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Western Forestry Contractors’ Association
Rumour Mill RoundUpDate
14 July 2023
Volume 23 Issue 7

Warning: Due to the changeability of facts on the ground during this changeable field season some facts in this publication may not be fully representative of the all the facts of the matters presented.

Tree Planting 2023: A Continuing Season of Upsets

A tree planter working above New Denver in the West Kootenay earlier this June in one of the quieter sectors of the British Columbia-Alberta seasonal reforestation campaign..

As we have often seen, one of the strengths of our reforestation contracting sector is its ability to adapt to unexpected conditions ranging from road washouts to a COVID pandemic. But 2023 may be showing the limits of that resilience. Disruptions to this year’s seasonal planting campaign have been various, numerous, and severe. For many planting contractors, and nurseries lately, it’s been difficult to maintain operational tempo and continuity coping with heat, drought, smoke, wildfire, and floods. The unsettled conditions may be affecting the workers’ resolve as well. We hear of a general angst among the workforce. According to some aggrieved employers they are fractious, fewer, and prone to being flight risks as social media promises better tree prices elsewhere. All this is set against a market where last fall’s bidding and negotiations underestimated inflation and the overall demand this year. New workers are costing more in terms of training and minimum wage top-ups too. The cumulative result is margins of profits are looking more like margins of error.

Through all this, nevertheless, the vast majority of this year’s estimated ~390-million seedlings (290 in BC the rest in Alberta) already have or will be planted. Approximately 60 million seedlings planned for this summer in BC are underway-albeit subject to smoke and fire. Of course, the weather will affect the seedlings too. They will be vulnerable to whatever the rest of this extreme year throws at us. Amidst all this uncertainty is the fact that this kind of season has been forecasted as a consequence of climate change. There will be more years like it. Just how the industry can adapt to this operationally and contractually will be a major topic for this summer’s WFCA annual business and market summit in Kamloops in September. Click here to register.

Related to all this the University of Victoria is offering operational resilience courses funded by Future Skills Grants: Operational Resilience.

Looking for more in-depth skills? Take one or more courses in Emergency Management for Organizational Continuity program. Their next offering equips learners to develop business continuity skills to gather and analyze key information and propose solutions. Concepts include risk assessment, policy and program management, organizational cultural challenges, leadership for business continuity, impact analysis, business continuity plans and communicating decisions.

Begins September 25. For more information or to register, click here.

Clear Safety Guidelines Needed For Forestry Crews Working In Heat and Smoke

An overview of fires across Canada today. We need more clarity around exposure thresholds indicating when forestry crews should shutdown due to wildfire smoke and heat risks..

With smoke conditions in some parts of BC so severe and obviously hazardous planting crews in the thick of it are now standing down until conditions improve. But it is not always so clear when it comes to smoke and heat just when it is unsafe to work outside. WorkSafeBC has some general guidelines for heat stress. And research continues into smoke. But for a forestry crew leader looking at temperature, humidity, and smoke and sometimes all three together on a worksite, they need more specific guidance around safe exposure thresholds is needed. While we break worldwide heat records research is showing cardiovascular strain can occur at 34ºC under humid conditions.

Some wood smoke particles can directly enter our bloodstream posing a pernicious threat. Wildfire dirt, the kind that firefighters get on their clothes and themselves, is also hazardous as it’s absorbed through our skin. Planters working on dry burned ground may have the same risks. Notwithstanding all this, employers should be developing safe operating procedures with the best information available. Here is one good example that has crossed our desk which we present for information purposes only.

Forestry Crews Asked to Help Find Missing Bella Coola Man

Carl William Charlie Schooner, 30, went missing November last year on a trip from Bella Coola to Williams Lake. His family and police are asking forestry crews to assist in finding him during their work across the province this summer. Anyone with information can contact Williams Lake RCMP 250-392-6211.

Minister’s Statement on The Death Of A BCWS Crew Member

Today as we go to press we hear of the death of a young woman BCWS crew member in the line of duty on a fire near Revelstoke. WFCA members wish to console her family and friends with our sympathy as they find their way through this tragic loss. We also recognize the toll this will have on her colleagues and all firefighters facing flames throughout the province this summer. We offer our moral support to all of them. Here are Minister Ralston’s words.

“On behalf of all Ministry of Forests staff, especially our colleagues in the BC Wildfire Service, I want to extend my deepest condolences to the family of this crew member and everyone affected by this tragedy. Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with them through this time of grieving.”

“This tragic loss in the line of duty reminds us all of the daily toil and sacrifice of BC Wildfire Service firefighters as they serve the people of British Columbia. Their heroic efforts to protect people and communities can be life-threatening. We are profoundly grateful to them.”

“I know the BC Wildfire Service is a close-knit team and this loss is felt deeply. We are here to support them in this difficult time. Let us all do our part to prevent wildfires and think of these brave firefighters as they continue to battle what is becoming a very challenging wildfire season.”