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)

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

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada sits ready for use at The Michener Institute in Toronto on December 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)
Lake Babine Nation to receive Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine to arrive within next two weeks for elders 65+

The first of two massive turbines headed from Prince Rupert for the Site C Dam near Fort St. John on Jan 10. (Photo: Supplied by Tasha McKenzie)
Massive turbines begin trek across Northwestern B.C.

Hydro-Electric turbines headed from Prince Rupert to Site C Dam week of Jan. 10 to 14

Zhùr, the ancient wolf pup found mummified in permafrost at Last Chance Creek mine in July 2016. (Government of Yukon/Submitted)
‘Mummy’ wolf pup unearthed in permafrost paints a picture of ice age ancestors

Zhùr is the best preserved and most complete mummy of an ancient wolf found to date.

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Smithers vaccination program to begin next week

Smithers mayor reports to council BVDH will be getting the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
536 COVID cases, 7 deaths reported as B.C. find its first case of South African variant

Henry said 69,746 people have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine.

Alan Davidson was sentenced to almost six years for abusing seven boys in the late 1970s and early 1990s. (Canadian Press file)
Full parole granted to former Mountie, sports coach convicted of sex abuse of boys

Alan Davidson convicted of abusing boys in B.C. and Saskatchewan in late ’70s, early ’90s

The first COVID-19 vaccine arrives in B.C. in temperature-controlled containers, Dec. 13, 2020. (B.C. government)
More vaccine arrives as B.C. struggles with remote COVID-19 cases

Long-term care homes remain focus for public health

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in 60 B.C. First Nations by next week

B.C. has allocated 25,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to First Nations for distribution by the end of February

Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone questions the NDP government in the B.C. legislature, Feb. 25, 2020. (Hansard TV)
Todd Stone says he’s not running for B.C. Liberal leadership

Kamloops MLA was widely viewed as a front-runner

Wireless voice and data services are out for those on Telus as of Thursday (Jan. 14) afternoon across Western Canada, Telus Support said in a recent Tweet. (Black Press file photo)
UPDATE: Telus services restored across Western Canada

Telus said they are monitoring the situation to ensure connections remain stable

Screenshot from video.
2 students arrested in assault of transgender girl at Lower Mainland school

Mother says daughter was targeted because of how she identifies

Constable Ken Jaques broke a window and crawled into a home to rescue an elderly man who had be laying on the floor for days. Jaques was the officer who provided oversight for the 2020 Remembrance Day services and is shown here in a picture with his son. Photo Andrea DeMeer
Senior who fell and spent days lying on floor of home saved by Princeton cop

He broke the glass and crawled into the house, while calling for assistance from BC Ambulance

Most Read