in the Sky Parkway is expected to open

New Revelstoke staycation contest worth $1K launched

It’s to stoke locals for exploring their own backyard

Revelstoke sushi event fundraises almost $10K for local hospital

Kawakuba Japanese Restaurant raised almost $10,000 for Queen Victoria Hospital. The fundraiser… Continue reading

Revelstoke man with Alberta plates gets car keyed and aggressive note

Some people are finding hostile reception due to COVID-19 worries

Province seeks feedback on proposed all-season recreation resort near New Denver

Mountain lodge, chairlifts, hiking and biking trails all part of massive resort

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

Central Okanagan schools ready to welcome students back

Students are set to go back to school next Monday, June 1

Houseboat company partly owned by Shuswap MLA withdraws controversial ad

The ad welcomed houseboaters from other provinces, contradicting anti COVID-19 measures.

Squabble between campers in North Shuswap leads to bear spraying

An argument over late night partying escalated into a fight which led to one person being sprayed

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

Penticton may soon allow drinking alcohol in some public places

Trying to inconspicuously drink on the beach could become a thing of the past

VIDEO: Flowers stolen from Vernon distillery

Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery captured surveillance footage of the thief in a black car

Most Read