Photo of Womber State Forest, Dja Dja Wurrung Country
Before the storm: December 2020
Photo of Wombat State Forest, Dja Dja Wurrung Country
After the storm: September 2021
Photo of Wombat State Forest, Dja Dja Wurrung Country
Following timber recovery: February 2023
On 9 June and 10 June 2021 Victoria 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. Before any recovery operations commence areas are assessed for values.
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.
Recovery operations are currently active in the Dandenongs, Silvan Reservoir and the Cobaw State Forest.
We are currently waiting further advice from the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA) before recommencing operations in the Wombat State Forest and the Thomson Water Catchment.
Crews and heavy machinery will be working across areas impacted by the storms. There will heavy vehicle movement around the Cobaw State Forest during this time as debris is removed from affected areas.
DEECA/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 the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA, formally 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 DEECA.
Dandenong Ranges National Park
Extensive areas were affected across the Dandenong Ranges National Park. Following a request from DEECA, VicForests commenced works in April 2022.
The timber has been recovered, and dangerous trees and debris have also been cleared from roads and tracks.
We are currently grinding some of the remaining debris into mulch for use in the Park.
We continue to work closely with Parks Victoria and DEECA 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 May 2022 works commenced in the Thomson Water catchment. Operations were put on hold due to wet conditions. Works in the Thomson Water catchment are currently on hold now pending advice from DEECA.
Wombat and Cobaw State Forests
In March 2022, VicForests received formal advice for around 60 sites in the Wombat State Forest requiring treatment. There are also areas in the Cobaw State Forest requiring treatment.
VicForests and DEECA are working collaboratively on the biodiversity value checks and development of desired treatment regimes.
Works in the Wombat State Forest commenced in May 2022, but were put on hold initially due to wet conditions and following that, species detections. We are currently awaiting advice from DEECA before works can recommence.
Works in the Cobaw State Forest recommenced on 14 March 2023.
Forest Recovery Program - Wombat State forest
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.
During operations, appropriate tracks are created to ensure the safest possible path to the operations, with environmental values at the heart of our work.
Log landings are 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 these 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.
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. Click on image to enlarge.
Forest Recovery Timber Utilisation Plan
On 17 March, VicForests approved changes to the Timber Utilisation Plan (TUP) to facilitate forest recovery operations in the Wombat State forest.
The program commenced in April 2022.
Works commenced in April 2022, but were put on hold initially due to wet conditions and following that, species detections. We are currently awaiting advice from DEECA before works can recommence.
VicForests has entered into an agreement with DEECA to assist with the debris recovery in storm affected areas in the Wombat State Forest, Cobaw State Forest and the Dandenong Ranges. This includes 2 areas in the Dandenongs and 2500 ha in the Wombat State Forest.
This agreement facilitates the recovery of debris in storm affected areas outside of the Forest Recovery TUP.
DEECA are preparing the agreement to clear debris 1 tree length off roads, edge treatment, to create access for fuel reduction activities in the Dandenongs. This is anticipated to start late March.
Wind-impacted trees within the Wombat State Forest after the June 2021 storms
During and after 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. Works commenced in April 2022. Works that were put on hold due to wet weather conditions have resumed.
VicForests collected seed in Silvan Reservoir for Melbourne Water. The seed will be used in regenerating damaged areas of forest.