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

Enderby’s drive-in not safe from top doc’s 50-car limit

Starlight Drive-In opened with reduced capacity, COVID-19 safety measures in place

COVID-19: Parking lot patios a go in Vernon

Council votes in favour of allowing businesses to expand commercial space into on-street parking spots

Vernon gym knocked out by COVID-19

9Round Fitness in Vernon Square Mall owners announce permanent closure of facility

North Okanagan regional district board delays food scraps ban

Move is to help businesses and organizations during pandemic

2019 payroll costs City of Vernon $26M

City discloses remuneration report and CAO is top earner

Video: Okanagan mayors encourage water conservation this summer

Water conservation this summer could be more important than ever, experts say

B.C. First Nation adopts Dr. Bonnie Henry, names her ‘one who is calm among us’

Gitxsan officially adopts the provincial health officer in a May 22 ceremony

Shuswap cabin owner disputes request to stay home in Alberta

Alberta resident redrafts response to CSRD request to stay home

Petition seeks to clean up Okanagan forests ‘carpeted’ with shotgun shells

Penticton man says making shot-gun shells refundable would create cleaner forests

Kelowna’s main drag will be closed to vehicles this summer

Kelowna’s Bernard Avenue will be a pedestrian-only roadway from June 29 through the Labour Day long weekend

Snapshot: Distanced dancing in Salmon Arm

Friends use picnic shelter at Blackburn Park for safe practice

Kelowna’s Homebase Baseball Tournament cancelled

A live auction will still take place to raise funds for Joeanna’s House

Kelowna General Hospital Foundation launches fundraising initiative to support local health care

The initiative also highlights workers at Kelowna General Hospital

Kelowna man charged with harming a hamster

The 20-year-old Kelowna man faces several animal cruelty charges

Most Read