All our forest operations undergo extensive and detailed planning.
Our trained and experienced foresters complete a range of planning steps to ensure we identify and manage values present in each coupe. This includes flora and fauna species and communities requiring special management and protection in an area available for harvesting.
The areas in which VicForests plans its operations have been allocated to it via a Ministerial Order called an Allocation Order or via a special authorisation granted to VicForests by the Office of the Conservation Regulator or the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change.
Each area planned for harvesting is subject to a thorough multi-layered planning process – including numerous computer and field based assessments and surveys. These processes aim to highlight forest biodiversity, social, historical, cultural, soil and water values that require management and consideration during harvest planning and operation.
The planning process begins with a computer-based analysis on the proposed harvest areas.
Using spatial data and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology, our foresters identify values that have been previously mapped, including streams, gullies, historical or cultural sites, flora and fauna species, threatened habitats such as for the Leadbeater’s possum, and other important environmental, historical and recreational features.
This step is important in informing a targeted approach to field assessments and surveys.
After the computer-based assessment our foresters conduct a series of field-based assessments and surveys.
The purpose of field assessments are to verify values identified in the computer-based assessment and identify other values that may not be mapped.
Field assessments include many types of transects and surveys designed to provide information to assist planning on the following key areas:
biodiversity values – including threated flora and fauna and important habitat and habitat elements
confirmation of tree species and composition
cultural elements such as Indigenous sites and historical sites
confirmation of available harvest area and excluded areas.
Information collected during field assessments is stored in our GIS and used to develop a comprehensive plan for each coupe.
Planning for the successful regeneration of each coupe is an important part of the early planning process. Not only does VicForests ensure the forest regrows with the same composition and species as it previously contained but it also protects and maintains key habitat features within each coupe. This assists in encouraging a successful and biodiverse regeneration outcome.
Following the initial stages of planning, 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 stage that the values continue to be identified and physically marked out and protected.
Decisions about where, when and how to harvest are based on timber type and quality, area access, and identified protected flora and fauna.
Not all coupes in the Timber Release Plan will be harvested as detailed surveys may find some areas to be unsuitable. Of those coupes found to be suitable, generally only part will be harvested, sometimes as little as 20 per cent. In a typical year VicForests harvests about 0.04 per cent the total forests estate.
Suitable coupes will undergo operational planning. This planning stage ensures the large amounts of planning data, assessments, along with the most up-to-date information is assembled into coupe plans and harvest schedules. All the required planning is finalised, any approvals are completed, and appropriate values are marked for protection at this time.
It is important to note these plans are not static and are regularly updated if new information comes to light.
The operational plans enable harvesters to carefully and responsibly harvest coupes within Victoria’s State forests.