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

Surrey addictions officials say pandemic funding is wreaking havoc on those in recovery

Governments’ kindness taking its toll, recovery operators say

Influx of cross-border visitors to Peace Arch Park sparks concern COVID-19 could spike

Police, parks officials say patrols, education and signage have all been increased

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

B.C. government releases designs for new Pattullo Bridge

Project expected to cost $1.377 billion, completed by end of 2023

11 new COVID-19 cases in B.C. as top doc urges caution amid ‘encouraging’ low rates

Dr. Bonnie Henry also announced that two care home outbreaks would be declared over

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces official ban on overnight kids’ camps this summer

New ban comes after talking with other provincial health officials across the country, Henry says

Senior man in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack near Prince Rupert

Conservation officers are on site looking for the wolf

VIDEO: NASA astronauts blast off into space on SpaceX rocket

Marks NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

B.C.’s police watchdog probing death of Richmond man in alleged shoplifting incident

Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is asking any witnesses to come forward

PHOTOS: U.S. cities brace for increasing unrest over police killing of George Floyd

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has fully mobilized the state’s National Guard

Aldergrove zoo to reopen with staff in masks, one-directional visitor experience to tackle COVID-19

Its June 1 reopening will be ushered in by words from Darryl Plecas, Legislative assembly Speaker

$200,000 Maybach impounded after ‘L’ driver caught excessively speeding in Vancouver

Meanwhile, the supervisor sat in the passenger seat, police said

Most Read

l -->