2020 Tree Planting Update

Learn about the silver linings of the COVID-19 health and  safety protocols put in place in a tree planting camp! CBC Daybreak North Interview with Jonathan Clark, a tree planter and camp supervisor based in Prince George, currently planting in Pressy Lake area. Jonathan also runs one of the biggest industry websites in Canada — Replant.ca,

Thursday, May 28, 2020, 07:37
By CBC Daybreak North

Carolina de Ryk: The tree planting season is underway, but it looks very different this year with the pandemic. New regulations are in place to keep crews and communities safe.

Jonathan Clark is a tree planter and camp supervisor based in Prince George, currently planting in Pressy Lake area. Jonathan also runs one of the biggest industry websites in Canada — Replant.ca, and Jonathan Clark joins me on the line this morning.

What’s it been like so far at the tree planting camp?

Jonathan Clark: It’s been very interesting this year. Some parts are very much business as usual and some parts are very much adaptation on the fly. I guess we kind of expected it. Tree planters are generally pretty versatile at dealing with unexpected situations.

The fact that we had six or eight weeks to prepare for this has certainly helped. But there’s been a lot of changes, like the way that we eat in the morning in shifts instead of all as one group, the way that we get laundry done, repairs to broken equipment, wearing masks in trucks — all kinds of changes so far.

De Ryk: Can you take us through some of those? You mentioned eating breakfast in shifts. What does that look like at the camp in Pressy Lake?

Clark: We’ve got 75 people in the camp. In past seasons, we’ve always eaten as a large group. Normally we have a 45-minute mealtime for everyone to be processed and have their breakfast or dinner. This year, because we didn’t want the crowding in the line, we have broken it up into three different shifts. Twenty-five people are allowed to eat in any one shift, and we’ve got those separated by half an hour.

And instead of one 40-foot mess tent, we have to worry about social distancing. Because of that, we had to buy a second mess tent for the camp. With only a third of the camp eating at a time, we can still have it so that everyone is spread out, two per table, six-foot spacing, et cetera.

In some ways it’s challenging, but there’s also advantages that we hadn’t expected. People are happy that they’re not waiting in line for meals quite as long. Some of these things we may continue doing in the future here, even when we don’t have to worry about COVID.

De Ryk: Before the tree planting season started, was there concern from tree planters about what they might be stepping into this season?

Clark: Absolutely. We started talking about it at an industry level at the Western Forestry Contractors’ Association conference. That was held back in late January in Prince George. The companies were aware, and of course as things developed in early March, we were starting to send out a lot of updates to planters saying this is what you might want to expect, this is what you’re going to have to deal with.

Certainly some of the long-term planters that didn’t want to deal with those kinds of restrictions, some of those backed out for the season. As the increases in restrictions became apparent, we started seeing more and more people drop out. With my own crew, I told them look, I totally understand if you don’t want to plant this year. We’re not going to let you go to town. You’re not even going to be allowed out of camp. And I said if you drop out this year, that’s fine. I will take you back next year. But this year we’re going to have to deal with this certainly, and hopefully not next year.

De Ryk: I want to talk to you a little bit more about that because you just hit the nail on the head there with days off. Tree planters, it’s usually highly anticipated, that’s your time to go into the community in the region where you’re planting. You get your laundry done, maybe have a meal out, get to hang out, have a beer. What happens instead on those coveted days off?

Clark: It’s been really tricky. We’ve obviously had to increase our support staff quite significantly. On a normal year, we’d have two people in the kitchen, and now we’ve got five. It’s because we have to feed people on the days off in camp.

Of the 75 people in camp, all the planters, not one has actually left the camp other than to go to the block. It’s frustrating in some ways because from our side, we enjoy going into the communities. We also realize that the communities themselves are taking a huge economic hit because our planters aren’t spending any money, and that’s unfortunate. But at the same time, it seems to be a little bit more relaxed. There’s not that big panic on a day off to get everybody together in the truck, running to town for laundry and chaperoning people around to the different stores.

In some ways it’s more relaxing, but we’ve got somebody who’s basically just running laundry in and out of town per day. One of the local laundry mat owners has been very supportive, so he’s doing all of our laundry for us. That’s taken a huge off our plate, which has made things a lot more workable.

De Ryk: You were talking as well about heading into the cutblock in the trucks where tree planters are wearing masks where tree planters are wearing masks. As the season wears on and everybody’s been in each other’s company for days or weeks on end, what do you do if people start to relax and think maybe that mask isn’t necessary or that physical distance?

Clark: So far, we haven’t had to worry about that. People have been pretty respectful about the issue. We’ve had one big plus. We’ve been in camp now for 26 days, so we’re pretty certain that we don’t have the infection in camp. But we’ve noticed a couple benefits, especially the fact that nobody has been getting sick. Normally, we’d have two or three people every day out with colds or flus in a typical season, and we have not had a single sick day because of this year.

We’re thinking that the masks and all the sanitation procedures are really helping with that and people do appreciate it. And once they’re out of the truck, as soon as they’re on the block, they’re spread out — open air, socially distanced. So they don’t have to wear masks during the day. Really, only the drive to and from work in the morning, that’s the problem.

De Ryk: As you mentioned, Jonathan, maybe some rules and regulations that might continue into future seasons, whether we’re under a pandemic or not.

Clark: Yes, absolutely, and just a lot of little things. The way that we do things, we found that some things are better this year, things that we never would have expected. The lineups [inaudible] already mentioned, but even the foreman are saying it’s so much more relaxing for them and they’re that are under the most pressure. Maybe we need to figure out a way to do laundry service in camp next year so less people have to go to town on days off.

De Ryk: Interestingly, we did speak to a couple communities — Fort St James in particular — who were concerned about the possible effect of tree planting camps near their community. What kind of feedback have you received from the communities near where you work?

Clark: We haven’t had any problems at all. The local foresters have said that the community here has been quite respectful and supportive, everyone that they talked to. And we did put some signs up. We’re camping on some fairly secluded private property, and we have signs up at the entrance to camp that kind of block the entrance. They say no visitors please. This camp is COVID-free and we hope to keep it that way; thank you for understanding.

I think that’s probably one long way with anyone in the local area who goes by. Also, a lot of people in this community lost their homes in the fire. They see the work that we’re doing and they realize it’s their community and for their recreational activities around here, so I think that’s been a big help.

De Ryk: Great to check in with you today, Jonathan. Best of luck with the rest of the season.

Clark: Thanks so much. Have a good day.

De Ryk: You as well.

Jonathan Clark, a tree planter and camp supervisor. He also runs one of the biggest industry websites in Canada — Replant.ca. [xrz]


The tree planting season in the Interior will now be rolling out with new rules and guidelines in place to address health and safety given COVID -19. “Tree planting is crucial to the health of our forests, and we are instituting strict measures based on the [provincial health officer Bonnie Henry’s] expert direction to make sure that it is done in a way that protects workers and the people of British Columbia,” said Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development Doug Donaldson. BC Gov News Release

A Silviculture Operators Screening website has been developed for Contractors to attest to their Infection Prevention Control Protocol (IPCP), identify their COVID coordinator etc. This site and process is new and  it is likely more details will be ironed out in the coming days.

Notes from the North Area Planting Call – April 24th – These notes further explain the requirements for getting planting going in BC.

BCCFA Newsletter
Spring 2020 Tree Planting – COVID-19 Measures

April 24, 2020

  1. All planting camps must meet the standards in the new provincial health order Industrial Camps – Order of the Provincial Health Officer and in the Protecting Employees, Contractors, and Employers Working in the Silviculture Sector During the COVID-19 Pandemic manual, also known as the Guidelines for Silviculture Worker Camps During the COVID-19 Pandemic April 22, 2020
  2. In order to begin planting, tree planting contractors must have a COVID-19 Coordinator identified for each area/camp. They will submit an online Attestation Form that confirms that the planting contractor has an Infection Prevention and Control Protocol (IPC) in place. Once this form is submitted, they will get a reference number, and that number authorizes them to go out planting. If they haven’t started planting yet, they will need an inspection prior to start-up. Planters working from home must adhere to all the same rules. The home is considered a planting camp, and must have an IPC in place and confirmed through the submission of the Attestation form. Licensees are responsible for ensuring the terms of their planting contracts are upheld (planting quality etc), but are not responsible for inspection of the planting camps.
  3. Key messages about the 2020 Spring Planting Season Covid -19 Measures
  4. Frequently asked questions about the tree planting season and the Province’s response to COVID-19.
    Q & A long version  Top 10 Q &A 
  5. Social Licence – To address the concerns of rural and First Nation communities about workers coming in from outside of the community, CFA managers are asked to communicate directly with local leadership regarding your contractor’s plans and safety measures. Social licence to operate is essential to get your trees in the ground, and maintaining it is essential to your long term work in the community! Local people want to know about the IPC and for how planters will behave, for example, when they drive into town, when they are filling up for gas and will they be stopping locally for groceries, etc.

Below is a message from Shane Berg, Deputy Chief Forester.

Dear Colleagues,

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented some unique and unprecedented challenges for all British Columbians. The Provincial Health Officer continues to provide the necessary measures and guidance that help essential services protect their workers and surrounding communities.

We also need to ensure that our economy continues to operate to provide essential goods and services to the people of B.C. For this reason, forestry and silviculture were included in the list of essential services.

B.C. anticipates planting over 310 million trees this year, which started on the Coast in February and will ramp up in the Interior over the coming weeks. Our 2020 planting program is focussed on reforesting harvested areas, maximizing climate change mitigation benefits (forest carbon) and rehabilitating areas affected by disease and the 2017-18 wildfires. This important work can go ahead with newly released COVID-19 measures to address community and worker safety.

The provincial health officer has provided :

Industrial Camp Standard Order

Guidance for Silviculture Camps.

Attached are key messages and frequently asked questions about the tree planting season and the Province’s response to COVID-19. Please share with your contacts as needed and use them to respond to all inquiries.

Please send any questions or comments to Ann Lockley, Senior Extension Lead for the Office of the Chief Forester.

More details and materials will follow. This is a quickly evolving issue and I appreciate your engagement at this critical juncture.

Shane Berg, Deputy Chief Forester


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