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P L A N T I N G
Successful Area-based Planting Contracts

1. Maps

2. Plantability surveys and prescriptions

3. Tender documents

4. Viewing and contract award

5. Contract start-up

6. Checking

7. Paying the contractor

8. Paying planters

Summary

B.C. planting contractors and planters have traditionally been paid for the number of seedlings that are satisfactorily planted, with allowances for a margin of incorrectly planted seedlings and for excess seedlings planted above the specified density. This form of payment encourages planters to plant as many seedlings as possible on each hectare, with little incentive for high quality planting. There are situations where alternatives to paying for planting on a per-tree basis can be used.

One such alternative is to pay both contractors and planters for each unit of area that is satisfactorily planted, or `area-based planting.' In area-based contracts, payment is based on the number of `units,' either a clearly defined geographic area (e.g., a cutblock) or a hectare, that are acceptably planted, and the planting quality premium.

With area-based contracts planters maximize their income by planting the largest area with a given number of seedlings. Buffers, unplantable ground, and poor microsites are avoided, and existing seedlings are searched out as they are a bonus for the planter. Planters are discouraged from planting excess seedlings on easier planting ground because this reduces the total area they can plant with a fixed number of seedlings, and lowers their income. With fewer excess seedlings to offset unsatisfactorily planted trees, planters have an incentive to plant every seedling correctly. In area-based contracts the financial objectives of the planters are consistent with the long-term reforestation objectives of the planting contract supervisor; they are both striving to extend valuable planting stock to reforest the greatest number of hectares successfully.

Individuals have been experimenting with area-based planting in B.C. since 1982. In some cases these experiments have been successful, and the local planting program has shifted to area-based contracts; disasters have occurred in other cases and the contract officers, planting contractors and planters that were involved are reluctant to attempt an area-based project again. Stories and rumors of these successes and failures have reached most of the silviculturists, field staff, and contractors involved in planting in the province, leading to confusion and concern about the applicability of area-based planting contracts.

Area-based planting has its place in reforestation programs in B.C., especially in complex planting projects where plantable spots are limited or unevenly distributed, or when fill-in planting around existing seedlings is required. The following pages provide a list of tips to help you implement successful area-based planting contracts in your reforestation program.

Tips for Successful Area-based Planting Contracts

1. Maps

  • accurate internal detail
  • identify non-plantable areas
  • carefully define unit size

2. Plantability surveys and prescriptions

  • definition of acceptable existing regeneration and plantable spots
  • plantable spots assessed using area-based contract specifications
  • target planting density and minimum inter-tree distance specified
  • minimum acceptable planting density (MAD) defined using plantability survey statistics
  • planting stock allocation based on MAD

3. Tender documents

  • clearly identify area to be planted
  • ensure planting target density, minimum inter-tree spacing and MAD are consistent with the survey
  • planting quality standards defined
  • include accurate prescriptions and maps

4. Viewing and contract award

  • emphasize project objectives at viewings
  • identify overflow areas
  • preference given to contractors with experience in area-based planting, especially for large contracts

5. Contract start-up

  • provide most accurate maps available to the contractor
  • pre-work with planters to discuss objectives of the project, define site specific standards and importance of MAD
  • contractor is responsible for crew organization but usually planters will be assigned individual units

6. Checking

  • get a map showing the location of individual planter areas
  • walk through the entire unit to locate areas planted below MAD
  • check areas along the planters' ribbon lines

Common problems

  • missed areas can be planted, otherwise no payment is issued and a fine is usually levied
  • areas planted below the MAD cannot usually be reworked; no payment is issued for these areas
  • disputes over the area planted can be resolved by following the contract specifications

7. Paying the contractor

  • same as with per-tree contracts

8. Paying planters

  • contractor must pay per area planted for planters to share the contract objectives

1. Maps

Accurate area determination and maps, either provided by the contract administrator or produced by the planting contractor, are critical to the success of area-based planting because planters are paid on the basis of the area that is actually planted. Providing accurate, detailed maps will yield lower planting costs because the contractor perceives there is less risk in the project.

Unit maps for area-based planting contracts should include the following information:

  • accurate internal detail
    Roads, landings, creeks, and other tie-points should be included to help the contractor layout individual planter payment units.
  • identify non-plantable areas
    Buffers along timber edges, roads and landings, swamps, non-productive (NP) areas, and other non-plantable ground should be mapped out or described.
  • carefully define unit size
    The gross area of the unit, the estimated non-plantable area, and total plantable area should be listed.

Accurate maps can be produced in a variety of ways:

  • closed traverses (comparatively expensive: $160-250/km of traversed distance, time consuming, internal detail not provided),
  • 35 mm photographs taken from a helicopter (comparatively inexpensive, ample detail), or
  • medium scale aerial photography (1:40 000-1:70 000) with first order plotting ($200/unit, good internal detail).

High quality maps will reduce the cost of future treatments as well.

2. Plantability surveys and prescriptions

Accurate current prescriptions are essential for successful area-based planting. Incorrect prescriptions inevitably lead to contracting problems.

Prescriptions must address the following topics:

  • definition of acceptable existing regeneration and plantable spots
    Written definitions of acceptable existing regeneration, including species, size, and condition, and acceptable plantable spots such as soil type, microtopography, etc., are necessary to ensure the surveyor and the planter use the same criteria to identify plantable spots. Without written descriptions in the survey data, and on the prescription, it is unlikely that the definitions used by the surveyor will be communicated to the planters.
  • plantable spots assessed using area-based contract specifications
    Surveyors must assess the number of plantable spots from the perspective of area-based planting contract specifications, not per-tree payment. Because the incentives for the planters are different in area versus per-tree contracts, they will select different plantable spots. Using prescriptions developed on the basis of per-tree contract specifications to implement area-based contracts may lead to serious problems.
  • target planting density and minimum inter-tree distance specified
    The target inter-tree distance provides an estimate or guide to help planters achieve the target planting density. The minimum inter-tree distance defines the closest acceptable distance between planted seedlings, or a planted seedling and an acceptable existing seedling.
  • Also, the contractor must achieve the minimum acceptable planting density (see below) without planting at less than the minimum acceptable inter-tree spacing.

  • MAD defined using plantability survey statistics
    The minimum acceptable planting density is a critical value in area-based planting.
    Areas planted at a density below the minimum acceptable level are not paid for. Experienced planters will plant at an inter-tree distance to achieve a density just above the MAD, not the target planting density. Planting at just above the MAD allows them to plant the greatest area, and make the most money.
  • In most cases MAD should be less than or equal to the lower confidence limit of the number of plantable spots determined by the plantability survey. If the lower confidence limit does not provide enough plantable spots to meet the target stocking standard (including acceptable existing regeneration), either:
    • establish additional plots to narrow the confidence limits, or
    • use a higher target planting density to reduce the inter-tree distance for determining the number of plantable spots during the survey.
  • planting stock allocation
    The number of seedlings allocated to each planting unit is based on an estimate of the number of seedlings that are expected to be planted on a unit. Since planters will be planting at a density just above the MAD (usually 3-4% above), the MAD should be used to allocate stock. This differs from per-tree contracts where planters have incentives to plant as many trees as possible on each area. In per-tree contracts, stock should be allocated based on the number of plantable spots found in the plantability survey.

The same survey data and information are required to prepare prescriptions for area-based and per-tree planting contracts, but the quality of the prescription is more important in area-based contracts. In most cases, per-tree contracts can be completed successfully (usually with a lot of supervision), even if the prescriptions are sloppy. Area-based contracts are very difficult to implement successfully with inaccurate prescriptions. Accurate prescriptions lead to considerable savings in money and aggravation, regardless of the payment method.

3. Tender documents

Standard Forest Service planting contract documents can be used for area-based contracts, with special attention to the following points:

  • clearly identify area to be planted
    The `area to be planted' that is defined in the tender documents will identify the area the contractor will eventually be paid for; it must be defined carefully. Defining the `planting unit' as the geographic area to be planted (i.e., a cutblock), is preferred, but the `unit' can be an individual hectare. The `bid price per tree' should not be included on the tender documents.
  • ensure planting target density, minimum inter-tree spacing, and minimum acceptable density are consistent with the survey
    The planting target density, minimum inter-tree spacing, and MAD on the contract must be consistent with the plantability survey or problems will result.
  • planting quality standards defined
    The minimum acceptable planting quality standards must be included to define which planted seedlings will be acceptable and included in the planting density. (These are listed in the Schedule A and sometimes in Schedule C of the Forest Service planting contract.)
  • include accurate prescriptions and maps
    Accurate prescriptions and the most accurate maps available should be provided with the tender package.

4. Viewing and contract award

Viewing and awarding area-based planting contracts is carried out in the same way as with per-tree contracts, with the following exceptions:

  • emphasize project objectives at viewings
    The advantages and implications of area-based planting should be discussed during the viewing, especially with inexperienced contractors. Emphasize how the payment system will change the contractors' operations (e.g., layout, checking, payment).
  • identify overflow areas
    The payment structure of area-based contracts encourages planters to stretch the available seedlings across the greatest number of hectares. This often leads to a significant number of extra seedlings after the contract units are completed. Overflow areas should be identified (approximately 15% of the total contract area) and discussed when contracts are tendered in anticipation of this situation. Less overflow areas are needed as supervisors and contractors become familiar with area-based planting.
  • preference given to contractors with experience in area-based planting, especially for large contracts
    It takes time and energy to retrain planters to plant effectively under area-based contract requirements. Large contracts should either be awarded to experienced contractors, or plans made to reduce the inevitable learning curve.

Mandatory viewing may not be necessary, but is recommended with area-based contracts, depending on the quality and accuracy of the prescriptions. Viewings should be held for areas with poor prescriptions, or when inexperienced contractors are bidding on area-based contracts.

5. Contract start-up

Pre-work

The most accurate maps that are available should be provided to the contractor.

The planting contract officer should have a pre-work conference with the foremen and the planters (as with per-seedling contracts) to explain the objectives of the project, define the site specific standards and explain the reasons for those standards. Planters, like everyone, do better quality work when they understand the `whys' of their job.

Acceptable existing regeneration and plantable spots should be illustrated on the site, not just talked about.

Recognize that it is to the contractor's advantage to plant at just above the MAD; and that this has been taken into consideration when developing the prescriptions and allocating planting stock in the contract.

Crew Organization

The contractor traverses and ribbons separate work units, usually one to two days work for individual planters (approximately four hectares). During the initiation period smaller units (one hectare) may be created so the planters can estimate how much of the area they have covered during their first day, and roughly calculate their income.

Tree planters commonly complain that they don't know how much they are earning each day with area-based planting. The contractor can overcome this problem by:

  • teaching the planters to pace so they can measure distance and estimate the area they have planted each day.
  • providing a conversion table showing daily earnings based on the number of seedlings planted and the prescribed number of seedlings per hectare.

Planters should also be given a copy of the map.

6. Checking

Pay plots are completed for area-based contracts using the same procedures as for per-tree contracts. As with all contracts, it is important to complete quality inspections early and often during contract start-up to set the standards for the project and solve problems before extensive areas are planted.

A few tips from experienced area-based contract checkers follow:

  • get a map showing the location of individual planter areas
    It is helpful if the contractor provides the contract officer with a map showing the location of individual planter areas to ensure the pay plots are evenly distributed.
  • walk through the entire unit to locate areas planted below the MAD
    Thorough inspection of the entire unit is needed to ensure all areas have densities above the MAD, and none have been missed completely. With experienced contractors, limited checking is needed to confirm that excluded areas and buffers have not been planted.
  • check areas along planters' ribbon lines
    It is important to check areas along planters' ribbon lines; adjacent planters may assume the `other guy' has planted on the line.

Common Problems

  • missed areas
    Areas that have been completely missed can be planted and rechecked. A charge is laid for areas that are missed completely (fines of $1000 per hectare in the Forest Service planting contract. See Appendix 1, Forms Management, FS 767, Schedule A, Clause 4.6).
  • areas below MAD
    Areas that have been planted at a density below MAD are difficult to rework. Replanting the previously planted seedlings is not advised due to the trauma to the seedlings. In some cases it is possible for the planter to add a few seedlings in available plantable spots without violating the minimum inter-tree distance, or planting excess seedlings. The feasibility of adding additional seedlings should be evaluated when the area is discovered to be below MAD. The contract administrator should decide whether additional seedlings can be added based on quality plot results. No payment is issued for areas that are planted below the MAD (see F.S. Silviculture Contract FS 700, Clause 2.1.3, in the chapter on "Contracts").
  • disputes over the area planted
    Disputes can arise over the actual area planted in area-based contracts, especially with per hectare contracts based on poor maps. A resolution process in provided in the Forest Service planting contract (see Appendix 1, Forms Management, FS 767, Schedule A, Clause 4.9). The contract administrator has a responsibility to ensure the contract specifications are reasonably accurate and to provide compensation if they are not.

The contractor is responsible for checking individual planter performance and providing them with feedback. This is easy to do because the responsibility for each planted area is clearly known-problem planters can be identified quickly.

7. Paying the contractor

Pay plots must represent the full spectrum of planting quality for all planters. Focusing on excellent or inept planters is biased sampling.

The planting quality premium is calculated in the same way as with per-tree contracts. The computerized PAYCERT program is available from the Forest Service.

8. Paying planters

Planters should be paid for the areas they satisfactorily complete or their planting will be not consistent with the objectives of an area-based contract. If the planters are being paid by the seedling, the planting contract is essentially a per-tree contract, regardless of what the contract document says.

Summary

Area-based contracts encourage planters to carefully plant the number of trees required to reforest a unit, and no more. These contracts can be more effective than per-tree contracts in complex planting projects where plantable spots are limited or unevenly distributed, or when fill-in planting around existing seedlings is required.

Similar procedures are required to implement both types of contracts, but accurate prescriptions and maps are critical to the success of area-based projects. However, high quality planning will result in considerable savings in money and aggravation, regardless of the payment method.


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Copyright 1999 Province of British Columbia
Forest Practices Branch
BC Ministry of Forests
This page was last updated December 2000

Comments to: Tim Ebata <Tim.Ebata@gems8.gov.bc.ca>