WSCA Asks to End Spring Planting Later

A cool, wet spring is leaving Interior blocks frozen, under snow and likely to delay the start up to this year’s main planting season. The WSCA is asking industry to shift the end of the planting window later rather than run a shortened season to meet the calendar deadline usually set in mid to late June.

Season Extension.doc

18 April 2008

Dear Silviculture Foresters:

Re: WSCA request to shift 2008 spring planting season contract deadlines

This spring is turning out to be cold and wet across the province with forecasts indicating an unusually cool trough will influence weather patterns for at least another week, if not longer. On the West Coast contractors report blocks are still under snow that fell weeks ago. Short of a heat wave of daily highs matched with tropical rains at night the current trend suggests the 2008 Interior spring planting window is shifting, like the season, to later this year.

Recognizing this, it makes sense then to allow the planting window to move in the same direction as the weather, rather than pile up against the summer solstice as the contract-designated end to the Interior spring season. Since contractors will be constrained or delayed at the start up the WSCA requests that project administrators allow contractors to finish later as circumstances dictate. This would mean permitting contractors across the province to rationally allocate their resources over the retarded season without having to accelerate their production to meet existing contract deadlines and milestones based on a more normal year.

Resourceful, flexible and expert at logistics and risk management as the silviculture sector is, it does have limits. To tax its present capacity in order to accommodate this extraordinary weather pattern is impractical if not impossible. In today’s labour landscape and cost structure the possibilities of creating a short-term spot market for workers or assembling extra infrastructure does not exist. Our workers have expectations too, and we cannot risk demoralizing them with a shortened earning season once warmer weather arrives. A few years ago the silviculture sector weathered its first capacity crunch with the help of industry agreeing to extend the planting season. It seems reasonable to consider implementing similar measures again as we predict the benefits will outweigh burdening the sector unnecessarily.

In asking foresters to consider breaking from the typical planting timing conventions we are not asking to compromise activities in locations where drought is a threat. Excepting the drier sites, our evidence suggests that late planting will not necessarily impair seedling performance if care is taken in the schedule of thawing and planting. This is based on some empirical field studies which seem to challenge the general assumptions that seedlings are hard-wired to the solstice or suffer irrevocably from extending frozen storage. We hope everyone can keep an open mind on this. We all face a major task, but only with the time and resources the current circumstances allow us.

Yours truly,

John Betts, Executive Director
Western Silvicultural Contractors’ Association