On 9 June and 10 June 2021 Victorian experienced a significant storm event which caused extensive damage across Gippsland, Southern Metropolitan Melbourne, the Dandenong Ranges and Central Victoria. A subsequent major storm event on 29 October 2021 caused further damage across the state.
In the hardest hit areas the storms resulted in a significant amount of fallen and hazardous trees and debris.
Managing and recovering fallen trees and debris following the storms is a sensitive operation requiring specialised planning and expertise. VicForests has been engaged to assist with this important work as we are forest management experts. We deliver that expertise through our highly trained and skilled planners, biodiversity experts, foresters and contractors.
VicForests is thorough in our approach, we consider safety, environmental and cultural aspects in our planning and all our operations.
Through these operations, VicForests will help mitigate the fire risk resulting from windthrown trees and debris.
VicForests is committed to finding customers for merchantable timber so this valuable resource is not wasted.
DELWP/VicForests arrangement for treatment and management of fallen timber, hazardous trees and debris
On 17 December 2021 an arrangement for treatment and management of fallen timber, hazardous trees and debris following the storm events in Victoria was entered into between VicForests and DELWP.
This agreement is restricted to roads and tracks on public land prioritised by the Chief Fire Officer for forest management and fire emergency access (CFO).
The agreement is based on a formal process led by DELWP as follows:
The regional DELWP Deputy Chief Fire Officers formally advising VicForests of which road and track sites it wishes VicForests to assist with and what services are being sought.
DELWP and associated land managers (e.g. Parks Victoria) undertaking values checking assessments and developing appropriate values protection measures for individual sites and providing this information to VicForests.
VicForests undertaking its assessment of the sites for recoverable timber and operability within the values constraints and services being sought.
VicForests preparing individual site plans incorporating the above elements, to be approved by DELWP’s Deputy CFO.
Dandenong Ranges National Park
Extensive areas were affected across the Dandenong Ranges National Park. Following a request from DELWP, VicForests undertook assessments of sites in the Dandenong Ranges. Works commenced on 6 April 2022 and timber is being recovered, prepared and delivered to customers.
Roads and tracks are also having dangerous trees and debris cleared.
We are working closely with Parks Victoria and DELWP to ensure the debris not recovered is left in a manner that allows fuel management operations to be carried out.
Thomson Water Catchment
There was also a small amount of windthrow in the Thomson Water Catchment.
In April DELWP approved site plans for road-side storm recovery operations in the Thomson Water catchment. This followed earlier values checks and joint field visits between DELWP, Melbourne Water and VicForests. Works commenced on Monday 9 May 2022 and will continue over coming weeks at this site and Marshall Spur dependent on suitable weather.
Wombat State Forest
On 8 March 2022, VicForests received formal advice for around 60 sites in the Wombat State Forest requiring treatment.
VicForests and DELWP are working collaboratively on the biodiversity value checks and development of desired treatment regime prior to commencement of works. Works commenced 15 May 2022.
Forest Recovery Program - Wombat and Cobaw State forests
Wombat State Forest was one of the hardest hit areas which resulted in a significant amount of fallen and hazardous trees and debris.
Working with government and others, the works undertaken in the Wombat State Forest is in direct response to removing heavy debris and fuel load that poses a fire risk. No trees are being removed unless they present a hazard or for operational necessity.
We are creating the appropriate tracks to ensure the safest possible path to the operations, with environmental values at the heart of our work.
Log landings are also required for the timber to be extracted safely, however where possible landings will service multiple coupes. This is the safest way to extract fallen timber.
As part of this operation, we are balancing the removal of heavy debris and retention of fallen logs for biodiversity and habitat. This is because rigorous, evidence-based and independent scientific research informs our policies and practices when it comes to sustainable forestry, including advice from Traditional Owners.
VicForests to work with Dja Dja Wurrung to restore their Country
VicForests has partnered with the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation (trading as DJAARA) to assist in restoring their Country in the Wombat State forest following the June 2021 storms.
On 17 March, VicForests approved changes to the Timber Utilisation Plan to facilitate forest recovery operations in the Wombat and Cobaw State forests.
The program commenced on 7 April 2022.
Image: Windthrow damage in the Wombat State Forest
The below maps identifies areas of the Wombat State Forest with windthrow damage. It shows the areas covered by the DELWP/VicForests arrangement for treatment and management of fallen timber, hazardous trees and debris. It also indicates the areas in the forest recovery Timber Utilisation Plan.
Wind-impacted trees within the Wombat State Forest after the June 2021 storms
Clearing and recovery of wind-affected trees in the Wombat State Forest
Melbourne Water has commenced an operation in Silvan Reservoir to remove the large quantity of debris following the June 2021 storms. VicForests has been engaged to assist with the removal. Timber recovery operations commenced on 24 March 2022.