Western Forestry Contractors’ Association
Rumor Mill RoundUpDate
27 March, 2020
Volume 20 Issue 4
Warning: The facts contained in this issue may expand exponentially.
What Has Gone Right with the 2020 Planting Season?
A Short List.
In making sense of the current calamity and how it bears on this spring’s planting season there are three domains that we need to think threw and clarify: crew and community safety; social license to plant the trees; and the costs and risks to contractors. Let’s look at what has gone right with these so far:
Crew and Community Safety:
- The Coast season, underway since February, by all reports, still has 300 planters, symptom-free. It’s actually been going well. Communities have generally supported our workers (e.g. scheduling laundromat time for planters in one town), but some explaining to citizens has had to be done a few times.
- One of the best practices developed on the Coast is defining the social distancing unit as the number of people who ride in the same truck to work. These sub-crews disinfect their trucks, wash their hands together, work on the block together, share accommodations together, sit at meals together etc. This reduces the chance of cross-infecting the whole crew.
- BC Safety Advocate Jordan Tesluk’s Guidelines for camp standards and pre-screening have been widely adopted and praised as the best standard for our sector as seen HERE. They meet or exceed the Northern Health COVID-19 guidelines released this week as seen HERE. A follow-up standard for motel operations, based in part from our Coast crews, will be ready soon.
- Our BC Chief Forester, acting in part on the advice of the WFCA, announced a delay to the Interior planting season this week. This pause will be used by contractors and clients to equip and implement the new extra measures required to keep crews and communities safe. That remains a work in progress led by a strategic consortium comprising of the office of the Chief Forester staff, WFCA, and licensee reps. Contractor task teams along with our safety advocate are working on the details. The hold on the season will give us a chance to watch where the pandemic is headed.
- Coast contract crews that can maintain their symptom-free status will not be affected by the CF’s delay.
- The provincial Health Officer designated forestry and silviculture as essential services this week. This designation legitimizes the sector’s work during the pandemic. It is in effect a mandate from our government for contractors to operationalize the public’s important investments in our forests.
- Talks have begun between the WFCA and leading towns and cities in the Interior. Their principle concerns are around people from away coming to their communities. One city, so far, is willing to discuss making available some of their facilities, now closed for the pandemic, as a marshaling point for planters on their way to camps. This would reduce the chances of spreading the infection—both ways.
- Our Minister of Forests will make an announcement next week supporting the province’s reforestation sector and its work. Part of his message will ask for support and cooperation from communities.
- Although contractors remain unbearably suspended on the various dilemmas and uncertainties they face, constructive work has begun on what additional costs will be incurred in proceeding with the season with all its new measures and risks. Right now, a task group is working on a broad price per tree that could be used as a benchmark in recalculating contracts.
- Besides the immediate operational risks for contractors leaning into the headwinds of this season, may still leave them less than whole at the end. Many have already bled cash in preparing. Federal programs are being announced that may assist. The BC Council of Forest Industries has offered its full support to the sector in negotiating with Ottawa. Our provincial ADMs are also working with their federal counterparts to support us. The WFCA has been in talks with Natural Resources Canada as well.
Of course, there are too many possibilities generating uncertainties to elaborate any further at this tense moment. Nevertheless, we felt a short select inventory like the above might be a temporary antidote. Of course, we are not kidding anybody if we thought we could predict the future. But, the benefit of not knowing the future is that we keep trying. It is what we do as a species. Treeplanters are good at it.