Tree planting BC coronavirus

How reader feedback powered our story on tree-planting amid the coronavirus pandemic

Reporter Ben Parfitt says his story ‘would not have been the same’ if not for the voices of concerned tree planters and members of Indigenous communities who came forward after his initial piece

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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.

Like what you’re reading? Sign up for The Narwhal’s free newsletter.


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

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

BC hunting fishing coronavirus

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’

RCMP Unist'ot'en camp arrests red dresses Wet'suwet'en Coastal GasLink

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

Alberta oil and gas Coronavirus environmental rollbacks

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

ryan-stone-orca strait of georgia

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.

New title

You’ve read all the way to the bottom of this article. That makes you some serious Narwhal material.

And since you’re here, we have a favour to ask. Our independent, ad-free journalism is made possible because the people who value our work also support it (did we mention our stories are free for all to read, not just those who can afford to pay?).

As a non-profit, reader-funded news organization, our goal isn’t to sell advertising or to please corporate bigwigs — it’s to bring evidence-based news and analysis to the surface for all Canadians. And at a time when most news organizations have been laying off reporters, we’ve hired eight journalists in less than a year.

Not only are we filling a void in environment coverage, but we’re also telling stories differently — by centring Indigenous voices, by building community and by doing it all as a people-powered, non-profit outlet supported by more than 2,200 members

The truth is we wouldn’t be here without you. Every single one of you who reads and shares our articles is a crucial part of building a new model for Canadian journalism that puts people before profit.

We know that these days the world’s problems can feel a *touch* overwhelming. It’s easy to feel like what we do doesn’t make any difference, but becoming a member of The Narwhal is one small way you truly can make a difference.

We’ve drafted a plan to make this year our biggest yet, but we need your support to make it all happen.

If you believe news organizations should report to their readers, not advertisers or shareholders, please become a monthly member of The Narwhal today for any amount you can afford.

Arik Ligeti is The Narwhal’s audience engagement editor, with a focus on growing a dedicated community of members and readers.…

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