At VicForests, caring for the environment in which we operate is our primary concern. As leaders in sustainable forest management our activities are informed by the latest scientific research and guided by best practice. And it’s important to us that anyone who buys timber products harvested by VicForests can be secure in the knowledge that it has been harvested responsibly, sustainably and with care and respect for our forests.
There are approximately 7.5 million hectares of forest in Victoria, and 94 per cent of Victoria’s native forests are in protected areas that cannot be harvested or are unsuitable. Of this amount, VicForests has access to 417,000 hectares and we only harvest 2500-3000 hectares annually. This is nominally equivalent to 0.04% of all forested areas.
Thorough preparation is undertaken prior to harvesting, and VicForests puts special protections in place for priority habitat and species of concern if found in coupes. Such protection measures comply with, and often exceed, regulatory prescriptions.
VicForests takes seriously its responsibility of sustainably harvesting coupes within our state forests for today and future generations. Protecting our precious wildlife in our native forests is central to everything we do. That’s why during our planning process all coupes are comprehensively surveyed to ensure they meet all timber harvesting and biodiversity requirements under Victoria’s strict environmental regulatory system.
Before any harvesting we conduct extensive flora, fauna and habitat surveys which tell us which prescriptions are needed to protect important environmental and cultural values, including retaining hollow-bearing trees to protect species that live and dwell within them.
The Thinning system is conducted in coupes usually where there is reasonably dense regeneration that has originated from past timber harvesting or fire. By removing a portion of the trees in this regeneration, the retained trees have greater access to water, nutrients and sunlight and are able to grow larger more quickly.
VicForests reduces harvesting fuels during its operations in order to reduce fire risk. VicForests meets all of the requirements to reduce fuel loads in each of the relevant fire management zones as required by the Code of Practice for Timber Production (2014) (section 5.8) and as defined in the Code of Practice for Fire Management on Public Land (2012). This includes the Asset Protection Zone where the hazard rating must be Moderate or less and the Fuel Moderation Zone where the hazard rating must be high or less.
We continue to research and modify our harvesting activities to improve bushfire mitigation. For example, the process of thinning forests has potential to reduce fire risk in some circumstances. This is the focus of research in collaboration with the University of Melbourne and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
Where necessary, VicForests mitigates the environmental impacts of browsing by constructing fencing and tree guards as well as continuing to adapt our regeneration practices.
VicForests recycles 90% of its fencing equipment on a coupe-by-coupe basis and removes this infrastructure after approximately 2-3 years once plants are established
As an extra protection – during harvesting operations we run daily koala checks – where the area is checked for evidence of koalas, using binoculars, listening for koala calls, and checking for other signs, like droppings – called scats – and other evidence, such as ground disturbance.