Conservation and the Timber Industry
By Tim McBride, Biodiversity Conservation and Research Manager, VicForests
I’ve been working in the timber industry in similar roles to my current position since 1994. In that time, I’ve seen the industry complete its development from an often-adversarial position with regards to environmental conservation, to one in which conservation is an integral part of our work.
I began my career in the Pacific Northwest US. The country had been through a period of huge change in the decades before I graduated. There had been big environmental battles in the 1970s over endangered species that led to the development of the Endangered Species Act. The ’80s and ’90s saw heated battles between the timber industry and environmentalists. A new awareness had created some pretty rigid environmental laws at the federal and state levels and landowners and the timber industry had to comply with those rules.
That’s where the fighting started, because the industry didn’t want to, and environmentalists might have interpreted the rules more tightly than they were meant by the lawmakers.
Ultimately, the battles started costing more money than the timber was worth to harvest, and that’s when everyone realised there could be a better outcome. There was a lot of conflict in those days, but I think people got tired of fighting all the time. You can’t really win anything lasting in courts, you can’t establish a process, you can only establish an outcome. So some smart people in the industry decided to start working with stakeholders including environmentalists, and found a much better path forward than spending money on lawyers.
Since then, the industry has learned that stakeholders and an environmental mindset are core parts of the business. Here in Victoria, there are a handful of endangered species that are still creating battles and so we have to figure out how to achieve an outcome that’s balanced on both sides.
"The industry needs to support economic development and maintain the thousands of jobs that rely on it. We also need to support and conserve our biodiversity in the landscape so future generations can partake of the joys and pleasures it’s brought to us."
How do we do that? We stop fighting and we come together to work on plans. Conservation plans that are well thought out involve multiple aspects: the social, the economic and the environmental. They mean a lot more meetings than doing things the old way. There are a lot more people to check in with. We have a lot more face-to-face conversations before we harvest. CONTINUE READING.....
VicForests launches new Gender Equity Strategy
VicForests launched its new Gender Equity Strategy on International Women's Day in a step towards creating a culture which is diverse, equitable and inclusive to better benefit both its employees and the organisation.
With the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day to #PressForProgress, VicForests saw this as an ideal time to release our strategy to motivate colleagues to think, act and be gender inclusive.
VicForests believes that gender equity is an important principle. We recognise that there is a gender imbalance in the organisation and in the wider timber industry, and look forward to improving equity.
Nathan Trushell, VicForests CEO said VicForests have come a long way with gender equality over the years.
"Women currently represent a third of our Senior Management Team and 50 percent of our Board," he said.
"However we have much more to accomplish to achieve gender equity.
"Our new Gender Equity Strategy will focus on how we can collectively empower women within VicForests and the industry, and how we can be recognised as an employer of choice."
Mr Trushell said the Gender Equity Strategy articulates how VicForests hopes to champion gender equity, at individual and organisational levels and more widely.
"It outlines the initiatives which we will implement over the coming years to address the gaps and barriers which have been identified. With the intention that this will form part of a broader diversity and inclusion strategy that will be developed in the coming year," Mr Trushell said.
VicForests believes that gender equity is an important principle, and that a culture which is diverse, equitable and inclusive benefits both our employees and the organisation. We aim to be a leader within our industry and the Public Sector.
"I look forward to seeing the results over the coming years as we progress our plan," Mr Trushell said.
Central Highlands Regional Forest Agreement Case
VicForests is pleased that on 2 March 2018 the Federal Court rejected the argument brought against it by the Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum (FLBP).
The Court found that VicForests were not affected by government delays in reviewing the Central Highlands Regional Forest Agreement (RFA).
Consequently, VicForests operations under the RFA had the benefit of being exempt from processes required by the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.
The Chair of VicForests’ Board, Michael Humphris said: "As we have consistently said, VicForests’ operations are achieving high biodiversity and ecology standards laid out in the Regional Forest Agreement, which is agreed between the Victorian and Commonwealth governments,”.
The FLBP had argued that because five-yearly reviews by Government were late, VicForests’ operation was therefore not in accord with the RFA and had to comply with the EPBC Act.
“It’s pleasing that the Court rejected the claim by the Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum,” Mr Humphris said. CONTINUE READING...
VicForests Welcomes New General Managers
VicForests is pleased to welcome two new General Managers to its team, Alex Messina and Owen Trumper.
Alex Messina, General Manager of Corporate Affairs, joined us in February bringing with him 25 years-experience across corporate affairs, public sector affairs, strategic counsel, community and stakeholder engagement.
His career spans daily metropolitan newspaper journalism to numerous senior corporate communication roles in Victorian Government departments as well as the private sector.
Stakeholder Engagement is a key focus for VicForests, and with the direction of Alex we hope to continue to improve and adapt how we operate in this area.
Owen Trumper, General Manager Operations, joined us at the beginning of March. Owen has extensive experience and skills in both plantation and natural forest management and has held executive and senior forest industry roles in Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
Owen's most recent roles, previous to VicForests, include Chief Operating Officer with OneFortyOne Plantations and General Manager at Gippsland HVP Plantations. Owen, like all of our foresters, is passionate about forests, forestry and the communities that rely on our industry.
Alex and Owen are both excited to be on board to help VicForests maintain an ecologically sustainable environment while supporting the economic viability of the Victorian native timber industry.
Forestry Supports Local Communities
The Rubicon State forest has been a vital resource in supplying quality timber products to Victorians and supporting the regional economy for more than 100 years.
Andy McGuire, Regional Manager VicForests, said that timber harvesting was historically the major industry of the region with more than eight sawmills operating in the early 1900s.
“Over the decades the volume of harvesting has dramatically reduced as our technology, planning and conservation practices have improved,” Mr McGuire said.
“The area that is available to be sustainably harvested and regrown in the Rubicon is part of an industry that generates hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs to regional Victoria every year,” he said.
The Rubicon sits within the Central Highlands Regional Forest Area which generates more than $500 million dollars and directly employs more than 2 000 people every year.
The 2018 harvesting operations in the Rubicon State forest will support 70-80 direct jobs and many more downstream jobs as the timber moves through the supply chain.
Mr McGuire said that VicForests contributes significantly to the Murrindindi Shire through sponsorship grants and timber donations to local community groups and events.
“In the last ten years, VicForests has contributed over $80,000 to the local community by supporting the Alexandra Truck & Ute Show, several local school projects, sporting clubs, the woodworkers guild, UGFM and various other community groups, Mr McGuire said. CONTINUE READING...
Spotlight on Staff - Megan Graham
For forestry professional Megan Graham, the forestry and timber industry is not just about the trees, but also very much about the people who care about forests and timber.
“Working in forestry means working with people, because our forests are always going to be closely intwined with peoples lives, either directly or indirectly,” Megan says.
"Australia is held to some of the world’s highest standards in forest management."
“This is something we can really be proud of,” Megan said. “When abroad, I found it sad and confronting when I saw standards of forest management that were very clearly inadequate for both the local people and the health of the forest.
“A highlight of my career has been my work with Aboriginal groups, in order to better incorporate their values, knowledge, culture and beliefs into our forest management practices. I've been very privileged to have been shown some amazing Indigenous sites both in Australia and abroad,” she said.
Megan believes a focus on stakeholder relations is important for forestry world-wide. Working with communities, and other stakeholders, can improve our understanding of how forestry impacts them and how we can better contribute to the sustainable development for our growing global population.
“I am proud to work in an industry that provides so many benefits to Victoria. Forests are an integral part of our lives. I’m in a fortunate position if I can help VicForests deliver positive outcomes for Victoria’s forests, and our communities,” she said. CONTINUE READING...
‘Wood is good’ new study finds on International Day of Forests
The 21st of March is the United Nations’ International Day of Forests, described as a global celebration of forests designed to raise awareness of the importance of forests, and the ways in which they sustain and protect us.
2018 International Day of Forests’ theme of ‘Forests and Sustainable Cities’ is a timely reminder of the ever-growing importance of Australia’s forest industries.
"The UN forecasts a global population of 9.5 billion people by 2050. The huge increasing demand for fundamentals such as food, shelter and clothing driven by this population growth will mean that the world will have to turn ever more to wood fibre, the most renewable of resources,” Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA), Mr Ross Hampton said.
“Recent research conducted by the University of Canberra and strategic market research firm Pollinate, made possible by Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA), is also timely, finding that ‘wood is good for you’, that is, exposure to wood products has real and measurable health and wellbeing benefits.
“The presence of wood in design and furnishings has positive physiological and psychological benefits that mimic the effect of spending time outside in nature. It lowers blood pressure and heart rates, reducing stress and anxiety and increases positive social interactions. The findings from this research can be used when designing and furnishing aged care facilities, health centres, offices and schools.
FFMVic Autumn Planned Burns
Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMVic) is preparing to start an extensive planned burning program in the Gippsland region to reduce bushfire risk for local communities and the environment.
FFMVic is working with local communities to ensure residents and visitors are informed about the upcoming planned burning program set to start in early March.
Gippsland’s Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Chris Stephenson said: “Our autumn planned burning program will focus on reducing bushfire fuel around communities across the region and minimising the impacts of large scale bushfires in more remote areas.”
“We will be starting the program with a combination of burns to reduce bushfire risk, high elevation regeneration burns and burns for ecological purposes,” Mr Stephenson said.
“Planned regeneration burns take place each year and are important to promote the regeneration of native species in areas where timber harvesting has occurred.
“We work closely with the Bureau of Meteorology to assess weather conditions such as humidity, temperature and wind speed, and will only carry out burns when conditions are suitable.”
Record Number of Female Forest Firefighters in Victoria
In February, FFMVic announced hat a record number of female forest firefighters joined Forest Fire Management Victoria to help tackle fires this summer and help keep Victorians safe.
One hundred and twelve women are on the front line this fire season – a 29 per cent increase on last summer.
Forest Fire Management Victoria’s total workforce now comprises 18 per cent women – up from 13 per cent last year.
Over the past two years the Government has overseen a 34 per cent increase in female forest firefighter applications, as part of a broader push to improve gender diversity in all workforces.
Forest Fire Management Victoria employs over 600 project firefighters across the state every summer to protect the community and environment across the state.
Responsible Wood Photo Competition
Responsible Wood is holding a national photo competition with the theme “experience forests, experience PEFC” with a $500 prize on offer.
The competition, which runs from 22 April to 5 June 2018, is intended to raise awareness of the importance of sustainable forest management and certification.
Entries can be uploaded to Instragram #RW2018PhotoContest or emailed to PEFC Photo Contest at email@example.com or post to Responsible Wood, PO Box 786, New Farm, QLD 4005
VAFI Dinner Date Announced
The Victorian Association of Forest Industries has announced the date for its annual dinner, a premier event for the state’s forest and wood products industry and of particular significance with 2018 being a state election year.
Every year VAFI hold an industry annual dinner to provide timber industry professionals the opportunity to network with colleagues.
The 2018 event will be held on Friday 19 October at the RACV Club, Melbourne.
Visit www.vafi.org.au for more details
How to plan for an Emergency: Bushfire
ABC Emergency have collated a checklist of what to do before, during and after a bushfire and tips on survival.
- Fire agencies recommend that you develop a written bushfire survival plan and discuss this with your family.
- Fire agencies say defending your home requires at least two able-bodied, fit and determined adults.
- Make sure you are wearing protective clothing to shield you from deadly radiant heat.
- Call your family and friends to let them know you are safe.
Next edition out mid May 2018