Forest training coupes for first responders and contractors currently unavailable for extensive training needs
As the bushfire season approaches, it is important to remember the critical role that VicForests’ staff and contractors played in fighting the 2019-20 summer bushfires.
VicForests also plays an important role in supporting the training of first responders – including workers and volunteers from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), SES, CFA, Victoria Police - by providing TAFE Gippsland with training coupes to ensure trainees get to train in forests as similar as possible to the real life environment they may be fighting fires in.
The high quality timber training courses offered at TAFE Gippsland are run by Kevin Nunn, winner of the VET Teacher Trainer of the Year at the 2020 Australian Training Awards.
To support this vital training, VicForests has provided TAFE Gippsland with two training coupes – Tiger coupe and Lior coupe. The Colquhoun State Forest is ideal because of its proximity to TAFE Gippsland’s Forestec Campus.
In late August, Environment East Gippsland Inc. applied to the Supreme Court for an interim injunction to prevent Tiger coupe from being used, claiming the applicable regulatory framework requires the implementation of a special protection zone given the density of Yellow-bellied Gliders surveyed in the coupe.
On 31 August the Court ordered an injunction preventing any timber harvesting operations at Tiger coupe (801-511-0006) until the hearing and determination of the proceeding or further order.
As of 22 September, Lior coupe is also now subject to an undertaking which will limit the range of training that can be provided to training that does not involve the harvesting of timber preventing vital training needs.
Before any harvesting VicForests conducts extensive flora, fauna and habitat surveys which tell us which prescriptions are needed to protect important environmental and cultural values, including retaining hollow-bearing trees to protect species that live and dwell within them.
At Tiger coupe, following the detection of Yellow-bellied Gliders in Tiger coupe, VicForests - in consultation with DELWP - developed and implemented a special management plan (SMP) for the protection of Yellow-bellied Gliders and applied for the creation of a Special Protection Zone (SPZ) to protect a significant proportion of the area from any tree felling training.
Although in Tiger coupe only Yellow-bellied Gliders met the prescription to trigger a SPZ reserve, other arboreal mammals and large forest owls will also benefit from the reservation of suitable habitat.
SPZ’s add to the existing conservation reserves in our forests.
Studies and surveys for Tiger coupe undertaken by either VicForests or DELWP included Arboreal Spotlight and Owl Call Playback surveys, Flora Survey, VicForests Old Growth Forest Identification Survey, Habitat Tree Survey, Coupe Habitat and Sign Survey, Apiary Zone Analysis and FPSP Old Growth Forest Identification Survey.
At Lior coupe, where training has been undertaken, species protections are in place.
There are limited suitable coupes in proximity to TAFE Gippsland that have the features required for this type of training, including learning about protecting native flora and fauna and habitat. At this stage no other suitable coupe has been identified.