Why We Plant Trees

With 348 million hectares of land covered by trees, Canada is a forest nation.  Our forests have long been a key natural resource and a major source of wealth, providing a wide range of economic, social, and environmental benefits.  In 2017, the forest industry contributed 24.6 billion to Canada’s nominal gross domestic product.

Canada’s sustainable forest management practices ensure that our forests remain healthy and that the forest industry continues to provide Canadians with a steady stream of benefits.  Our methods are internationally recognized as among the most rigorous in the world.

Timber harvesting is sustainable in Canada thanks to strong laws, oversight and management, and the requirement that all harvested public lands be regenerated.

Approximately 90% of Canada’s harvested forests are on public land.  Lumber and pulp mills are granted logging rights from the government, and in turn the government legislates that those trees be replaced. This is where we come in: mills hire us to plant seedlings in their cut blocks.

Related image
Here, stumps are visible from logging activity on a recently-planted cut block.  Mature forest borders this young block, as well as a slightly older planted block in the background.

It takes many hands to plant the millions of seedlings that fulfill tree planting contracts. It is the hands of tree planters that keep Canadian forestry vibrant and sustainable; we give the birds new homes and keep the air clean. We are certainly a cog in the industrial forestry machine, but a positive one, none-the-less.

Thinking About Planting?

Canadian Tree planting is one of the world’s toughest jobs. Its hard to understand exactly why this is until you have experienced it. But we’ll give it a shot!

It is important to get a thorough understanding of what you are committing to before coming out.  You will have a 3 week probation period to learn how to do a high-quality job and earn over minimum wage. In order to get a head start, please read the materials here, chat with planters you know, and feel free to email us with any questions.

What a Tree Planter Does

Individual planters are responsible for reforesting a small section of a larger cut block.  This small section of land is called a “piece”.  Pieces are assigned to planters by a field staff, or foreman.  Planters bag up -put seedlings into their bags- at a cache.  A cache is where tree seedlings are stored on blocks. The cache is also where planters store their day pack, lunch and water. A cache is nothing glamorous, but only defined by an insulating forestry tarp, (a “silivicool” tarp), which keeps the tree temperature regulated.

Image result for tree planting bags
“bagged up” – note: it is not good practice to have ALL seedlings “unbundled”, although this person may be ambidextrous.

A tree planter’s tools include: shovel, bags, plot cord, gloves and boots.

Once a planter has bagged up, they head into their piece and begin planting quality trees in an orderly fashion, meticulously working their land from back to front in order to ensure that every square meter is covered.

 

Camp Life

the lunch table and dining side of the Kitchen tent
shower stall

Next Gen works out of remote bush camps. Camps consist of: four large Weatherhaven tents, (Kitchen, Dining, Office and Dry Shack); the fridge trailer; the shower trailer; and porta-potties.  Our showers are hot, reliable, and you can adjust the temperature – a serious perk! The Dry shack is where you will find an air-tight wood stove to dry your wet items of clothing from a rain day.  This is also one of the best places to store your gear and personal items not allowed in your personal tent, (essentially anything scented will attract bears).

Food

The food is fantastic and prepared by two, often impressive, cooks – please see the Food section of photos to get an idea of the meals. Our cooks are able to accommodate for many dietary restrictions.  It is important that you let us know if you have food sensitivities or allergies before the season so that the cooks can adequately prepare.

There is hot buffet breakfast served in the morning, typically between 6 – 6:50. At this time there is also a lunch table set out where you pack your own lunch for the day. Items on this table include bread, lunch meat, cheese, condiments, veggies, fruit, baked goods, and trail mix. Please bring tupperware containers to pack your food in.  You may eat more than you expect, so bring extra.

Dinner is prepared by the cooks and there will be appetizers ready upon arrival to camp at the end of the day.  The main course is typically not served until all trucks have returned home from the blocks.

A note on water:

There is plenty of potable water at camp, but you must supply your own personal water jugs.  Please ensure you bring 4 – 6 L worth of bottles with you to the first shift.

Accommodations

The majority of planters sleep in tents, but the choice is yours to make.  For the better part of 4 months, you will be living in whatever accommodation you bring with you: be it tent, trailer, or otherwise.  We will be moving camps with trucks, so there is no need to bring a tiny tent, unless that is what you truly desire. It is recommended to buy something you can stand up in, or at least comfortably get dressed in. Also think of how you will keep your gear dry, is there enough room in your tent? Try to make the most wonderful sleeping surface possible, a thick foamy or a couple of thermarests can go a long way. Make your home nice for you. Ah, and don’t forget tarps, one for beneath your tent and one for above it.  It will rain, sometimes for days on end, and tarps will be necessary to keep the inside of your tent dry.

On the Block

The surroundings can be beautiful, but they can also be acutely bleak. We often camp in beautiful standing forests, but our days are spent in more desolate looking cut blocks.  They were once vibrant ecosystems, but now it’s just you, your crew, stumps, slash and the occasional “wildlife tree retention patch”, also known as “residual” patch.

a drawing of a residual patch

Once you arrive at the block, your foreman will assign you a piece.  In your piece, you are responsible for planting the entire area, at a certain density, with high-quality trees.

Quality Trees

One of the most important skills you will learn is to plant high-quality trees.  There are a few factors in this definition.  Generally,  it is what is underground that counts, the seedling’s root mass is called a plug.

The plug must be inserted vertical to the ground, straight, and snug in the dirt.  The required depth of the plug -as in how deep it must be in relation to ground level- varies per contract. Generally though, spruce trees can be planted deeper than pine. Pine trees need special consideration for their lateral branches.

Usually spruce can be planted at a depth of ‘two fingers deep’, (or about an inch), into dirt.  Pine on the other hand, usually cannot have their laterals pinched; they require dirt to be around the “collar” of the tree, but no higher.

The specific medium of dirt a tree is planted into is also very important. Trees cannot grow in dry, loose debris, nor in standing water.  Depending on the contract, there are two acceptable soil mediums you will plant in: mineral soil and smearable organic soil.

Below is a review of common planting faults:

Microsites

Next, we have microsite selection. This is the process of selecting the best growth site for the seedling in hand. Different species of trees enjoy different amounts of sunlight and moisture.  As a general rule of thumb, a well drained, high microsite provides desirable growing conditions. Trees that have been planted in depressions, even slight ones, often grow poorly compared to those planted in higher spots.  Higher microsites give trees a surprisingly longer growing season; they will thaw sooner in the spring and freeze into dormancy later in the winter.  All that said, we also plant species of tree that prefer shade and moisture.

Of course, it gets more complicated when different scarifications are factored in. Each scarification, along with contract variations, has its own specific requirements for microsite selection.  Scarification -or site preparation- refers to the modification of the ground after the block has been harvested.  These modifications increase valuable microsites, and so enhance the growth outcomes of reforestation. Types of scarification include: mounds, rips, drags, screens and chemical spraying.

Here is a dreamy Donarian Mounder sequence:

Another dreamy scarificaiton sequence, this time a disk trencher:

 

Often clients would like the tree planted on the “high hinge” for scarification. Again, this is a generalization, but a useful one. Below is a diagram of trench, but could also be used for exampled placement of a tree on a mound.

 

The take-home message is that there are many factors in “micrositing” little trees, depending on the tree species, the scarification, and contract specifications.

Density

What else?  Ah, yes density!  A forester determines the required density for each block, which is a certain number of seedlings planted per hectare.  A Hectare is 100m x 100m on the horizontal plane. As in, if you are planting on a slope, it is not along the slope, but the area over a two-dimensional version of the land.

 

(http://wiki.awf.forst.uni-goettingen.de/wiki/index.php/Slope_correction)

Density is prescribed over the two dimensional, horizontal plane. Most contract densities are between 1000 and 2000 stems/hectare.  In order to determine if a piece of land is planted at the right density, a “plot cord” is used to take a samples. A plot cord is 1/200th of a hectare with a radius of 3.99 m. Because of this, density is often spoke of in terms of smaller numbers, the number of trees desired in one single plot. 1000 stems/hectare translates to ‘5’s’, 1200 stems/hectare translates to ‘6’s’, 1400 stems/hectare to 7’s, 1600 stems/hectare to 8’s, and so on. Each of these densities has an ideal tree-to-tree spacing.

Land Management

Lesson 1: The Basics

This animation shows the basics of land management. The piece shown is a relatively simple shape, bound by a road in front and treeline on two sides. There are no pockets or residuals; it’s pretty straight forward.

General Land Management Basics

  • Have an exact understanding of where your piece is.
  • Create a logical “line in”, this is one side-boundary of your piece
  • Work your piece from the back (furthest from the cache) to the front (closest to the cache)
  • Follow trees: always plant a tree next to another tree
    • The only exception to this rule is when starting a fresh piece, where there haven’t yet been trees planted beside you
  • Plant the land closest to your cache last