Dry conditions can harden the soil, making it harder to plant trees and giving less moisture to the seedlings, says forestry service company owner Earl Hughes, of Waterside Ventures, in Burns Lake. (Black Press Media file photo)

Dry soil a challenge for treeplanters, seedlings

Dry conditions are presenting challenges for the reforestation work of dozens of treeplanters working in the Burns Lake region in May.

“It’s drier than normal this year. Usually we get more rain,” as Earl Hughes, owner of forestry service company Waterside Ventures told Lakes District News.

“If it stays dry the soils compact and it’s harder to put the shovel in the ground. It’s not too bad right now because we still have moisture from the winter.”

The reforestation effort in the Nadina District will see more than 16 million seedlings planted this year, said Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) spokesperson Dawn Makarowski.

Companies like Waterside Ventures will plant about 12 million, and BC Timber Sales around 4 million.

For the May-June contract period, Hughes’ company of 50-60 planters is scheduled to plant 3 million trees, mostly pine and spruce and some fir and larch.

Few deciduous seedlings will be planted this season, despite their role as natural firebreaks, and most Forest Stewardship Plans (FSP) for the Nadina District don’t call for the planting of deciduous species, Makarowski said.

“However, landscape level plans are being developed to address fire mitigation. Once those plans are developed in collaboration with the BC Wildfire Service, the FSP would be amended to incorporate the planting of deciduous species,” she added.

Hughes hopes the weather improves both for the sake of the tree seedlings and his staff.

“Survival of the seedlings will be tough without moisture. It affects the production too because if it gets hot people don’t want to plant.”

The planting blocks of Westside Ventures include areas in Topley and the west and south sides of Francois Lake.

Though the west side of Francois Lake was hit hard in last summer’s wildfires, Hughes’ blocks aren’t in those areas.

“Generally they wait until the second year after fires. It can happen where there are diseases and caterpillars that can eat the seedlings. We plant trees that were logged within two years or the following year.”

Other than those insect risks – particularly from the larvae of adult army cutworm moths – wildfires don’t affect the ability to put trees in the ground. In fact, before planting many areas are subjected to prescribed burning to remove organic material and slash and prepare it for reforestation.

However, “if wildfire intensity is very high, it can reduce the layer of organic material that protects the top of the soil, which also provides nutrients to seedlings,” Makarowski said.

With Waterside Ventures, tree prices range from 16 cents to 20-29 cents per tree, depending on the type of ground.

In favourable weather and good land conditions Hughes’ planters can put 2,000-3,000 trees into the ground in one day.

Blair McBride
Multimedia reporter
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