The areas in which VicForests plans its harvesting operations have been allocated to it via a Ministerial Order called an Allocation Order or via a special authorisation granted to VicForests by the Conservation Regulator or the Minister.
Each area planned for harvesting is subject to a thorough multi-layered planning process. The process aims to highlight potential forest biodiversity, social, historical, cultural, soil and water issues that may require management prior to and during the proposed operation.
VicForests’ foresters will first conduct a computer-based analysis on an area. This assessment checks for values that have previously been identified and mapped.
These values may include things such as streams, gullies, historical or cultural sites of significance, numerous flora and fauna species, threatened habitat such as for the Leadbeater’s Possum, and other important environmental, historical and recreational features. Planning for how each site will be successfully regenerated also commences at this early stage.
The field assessment involves a visit to the proposed harvest area, which is called a ‘coupe’.
Our foresters will visit the site and walk the area to check for the presence of anything the computer-based assessment may not have picked up. During this visit, they focus on:
accessibility to the area and road requirements
tree species, size and height
potential harvest area (coupe size)
any values present in the area.
This is also an important stage in biodiversity planning and management.
Tree habitat assessments are also conducted using new technology to capture habitat tree information and location. This information is stored in our GIS systems and used to complement any decisions that are made on coupe.
To ensure that we identify species that may require protection in an area available for harvesting, our foresters and conservation biologists take a range of steps to minimise any potential disturbances to threatened wildlife that may occur during a timber harvesting operation.
During the potential and interim phases of planning, the relevant coupes will be selected and a proposed Timber Release Plan (TRP) is developed. The TRP shows the location of areas which may be sustainably harvested and regenerated by VicForests.
Once a proposed TRP has been prepared, a public consultation period takes place to give stakeholders the opportunity to submit comments. VicForests also welcomes relevant queries at any time during our planning process.
Following stakeholder consultation, the final version of the proposed TRP, and ancillary documentation, is submitted to VicForests’ Board for approval and, once approved, the TRP is gazetted and put into effect
Once the TRP is in effect, planning for operations on specific coupes begins. It is in the operations phase that the values continue to be identified and physically marked out and protected.