Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Tree Planter Training 19 - Behaviours & Attitudes

Although this blog is predominantly focused on my music and DJ’ing career, I also want to share some information about my other career:  Canadian Reforestation.

The information in this post is part of a training series from the website.  More information can be found at this link:

I’ll put the text and audio download link from this training module below, but let’s start with the YouTube video for the module:

Section 19 - “Behaviours & Attitudes”

In this section, we'll talk about ways to behave respectfully and responsibly.  This includes respect for the environment.  It also includes responsible, safe, and respectful behaviour towards others.

Maintaining the Health of the Ecosystem

Make sure no garbage ever gets left behind on a block.  This includes lunch wrappings, drink bottles, seedling boxes, bundle wrappers, and other garbage.  If I find a piece of garbage out on the block, and it's small enough to fit into my bags and not too heavy, I'll even bring it back to the garbage box at my cache at the end of my bag-up, so it ends up in a proper landfill.  Never bury trash, as it can attract and sometimes harm wildlife.  Never leave food in your tent, because nobody wants bears in camp.  Break down tree boxes as you finish with them.

Take care to avoid allowing any oil or fuel to leak onto the ground.  The hydrocarbons that make up oils and fuels are highly toxic and hazardous to the environment and to the ecosystem.  Spill reporting is a big part of being environmentally responsible, and the first step in ensuring that a spill can be cleaned up properly.  Report any leaks or spills to your supervisor.  Every contractor will carry a spill kit in their truck for use in the event of a small leak or spill.

Fires are easily started with careless behaviour.  Never drop a burning cigarette on the ground, or throw it out a vehicle window.  Always smoke on bare, hard-packed roads.  Exercise restraint with the size of fires in camp.  Be aware that truck and ATV tailpipes get very hot and can start fires in dry grass.

Responsible, Safe, & Respectful Behaviours Toward Others

When you're part of a planting crew, you're going to be working and living with the same people, in close quarters, for a long time.  You often need to co-exist in stressful or uncomfortable circumstances, and your attitude can make the difference between a strong and productive season or a dysfunctional one.

Report bullying or harassment.  Don't accept or support any bullying or harassment.  If you witness any, let your supervisor know.

Practice positive social behaviour.  Be considerate, let others have their space, smile and be friendly, and help out whenever you can.

Mentor new employees and set good examples, especially if you're an experienced planter.  It doesn't take much energy to support other crew members, and it makes a huge difference to the overall morale of your group.  No matter who you are, set an example of up-beat, helpful behaviour.  When you're having a tough day, someone else may then help you out in return.  Just one person can elevate the mood of an entire group, or bring them down.

Exercise respect for company and client, staff, procedures, and equipment.  Your planting company is trying to do the same thing that you are – make money.  They have years of time, and lots of money invested in this.  You have the ability to increase their success.  Follow the rules, treat people with respect, and take care of any equipment that belongs to the company.  Ultimately, if your company makes more money, it's easier for the company to share some of that with employees.

Be on time.  Being on time shows respect for your company and also for everyone else on your crew.  If you're late, everyone waits and everyone loses money.

On the block, don't cut off another planter.  Always finish your area before moving to another piece, doing both the creamy sections AND the difficult parts.  Flag areas where needed, to help other planters.

Behave in a way that fosters a positive image of the industry.  Communities around the areas that you work in are watching you.  When you come into town on days off, you're noticed, no matter if you're in laundromats, cafés, banks, walking through the streets, or hanging out in a park.  For residents of a small town, a tree planter stands out like a sore thumb.  Your behaviour in their community is noticed, and talked about.  These communities can support or condemn the licensees whose operating area you're working in.  Try to do a good job of representing yourself and your fellow planters in a positive way.  Smile and say hello to the locals, and treat their community as if it was your own home.  Your future income can depend on this.  You never know when the random person that you meet on the street is the general manager of the mill that you're working for, or your forester's boss.

Don't trash motel rooms.  We have a hard enough time being allowed to rent rooms as it is.  Be respectful of the people who have to clean these rooms after we leave, and try to do a bit of a clean-up before you go.

Remember that planting is part of the bigger picture of basic silviculture obligations.  Planting is only one small part of the process of reforestation.  While it's an important activity, so are surveying, site preparation, brushing, and spacing.

Treatment of Co-Workers

We already mentioned the Canada Human Rights Act once.  Think about how it applies to your co-workers.  The Canada Human Rights Act is in place to protect Canadians from discrimination due to race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, and disabilities.  Don't harass a person based on any of these differences.  Tree planting is hard enough on a person as it is.

Speaking of differences, I'd like to mention gender for a moment.  During its infancy, the tree planting industry was traditionally very male-dominated.  Nowadays, a significant portion of the workforce is female, and this change has definitely improved the industry.  Participation by women in positions within higher management is still not as high as it should be, but that's also changing slowly.

We previously mentioned that within BC, the people who are the direct supervisors of planters are often called foremen.  In Ontario, the term crew boss is quite common.  Some other companies in BC use the term crew leader in place of foreman.  Perhaps "crew leader" is an appropriate term that the industry could adopt, since unlike foreman, it's gender-neutral.

A separate concern is the fact that in the planting industry, a "supervisor" usually refers to the person who is in charge of a planting camp.  However, in a WorkSafe or legal liability sense, a "supervisor" refers to any person who directly supervises the work of other employees.  It's important to understand that anyone who is overseeing other employees is directly responsible, in a legal sense, for the health and safety of those workers.  Some people misunderstand the definition of a supervisor, thinking that a camp supervisor has a lot of legal liability whereas a foreman does not.  That's not correct.  Both the camp supervisor AND the foreman are very responsible for people working under them.

In a perfect world, perhaps the title of camp supervisors could be changed to "camp managers" and the title of all foremen, crew leaders, and crew bosses could be changed to "supervisors" or "crew supervisors."  Unfortunately, the planting industry is so fragmented that even if a number of people started to do that, it would still be years before the changes really sunk in on a broad scale.  The takeaway lesson here is that there really isn't a standard nomenclature within the industry for some things, so you should be open-minded and expect the unexpected.  In fact, that's probably a good way of approaching pretty much everything relating to planting.  As the industry continues to evolve, we'll probably see many more changes that challenge traditional ways of doing things.


Stashing is the illegal disposal of trees by burying, burning, dumping, or other means.  Trees are supposed to be planted, one at a time, not “strategically placed with no chance of growth.”  Planters who are caught or suspected of stashing trees are usually terminated immediately.  This is a problem that is not treated lightly by foremen or supervisors.

Nowadays, it is quite easy to determine when stashing is a potential issue on a block.  The size of all blocks is measured by GPS as standard procedure.  By comparing the number of trees claimed by planters on a block with the statistical totals (proper plotted density multiplied by actual block size), a discrepancy will show up immediately if trees are stashed.  This assessment is done routinely on every block by both supervisors and foresters.  Even a small discrepancy of a few hundred trees will be obvious in the numbers, and lead to further investigation.  The statistical accuracy of GPS measurements and FS 704 sampling accuracy make stashing a losing proposition.  Supervisors and other internal and external staff also audit planters' pieces frequently and randomly, as part of a regular program of due diligence.

To save yourself, your foreman, and your crew a lot of hassle, be honest.  Don't try stashing, not even an “innocent” bundle.  It's not worth it.  There's a good chance that you'll get caught before long, and putting your job and reputation at risk is not worth it for a few dollars.  And for anyone who contemplates stashing because they're embarrassed by being a slow planter, rather than for unethical financial gain, you shouldn't ever be embarrassed about your planting totals.  Everybody plants at a different speed.

If you think someone on your crew might be stashing, talk to your foreman or supervisor about it quietly.  Your concern alone won't be enough for a person to be disciplined, but the supervisor can discretely assess that planter's production to determine whether their numbers make sense.  Remember, the actions of someone else who is stashing can hurt you as much as themselves.  I've seen several occasions where entire crews (and their foremen) have been fired because of the actions of a few guilty individuals, and I certainly wouldn't tolerate anyone who is stashing on my own crew.  You wouldn't want to be the innocent bystander who is harmed by this kind of behaviour, would you?  Stashing trees just isn't worth the risk.


Here’s an Audio version of this material, in case you want to listen while you’re driving, running, at work, or otherwise unable to read or watch video:

Click on the down-arrow icon in the upper right corner of the SoundCloud widget to download the mp3.

Once again, for further information about this series of tree planter training information, visit:

I encourage you to share this information with anyone else who might be interested.  Thanks for your interest and support!

-          Jonathan “Scooter” Clark