Large and devastating fires have impacted Victoria’s native forests for much of the state’s known history. This includes major fires in 1928, 1939, 1944, 1965, 1969, 1983, 2003, 2007 and 2009 that ranged between 200,000 and 2 million hectares in size. Most recent were the 2019/20 fires that impacted 1.6 million hectares of Victoria’s national parks, reserves and state forests.
In these fire prone landscapes, intense bushfires can remove entire forests creating a sterile ash bed needed for falling seeds to germinate new forests. Following bushfires, VicForests carefully manages its harvesting and regeneration program.
This includes recovery harvesting of native forests in the burnt areas. Also known as salvage harvesting, it focuses harvesting on areas where the mature trees have been killed or severely damaged by fire.
Over the next few years, recovery harvesting will occur in around 0.2 per cent (3500 ha) of the fire-affected forest within areas already made available for harvesting. No harvesting occurs in national parks or special reserves. Recovery harvesting is subject to very strict rules and regulatory scrutiny to protect critical wildlife habitat, new seedlings, and to avoid erosion and water pollution.
Why is recovery harvesting important?
Recovery harvesting has occurred in Australian forests for more than 80 years. Fire-affected trees may die, but if harvested in a timely way, the properties of timber are not affected and can still produce high-quality timber for public infrastructure and valuable products, such as bridges, homes and furniture.
By recovering this valuable natural resource before it degrades, recovery harvesting:
reserves habitat refuges, allowing less severely burnt forest to recover
maintains timber supply to the processing and manufacturing businesses, supporting regional economies and meeting community demand for valuable timber products
improves public safety by removing dead, unstable trees from roads, tracks and visited areas.
Sustainable recovery harvesting and protecting biodiversity
VicForests plans recovery harvesting using the best information available. In 2020, this included an assessment of threatened species conducted by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
Our expert ecologists and foresters identify and protect surviving biodiversity habitat and, where possible, ensure plants and animals are connected to healthy forest. In the current program, VicForests will retain living trees and maintain corridors to forests outside of the harvest area.
VicForests also supports a larger forest recovery project to reseed severely burnt forests by providing our existing seed stocks and collecting additional seed.
Recovery harvesting is sustainable and subject to the Code of Practice for Timber Production (2014) and the associated Management Standards and Procedures for timber harvesting operations in Victoria’s state forests (2014).