Every year, hundreds of millions of trees are planted across British Columbia — and 2020 was going to be a record-setting season. Plans were in motion to plant 310 million trees, roughly 60 million more than usual.

As with a growing number of activities, though, COVID-19 has upended a program that is designed to not only restock clear-cut areas, but also fill in land devastated by wildfires and help protect flood-prone communities.

Lingering questions around the fate of the planting season prompted reporter Ben Parfitt to write a story for The Narwhal earlier this month. Then, more voices came out of the, ahem, woodwork to talk.

“After the initial piece, we got quite a bit of feedback from veteran tree planters who said they felt there was just no way that the program could go ahead, and they were raising significant concerns about whether the industry would be able to ensure that workers were properly socially distancing,” Parfitt says.

When B.C. announced last week that it was proceeding with the planting season, albeit with added COVID-19 safety measures, Parfitt was able to feature those concerns — including the perspectives of Indigenous voices he wouldn’t have heard from if not for the reader feedback.

How critical were those sources to the story? Without them, Parfitt says, “it would not have been the same piece.”

The arc of the tree-planting story — an issue that isn’t going away anytime soon — echoes our overall approach to journalism and community here at The Narwhal. 

Every piece of feedback, from story tips to constructive criticism, helps inform the work we do day in and day out. It’s a reciprocal relationship that leads to stronger reporting and, hopefully, more readers who feel connected to a community where their voice is being heard.

We hope you are staying healthy and safe.

Arik Ligeti
Audience Engagement Editor

P.S. Last week, we shared a custom Narwhal background to use for all of your Zoom chats. We’re going to be offering up more backgrounds to download weekly, including this magnificent photo by Louis Bockner of mountains rising from the shores of Chilko Lake in Tsilhqot’in territory.

P.P.S. Last week, we set a Narwhal publishing record with 16 new pieces. We’re able to write an increasing number of important stories thanks to our growing team — and your continuing support.

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B.C. cautiously opens tree-planting season with new coronavirus rules some say won’t protect remote communities

By Ben Parfitt

Wildfire, pine beetle and industrial logging have left some areas of the province vulnerable to floods and in need of trees. But the deployment of 5,000 workers has both contractors and First Nations scrambling to ensure the tree-planting season won’t do more harm than good
. Read more.

The complicated tale of why B.C. paid $2 million to shoot wolves in endangered caribou habitat this winter

By Sarah Cox

The province killed 463 wolves in the habitat of 10 herds, spending an average $4,300 for each dead wolf. While the controversial cull may provide temporary relief for caribou, experts say there’s no easy fix for declining herds being squeezed out by industrial development. Read more.

‘We don’t understand’: B.C. coastal communities brace for tourists as province opens hunting, fishing season

By Natalia Balcerzak

As the province adds activities to a growing list of ‘essential services,’ remote communities are fighting back against a tide of city-weary tourists who threaten to spread coronavirus as they travel for recreation. Read more.

Yukon First Nations leaders fear mine will increase violence against women in ‘land of the caribou’

By Julien Gignac

Assessment board says Kudz Ze Kayah mine will significantly harm water resources, traditional lands and human health and safety as it extends public comment period until May 31. Read more.

8 environmental responsibilities Alberta’s oil and gas companies can skip because of coronavirus

By Sharon J. Riley

Experts say COVID-19 is being used as an opportunity to grant companies carte blanche waivers on ‘routine’ reporting for everything from sulphur dioxide emissions to water withdrawals for fracking to how much wastewater is being added to tailings ponds. Read more.
The Narwhal in the world

Earlier this month, Jimmy Thomson wrote a piece for The Narwhal on scientists who are using the pandemic as a chance to examine what quieter oceans mean for marine life.

The piece was an instant hit, and you don’t have to take our word for it: more than a week after our story was published, The Guardian ran a piece quoting the very same researcher we did.

As things go on the internet, that story was then picked up by a slew of other outlets, with the story making waves across the web.

In case you missed it, you can go here to read our story.

What we’re reading
Note from a Narwhal
Okay, it’s not exactly a note, but a warm welcome to Julia, a new member who sent in this fantastic selfie in Narwhal swag. Want to be one of the toque-wearing cool kids? Become a monthly member of The Narwhal today.
When you’re pining for a back scratch. Tell your friends to spend some time under a tree reading The Narwhal’s newsletter.
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