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Despite a season of wildfires, Cariboo tree planters were hard at work

Torrent Silviculture only had to shut down one day this summer due to smoke
Tree planters Johnathan Gariepy, Jesse Goulet and Jaze Sorenson (L to R) east of Quesnel with Torrent Silviculture. (Photo by Lee-Anna Gibson)

Torrent Silviculture staff were hard at work planting trees, this past summer. Unlike other companies, Torrent found itself lucky this year, as the areas they planted weren’t greatly affected by the many wildfires this past season.

“We were really fortunate this year not to have any big fires in our area, but lots of other planting companies had to shut down for multiple days, evacuate camps, or their contracts were gone because the area they were supposed to plant was on fire,” said Laurie Burleigh, Torrent Silviculture’s operating manager. She’s been with the company for the last 14 years.

Other than Torrent having to shut down one day due to the smoke being unsafe to work in, their teams continued with a successful year.

Torrent Silviculture works as far south as Clinton, planting trees on Elephant Hill, which burned during the 2017 fires, and then up through Williams Lake east and west, including the Chilcotin Plateau, Likely and Horsefly and then primarily east of Quesnel in the Wells area, although some planting occurs west.

They start early April with the bulk of their season finishing mid-August, although right now, they’re doing an eight-day fall plant based out of Likely, Burleigh said.

An astounding 50-million trees (give or take) are planted by Torrent Silviculture each year. Silviculture camp workers are up early to eat breakfast and then out the door with their crew of six to 12 people. During the spring, when frost is still on the ground, they leave a bit later in the day and in the hot summer, they’ll leave earlier when it’s still cooler.

Crews are hard at work for 11 hours a day, planting on average 2,000-2,500 trees a day each, although some seasoned tree planters are known to plant upwards of 4,000 with rookies working their way past 1,000, said Burleigh.

Once their day of planting is complete, the crew heads back to their camp, consisting of a shower trailer, kitchen trailer and tents.

Burleigh explained that Torrent is committed to quality over quantity.

“The goal is to make sure that as many trees that we’re planting are going to live and grow and are good for future logging and the environment in general.”

For Burleigh, she loves the reward aspect of the job. Unlike a typical nine-to-five job where you’re paid hourly amongst your co-workers, sometimes regardless of anyone’s quality of work, tree planters are paid per tree.

“You have the opportunity to push yourself … You get to decide how much effort you’re going to put into learning the job and planting, and you’re directly rewarded for that. I really like the nature of it,” said Burleigh, who also enjoys being outside “in the bush with a group of people.” Off-season, Burleigh finds herself outside, too.

Many of Torrent’s tree planters are creatives or academics, using the job to fund their passions, whether musicians, artists or studying in school. Still, the group remains dedicated to their work and environment, explained Burleigh.

Along with planting, Torrent Silviculture is involved with fire fighting, safety services such as aiding firefighters or fixing and upgrading roads, manual brushing to remove competitive vegetation, surveying and logging.

“We’re trying to put the trees back as best as we can.”

READ MORE: Tsilhqot’in National Government and Shell team up to plant 840,000 trees

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Kim Kimberlin, Local Journalism Initiative

About the Author: Kim Kimberlin, Local Journalism Initiative

I joined Black Press Media in 2022, and have a passion for covering topics on women’s rights, 2SLGBTQIA+ and racial issues, mental health and the arts.
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