Ian Welsted unwraps some seedlings to be planted in Mission’s municipal forest.

Ian Welsted unwraps some seedlings to be planted in Mission’s municipal forest.

District plants 79K trees this year

Forest replantation is coordinated many years in advance

As the last of the frost subsided and the snow threat non-existent, tree planters got to work in Mission’s municipal forest last month.

The team, made up of about a half-dozen planters, scaled steep hillsides and combed through rough bush to put 79,000 trees into the ground, as required by the district.

We’re planting about 1,200 trees per hectare, said Kelly Cameron, a forest technologist who has been with the district for 17 years.

“If we get [new trees] in the ground in the first spring after harvesting, we can get three years of growth before the brush comes up,” she explained.

Trees grow about 25 cm per year and at the end of the three years, the trees can outgrow the brush and won’t have to compete for sunlight. But if necessary, brush surrounding the young trees will be cleared by hand. The district does not use herbicides to control brush, and some areas never require brushing.

Cameron inspects the trees as they are planted, making sure they’re not too close to one another and they are solidly in the ground. After a year, she will check the survival rate, which in the past 17 years has averaged 98 per cent.

Forest replantation is a process that needs to be coordinated years in advance, said Cameron, noting seeds from the provincial seed orchard need to be purchased three years in advance. A seedling growing service is selected 18 months prior to planting, and a contractor is hired six months before planting.

“This year’s crew has very experienced planters, some up to 25 years in the industry, as well as having planted in Mission for several years,” said Cameron.

Ian Welsted is from Canmore, Alta. and has been planting for 25 years. He enjoys the seasonal work, which keeps him busy four months in the spring and one month in the fall. He climbs mountains the rest of the year.

The crew’s supervisor, Garry Brazzill, is also a mountaineer. He has been in the industry since 1987, but only works two months of the year in the forest now. He’s a computer programmer the rest of the time.

It took the group about a week to complete the plantings of Western Red cedar and Douglas fir trees.

“Mission’s forests at one time were comprised mainly of cedar and Douglas fir, however, after early harvesting in the late 1800s, our forests have changed to pre-dominantly high density hemlock forests,” said Cameron, who explained the district is working on getting the area back to to conditions that existed in pre-settlement times.