VicForests Statement on harvesting after the 2019/20 bushfires
Bushfire Response and Recovery – our commitment
VicForests is committed to supporting the protection and restoration of environmental values and economic activity and employment in regional Victoria.
Our business supports jobs and livelihoods for about 2500 Victorians. Many of these are in rural towns, including towns affected by the 2019/20 Bushfires, and now also by coronavirus (COVID 19).
VicForests responsibly and sensitively balances our continuing operations with ecological recovery and forest regeneration.
Continue to contribute to Victorian Government bushfire response and recovery. This includes using our forestry expertise and skills, equipment, and technical and local knowledge to support bushfire protection, control and recovery, community safety and regeneration.
Carefully consider all harvest operations as a result of this Summer’s bushfires. These considerations are being closely guided by information provided by DELWP which includes species and the high value habitat requirements, and where they have been impacted.
Remove fallen timber from road clearing and community fire protection activities at the direction of Forest Fire Management Victoria.
Recover fire affected timber from bushfire areas to meet industry and community needs while applying tailored adaptive management prescriptions to cater for biodiversity and environmental values in undertaking these harvesting operations.
Undertake recovery (salvage) harvesting in accordance with tailored and adaptive management recovery harvesting prescriptions and requirements.
Maintain the supply of timber across VicForests’ customers so far as is practicable to support all processors’ operations, jobs, and rebuilding of community livelihoods.
Contribute our significant store of seed to forest regeneration programs in fire affected forests and assist DELWP in its delivery.
Gippsland, Tambo and North Eastern Victoria Biodiversity Management Strategy
VicForests will continue its significant on-the-ground support of regional communities following the devastating bushfires.
This includes continued involvement in removing hazardous trees to ensure the safety of roads and power easements and recovery of valuable timber from these operations.
Earlier this year, VicForests committed around 90 staff and 45 machines to the critical tasks of safety clearing, reopening major roads and recovery. Timber generated through these activities was removed where possible and distributed for community purposes, including fence restoration and firewood. Any timber suitable for sawn and value add processing was distributed to VicForests’ customers where possible to reduce pressure on forest supply.
Recovery and Forest Regeneration
More detailed aerial and field assessments are now occurring. This is assisting in understanding fire impacts. VicForests has commenced these efforts as safe road access into the fire-impacted areas has been restored.
These assessments include using satellite imagery to map fire impacts on the forest together with field surveys and assessments.
VicForests is now applying detailed habitat value assessments to support the protection and recovery of high value habitat. This will protect habitat for threatened species regardless of detection. Importantly this new approach aims to support the recolonisation of affected areas as the forest recovers.
Our extensive seed bank of Victorian native tree species is being used to plant or sow appropriate areas to promote forest recovery with the appropriate species types.
VicForests has worked with DELWP to undertake significant additional seed collection to complement existing seed stocks and support forest recovery. This seed has been used to treat and regenerate 11,000 hectares of young ash forest that were too young to carry a seed crop and self-regenerate.
With favourable conditions, the future re-colonisation of affected areas can start almost immediately for some species.
Harvesting in Fire Affected Areas
Using available science and data from DELWP and other expert sources, our team of expert ecologists and foresters will identify and protect important biodiversity and habitat elements and, where it exists, ensure flora and fauna are connected to healthy forest. We will also ensure all areas harvested are successfully regenerated.
Through this work VicForests understands some threatened species may have been severely impacted by these bushfires and that there is a degree of scientific uncertainty as to these impacts. VicForests has developed a suite of adaptive management prescriptions to guide its timber harvesting plans and methods to address this. Through this process VicForests will continue to use all reasonably available information and advice as it becomes available.
In response to last Summer's bushfires, VicForests has developed a bushfire recovery timber harvesting program to responsibly and sensitively undertake harvest activities and recovery of burnt timber a very small part of the fire affected area.
This allows VicForests to harvest severely fire affected timber before it deteriorates and becomes unsuitable for processing by our customers.
Any VicForests’ operations in these areas will take place in accordance with the fire salvage harvesting requirements contained within the Management Standards and Procedures for timber harvesting operations in Victoria’s State forests (2014) (the MSPs) as well as VicForests’ post bushfire timber recovery harvesting prescriptions.
Completed short-term actions
Field checks to validate fire severity mapping and desktop impact assessments.
Refined a short-list of potential recovery areas based on desktop and field assessments.
Designed ecologically sensitive harvesting and protection strategies to support habitat, biodiversity and connectivity, and forest recovery.
Completed seed collection for the season and sowing of 11,000 ha of fire affected ash forests to support forest recovery.
Long-term actions (Monitoring and Research)
Conduct post-harvest surveys of areas harvested under recovery operations to assess forest recovery under adaptive management practices for biodiversity values.
Ongoing monitoring of coupes harvested under variable retention harvesting systems.
Ongoing monitoring of coupes harvested as part of the Greater glider research trial in the Bendoc area.
Monitoring of forest recovery and forest regeneration.