Feedback sought for timber release plan

By Simon Ruppert

VicForests has started public consultation on proposed changes to its Timber Release Plan (TRP) in response to the 2019/20 bushfire season.

The proposed TRP covers 59 coupes that VicForests is considering harvesting under strict controls in the Benalla-Mansfield, North-East and Tambo Forest Management Areas (FMAs), excluding the East Gippsland FMA.

VicForests is conducting its public consultation process until July 10, 2020, to ensure suitable input and comment from interested parties, including the community.

As part of this change process, coupes are proposed to be added to the TRP to ensure VicForests has flexibility to meet its contractual commitments to customers, contractors, and licensees.

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The format of the TRP will also be changed to align with the information requirements in Section 38 of the Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act 2004 (the SFTA).

These proposed coupes are all in fire-impacted areas and have been prioritised as they contain areas of fire killed Ash forest.

Any harvesting of these fire-killed areas would be done in compliance with the fire-salvage harvesting requirements contained within the Management Standards and Procedures for timber-harvesting operations in Victoria’s State forests (2014) as well as VicForests’ own adaptive management procedures.

VicForests’ chief executive officer Monique Dawson said in doing so, VicForests’ adaptive management approach to harvesting provided for the protection of habitat and forest regeneration.

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“The changes to the Timber Release Plan help VicForests to meet its wood supply commitments and keep hundreds of regional Victorians in jobs,” Ms Dawson said.

“The plan also supports ongoing timber supply to local customers and contractors in accordance with Victorian government policy.

“VicForests is committed to strong consultation with the community and stakeholders in relation to the proposed TRP changes.”

Once the consultation period has concluded, the TRP Amendment will be submitted to the VicForests’ Board of Directors for approval.

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VicForests harvests about 2500 to 3000 ha each year, which is about 0.04 per cent of all Victoria’s public native forests – nominally equivalent to four trees in 10,000.

About 96 per cent of native forests is protected and cannot be harvested or is unsuitable.

● A schedule of proposed timber harvesting areas, maps of approximate locations and a consultation feedback are available at this link.