Steve Kozuki, executive director of Forest Enhancement Society of B.C., said there was not a single reported transmission of COVID-19 among the tree planting crews across the province during the spring and summer planting seasons. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

No reported COVID-19 transmission in B.C.’s tree planting spring/summer effort

With the fall season winding up mid-October, it is hoped that trend will continue

The 2020 spring and summer tree planting seasons finished up without any reported COVID-19 transmissions within the tree planting community across B.C.

Protocols implemented due to the pandemic for all tree planting contracts were 100 per cent successful, said Steve Kozuki, executive director of Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. (FESBC)

“It was very uncertain at the beginning of the season and in fact the chief forester even called for a halt to tree planting that was in progress in mid-April, but that pause gave us time to work with the broader sector as well as the provincial health officer to develop the order, which is really a series of measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.”

Under the order, planters had to remain in camps. They kept to small working groups isolated from other planters and even before starting the job, kept a daily log book of their health and well-being.

During the planting sesason, any planter with symptoms was tested for the virus.

Security guards were hired and crew transportation meant more vehicles were needed to adhere to physical distancing.

“We are all very pleased,” Kozuki told Black Press Media.

“Despite the challenges and the uncertainty we were able to pull off our biggest tree planting season in B.C.’s history. Fingers crossed as there is still the fall season which is much smaller and will end mid-October.”

A total of 308 million trees will have been planted by the end of the season, compared to a normal year of about 250 million, he added.

The higher number of trees being planted is due to replanting areas impacted by the 2017 and 2018 wildfires, in the Cariboo-Chilcotin and Thompson regions.

“Those fires were very extensive and catastrophic,” Kozuki said, adding the icing to the cake was all the rain that fell this year.

“We are expecting a very high survival rate and high growth rate.”

It will take several years to replant the wildfire damaged areas, but important considering the increase in erosion events.

“The sooner we can get roots established in the ground and stabilize the soil, the sooner we get that hydrological recovery,” Kozuki said.

Next year the tree planting program will be ready, even if COVID is still part of the equation, he added.

“We are fortunate to have measures in place and a year of experience.”

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