Hundreds of potential tree planters poised to work in B.C. began keeping daily isolation logs a week ago in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Everyone that plans to come and work has to spend two weeks filling out this log, describing how isolated they are and if they are having any symptoms,” said Mikin Fischer, office manager for Dynamic Reforestation Ltd. in Williams Lake.
The company has about 300 planters lined up for the season to plant from camps between Clearwater and Fort St. John and Fischer said they are trying to get them to work.
A spokesperson with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development confirmed that starting this spring, 308 million seedlings were scheduled to be planted in the province over a 10-week period.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we want to ensure that our operations are in alignment with the direction provided by the provincial health officer.”
With the support of BC Timber Sales and the Western Forestry Contractor’s Association (WCFA), B.C.’s chief forester requested any Interior planting that has not started, be delayed until the beginning of May to accommodate any new guidance or procedures.
The request further acknowledged that planting already taking place on the Coast or for contractors ready to begin planting, could do so with strict adherence to current provincial health officer guidance.
Collaborative processes between government, BCTS, licensees and the WFCA have been underway to prepare for this year’s planting season in light of COVID-19.
These include camp health and safety procedures, workforce support, communications, and planned ongoing communication with indigenous leaders and local governments.
This year’s tree planting program is in response to legal reforestation obligations, the 2017 and 2018 wildfires and the strategic use of reforestation to mitigate climate change.
“Our reforestation program must take the necessary measures to ensure the safety of workers and the communities they work in,” the spokesperson added.
Dynamic has six camps, but Fischer said they are anticipating that only four or five will be in operation this year.
Planters come from all over, she added.
One is a marathon runner who volunteers with Doctors Without Borders in the off season, another two didn’t return to plant because they recently passed their bar exams.
Fischer said she also received a call from one of the laundromats in Williams Lake informing her they are good to go and ready for the company’s tree planters, but have different rules because of the pandemic.
“I thought that was cool — I love how our community is coming together.”