VicForests has issued its Timber Release Plan for the next 3-5 years (TRP).
The plan shows areas where VicForests may conduct operations, including timber harvesting. These areas are divided into sections of the forest called coupes.
Not all coupes in the plan will be harvested as detailed surveys may find some areas to be unsuitable. Of those coupes found to be suitable, generally only part will be harvested, sometimes as little as 20%.
Decisions about where, when and how to harvest are based on timber type and quality, area access, and identified protected flora and fauna.
Permission to harvest
There are two ways for VicForests to be granted permission to harvest.
Areas of the forest that are generally suitable for timber harvesting are allocated to VicForests through a Ministerial Order called the Allocation Order. VicForests owns the timber in these areas.
VicForests can also apply for special permission to conduct operations including harvesting and roading in other areas of the forest. This special permission can be granted by the Conservation Regulator or the Minister.
How much is harvested
From the total 7.1 million ha of Victorian National and State Parks, State Forests and reserves, the area allocated to VicForests by the Allocation Order 2019 is about 1.8 million ha, selected from 3.1 million ha of State Forest.
Victoria’s most environmentally important forest areas are protected in the 4 million ha of Victorian National Park that can never be harvested.
In a typical year VicForests harvests 2500ha to 3000ha – about 0.17% of the area allocated to it, or 0.04% of the total forests estate, which is equivalent to 4 trees in 10,000.
Why some areas of the plan are outside the allocated area
Most of the planned operations are in areas allocated to VicForests through the Allocation Order.
Timber coupe boundaries are often mapped to natural features like ridge lines, gullies or streams.
Sometimes the Allocation Order map does not reflect these precise boundaries and this is only discovered through field survey. This can create very small patches and slivers of the coupe that are outside of the allocated area. Most are less than 1 ha, and some are just 0.01ha – or 100 square metres. VicForests will generally exclude these small areas from harvesting, but if they contain valuable timber, or may be impacted by access roads or harvesting operations, VicForests will apply for a Forest Produce Licence under section 52 of the Forests Act 1958. These small areas are not to be harvested without this special permission.
Sometimes the Allocation Order map does not reflect changes to the zoning of areas of the forest. This will mean that areas of the forests that are suitable and zoned for timber harvesting are not included.
When these inconsistencies are identified VicForests requests changes to the Allocation Order to make sure it is up-to-date.
VicForests may at times also require access to coupes through unallocated areas of State Forest. VicForests must and will always apply for special permission from the Conservation Regulator or Minister to conduct operations in these unallocated areas.
The TRP also includes a full list of previously harvested coupes until they are assessed as successfully regenerated. Sometimes these coupes are outside of the Allocation Order area because the area has changed over time. VicForests does not need special permission to undertake regeneration activities in these coupes.
How VicForests takes into account Government Policy
VicForests will not be harvesting old growth forest. Based on current models, there is approximately 90,000 hectares of old growth forest in areas remaining available for timber harvesting.
The old growth indicated in the DELWP spatial layer is based on modelled old growth, not surveyed and identified old growth forests, and therefore is indicative only. VicForests will identify old growth forest through field surveys and protect old growth forest stands from harvesting.
The Chief Conservation Regulator (CCR) has released its old growth field identification procedure for public consultation, and is available to view here. VicForests will apply the CCR draft field procedure to new coupe planning.
The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) will continue to update mapped old growth models using LiDAR Data.
No new coupes are proposed for harvesting in Immediate Protection Areas.
In planning and conducting timber harvesting operations, VicForests will comply with the conservation measures and actions in the Greater Glider Action Statement.
To view the Timber Release Plan, please click here.
To view the new coupes - unallocated area details, click here.
Approval and Gazettal of updated Timber Release Plan - 23 December 2019
VicForests' amended Timber Release Plan has been approved by the VicForests Board and gazetted - please click here.
Timber Release Plan - Interactive Map
Interactive online map- Click on the below image of the map to viewVicForests' areas of operations and the coupes currently listed on the Approved Timber Release Plan (Note: the use of Firefox or Google Chrome is recommended when viewing the Interactive Map)
The Timber Release Plan Maps and Schedules display all coupes on the approved TRP irrespective of their harvesting status. Coupes may be at different stages of the harvesting cycle with some areas already harvested and others yet to be harvested. The duration of timber harvesting operations vary depending on the size and complexity of a coupe but may range from several weeks to several months.
To view the interactive map please click here, or on the image below.