Tree planting go-ahead a bit of a mixed bag

The weekly editorial for the 100 Mile Free Press

On April 24, Doug Donaldson announced that tree planting, which usually sees about 5,000 workers from B.C. and other areas travel into rural B.C., can proceed.

The target was to plant 314 million seedlings this year with a large portion in areas impacted by the 2017 and 2018 wildfires.

There’s no doubt it’s important to replant and replant quickly for a multitude of reasons ranging from egological recovery to future availability for the logging industry. Whether giving it the go-ahead is the right decision only the future can tell. It is, however, hard not to take it as a bit of a slap in the face if you’re one of the many business owners forced to close their door or a cabin owner told not visit your property because it poses too great of a risk, especially, because if there are outbreaks at camps, it could well end up affecting everyone longer nevermind the health of people in rural communities and local healthcare systems.

“Recent planting completed on the coast shows that when workers and contractors take appropriate steps to make sure health and safety measures are followed, tree planting can safely take place,” said John Betts, executive director, Western Forestry Contractors’ Association.

This is likely to leave other industries across the province to wonder why that’s not possible in their industry, especially in industries that don’t have thousands of workers flood into rural communities.

Some might also wonder why, if that’s truly the case, presumably similar regulations for migrant farmworkers don’t seem to have stopped outbreaks such as at Bylands Nurseries Ltd. in Kelowna.

Furthermore, the historical record on sanitation in work camps isn’t exactly something to write home about. When Kamloops This Week dove into the past by looking at reporting on the Spanish flu, logging camps were described as a cesspool for Spanish Flu — dirty clothes, unsanitary food and general filth.

None of that is to say that tree planting shouldn’t go ahead but it should serve as a caution to all parties involved, from the politicians giving the go-ahead to the companies running the camps, to the workers coming in to plant for their own safety, the safety of rural communities and local healthcare systems.

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