Review Needed for Decades-Old Planting Inspection Standard

FS704 Planting Inspection Standard Review StoryWSCA planting contractors have asked the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Mines and Lands to undertake a joint review of the 40-year old FS704 Planting Quality Inspection Standard. They say it is out of date and out of step with latest science and best practices for plantation growth and survival.

BC tree planting contractors have asked the Ministry of Forests, Mines and Lands to undertake a joint review of the 40-year old FS704 Planting Quality Inspection Standard. The contractors say the standard is out of date and needs to be modernized to reflect current best practices and the latest science around planting survival and success. They also want the standard’s field inspection sampling and statistical methodology changed so it more accurately reflects actual planting performance, particularly in low or highly-varied density plantations.

Part of the problem seems to be, after a hiatus of at least a decade, the reappearance of ministry staff in the field due to the recent reorganization. Their alleged outmoded reading of the rules has led to disputes with tree planting contractors and project administrators over interpreting and applying the FS704. Their increased presence has also muddied the contracting relationships and authority of contract administrators overseeing ministry projects. Identifying and defining air pockets, proper planting compaction, suitable planting sites and screefing requirements have become sources of confusion and conflict in some regions say planting contractors. They also point out to major discrepancies between the standards being successfully applied by licensees and those required by the ministry and BCTS. The contractors say the standards being required by the ministry often are not consistent with the best growth and survival of plantations. Those same government planting requirements also put worker health at risk say contractors.

At the WSCA conference in early February ministry officials agreed it was not proper to have multiple inspectors and administrators overseeing operational contractors. They promised to clear up the jurisdictional confusion and set up a system where it was more clear what the acceptable inspection standards were, who was responsible, and how that inspection authority would be exercised.

The WSCA has applied to the ministry to undertake the review pointing out that no standard can claim legitimacy unless it is regularly reviewed in order to maintain consonance with emerging science and best practices. The decades-old FS704 obviously falls short of that standard and ministry officials appeared to agree in principle with the WSCA’s request at the Kelowna conference.