Western Forestry Contractors’ Association
Rumour Mill RoundUpDate
25 September 2023
Volume 23 Issue 8

Warning: Some facts in this publication may contain articulate matter.

In memoriam:
As we were writing this week’s RoundUpDate news broke of the deaths of four contract wildfire fighters early Tuesday morning in a head-on collision west of Kamloops. It is hard to imagine words that might console the families and friends of these men at this time. We send our sympathy to their fellow workers, their families, their friends, and all others affected by their not making it home. We also remember the other four workers who died this year fighting fires across BC and Canada. This year has been an annis horribilis for wildfire fighting.

When is weather not just weather?

Another roadside distraction. One of too many this spring, summer and fall and likely for the future….

Last week’s WFCA Annual Business and Market Summit in Kamloops drew more participants than ever, largely due to the collective need to make sense of this difficult 2023 reforestation season. Drought, heat, wildfire, smoke, snow that evaporated straight into the air barely softening the hardened ground, floods, washouts, delays, inflation, a cold storage facility fire, cancelled projects, rising injury rates, and the list still goes on as crews now wait on the final fall plant on the west coast. One contractor put it bluntly, “This season has been a complete disaster.” By a licensee forester’s account, the seedlings may not be doing well either given the province’s drought. There seemed little doubt in the room that the climate change hazards endured this year at considerable cost are a proxy for the future. The question everyone pondered at the conference was how to account for this kind of risk in a competitive market? With the weather extremes and related conditions that disrupted this year’s season, bidding is looking more like betting. And the odds are not in contractors’ favour. But, as one of them pointed out, “We can’t just look at these events as risk. What they are is change.” And much of that change needs to be reflected in the costs of doing business properly. But on the far end of that spectrum of change, there will be climate-related upsets that can only be addressed by changing the spirit and wording of current contract agreements. The WFCA will be starting that conversation with government clients this fall as the viewing and bidding tournament begins for next year’s planting campaign.

2024 BC Reforestation Campaign ~290-million—Some Packaging Changes

These best estimates to date for next year’s full planting season may be conservative as we wait on final data later this fall..

As difficult a season as this year has been we will have planted 307 million seedlings by this fall according to Ministry of Forests data presented at the Kamloops market summit last week. Next year’s information indicates fewer trees with estimates at 290 million. Nevertheless, that number may come up, as did this year’s final total, as we get more data on sowing requests, how many summer seedlings may be stored until next year due to this year’s fires, over-sown seedlings, and so on. BCTS and Ministry of Forests announced this summer that approximately 60 million of their spruce, cedar, and pine seedlings will not be bound in plastic-wrapped bundles. Instead, the seedlings will be loose but counted and placed in the boxes as usual: minus the wrapping. The change will reduce 18,000 kgs of non-recyclable plastic waste going to landfills. It will also reduce MSI injuries to nursery workers being wrapping bundles is a major source of repetitive strain. Both these objectives are supported by the WFCA. But how well loose bundles might shake out downstream at the planting end remains to be seen. In piecework and multi-species planting accurately counting trees really countsBundles make practical units for keeping track of seedlings planted by planters, by cut-blocks, and by species. Counting trees by the box may not be so straightforward. It has been left to nurseries to decide if any other measures should be taken to help planters keep track. But with only weeks before the fall lift starts, we doubt we will see any partitioning of boxes or other solutions. This approach is being called “continuous improvement”. Let’s hope it doesn’t take too much of it.

BC Forestry Service Providers Compensation Fund May Help Some Silviculture Contractors Caught In Skeena Sawmills Financial Troubles

With Terrace-based Skeena Sawmills in the throes of bankruptcy—owing an estimated $ 143 million to various parties—unpaid silviculture contractors may be able to apply for compensation through the BC Forestry Service Providers Compensation Fund. The Fund was established in 2012. The WFCA then convinced our government to ensure a portion was dedicated specifically to silviculture service providers including planting and stand tending contractors, seedling producers, and forestry consulting. Contractors can find out more about the fund and apply here.