Western Forestry Contractors’ Association
Rumour Mill RoundUpDate
28 Aug 2020
Volume 20 Issue 11
Warning: Yesterday astronomers observed a small and apparently heedless comet on the verge of being swallowed by the sun. This fact has nothing to do with forestry. But we thought we should mention it as a reminder that we are not the only ones in our solar system with problems.
WFCA Business Summit: Plan For COVID-19 in 2021
This week’s WFCA Annual Business and Market Summit was recorded. The three sessions on future demand, COVID-19 lessons learned and operating under the continuing pandemic, can be seen through the links below:
Demand Forecasts for 2020 and Beyond & Federal COVID-19 Support Update
Lorne Bedford, MFLNRORD: Sowing Demand Forecasts
Mike Madill, MFLNRORD: Forest Carbon Initiative Accomplishments and Challenges
Beth MacNeil, Canadian Forest Service: Federal 2-Billion Tree Commitment/Progress and Process on COVID-19 Support Funding
Timon Scheiber WFCA Director: WFCA Proposal re: Federal Support for Reforestation Incremental COVID-19 costs
Click Here for Session 1 Recording
Lessons Learned About Working With COVID-19
Dr. Jordan Tesluk, BC Forestry Safety Advocate
Click Here for Session 2 Recording
Discussion: How Do We Approach 2021 and Beyond? Key Priorities Going Forward for Company Operators, the Sector as a Whole, and the WFCA
Moderator: John Betts
Click Here for Session 3 Recording
Here are some of the standouts from this week’s summit:
- Our seedling nurseries have managed COVID-19 successfully this year and are on track to produce close to 300-million seedlings for planting in 2021. That figure is very close to the final number of trees we expect to plant this year allowing for some losses due to the pandemic.
- We will still be in pandemic conditions next year. Before 2021’s contracts are tendered and negotiated this fall all parties have to agree on the operating rules and best practices for dealing with COVID-19 in 2021. Communities, government agencies, clients, and contractors will need to come to an understanding, so we don’t repeat the taxing crisis management that characterized organizing this year’s reforestation program.
- A WFCA appeal to BCTS to waive suspensions or fines to contractors for contract failures or production delays this year, due to the extraordinary conditions created by the pandemic, was rejected. The WFCA is now seeking legal advice on force majeure to limit the risks contractors may face while signing agreements during an emergency and pandemic. We will continue to work with our government for sympathetic treatment for the few operators that got into trouble this year.
- Public communication strategies needs to be better coordinated between the sector and our government next year. Many contractors felt the industry’s outreach to communities was undermined by our provincial government’s request that we stand down while it organized its response to community concerns about tree planters. This coordination, along with other strategic priorities, should be dealt with through the chief forester’s industry and government working group that stick-handled much of the inter-agency and industry sectors work this year.
- Our federal government remains committed to its 2-billion tree goal to mitigate climate change impacts through reforestation. But the pandemic has interrupted the implementation of that program and it remains uncertain just when our federal government will be able to return to it given its other imperatives. Meanwhile, because of the budget and administrative processes involved, Ottawa will not be able to provide funds to purchase seeds this fall in order to sow seedlings for planting as soon as 2022. Nevertheless, both our federal and provincial chief foresters remain engaged in discussions to avoid any disruptions to the reforestation program here in B.C.
- Federal and provincial bureaucrats will meet in early September to decide on the provincial and territorial allocations of the $30-million support fund to the reforestation sector for COVID-19 costs. Delivery of the benefits are anticipated later in the fall. But eligibility, amounts, and application methods all have to be decided. The WFCA has pointed out that producing invoices for incremental COVID-19 costs will be problematic for most planting operations. It is recommending benefits for consultants, nurseries, and contractors be based on a percentage of gross revenues. Our federal government has indicated it is aware there will be COVID-19 costs incurred next year, but did not commit to providing support again in 2021.
- This year’s 15th annual business and market summit drew approximately 80 contractors and guests. We are now asking participants to report back to us how well the virtual format worked. It may point the way to how we can convene our annual conference next year.
- As we have been pointing out the WFCA is still short funds due to the extraordinary costs incurred this year to get the 2020 planting season up and running as successfully as it has. Contractors who have not contributed to the levy can still help the association by not only writing a cheque today, but by joining as members too. That way the WFCA can continue its important work on behalf of all forestry businesses.