The Victorian Government announced this morning that the purchase of the Heyfield Mill has been finanlised.
VicForests welcomes this announcement as it it a very positive outcome for the Victorian timber industry and the Heyfield community with clarity around the future arrangements for the mill.
It provides certainty to the broader industry including the contractors who harvest and deliver logs to the mill and will support the Gippsland region by providing jobs and supporting the local economy.
We acknowledge that this has been a very difficult time for the town of Heyfield and the wider timber industry.
VicForests has entered into a three year Timber Sales Agreement of 80,000m³ per annum with the new owners of Australian Sustainable Hardwoods.
We look forward to continuing to working constructively with ASH.
A review of the Leadbeater Possum’s critically endangered status has been ordered by Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg in response to requests from the timber industry.
(Source Herald Sun) The leadbeater’s possum received the highest possible legal protection under national environment law just two years ago.
But the listing for the rare animal — whose numbers in Victoria’s central highlands are thought to have dropped by 80 per cent since the mid-1980s — has hit a hurdle. The Herald Sun has revealed this week that Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg has directed the Threatened Species Scientific Committee to fast-track a review of the listing.
Industry group Australian Forest Products Association requested the possum’s status be reviewed in March, citing evidence the possums had been found across a wider habitat range than understood at the time of its listing.
It is estimated somewhere between 1500 and 3000 Leadbeater’s possums remain in the wild, but the Department of Environment’s draft recovery plan last year highlighted there was “no precise and robust estimate” of the total population size. The data, collated by Victorian government-owned forestry agency VicForests over the past three years, included extensive targeted surveys for the native marsupial.
The Herald Sun understands the committee must finalise its advice on the appropriate listing status by March 30 next year.
By Tim McBride, VicForests Manager, Biodiversity Conservation and Research
VicForests has commenced a pilot investigation study to better understand how the Leadbeater’s Possum uses the habitat it is regularly observed in.
This investigation was initiated after surveys from the last few years found that Leadbeater’s Possums are detected in young regrowing forests as often as older, mature regrowth forests (VicForests data; 200 m Buffer Review Report).
This study will help inform a ‘Species Occupancy Model’ for the Leadbeater’s Possum by conducting research in regrowth forest areas from the 1990’s where the possums have been located.
A Species Occupancy Model is a model used to describe where a particular species is most likely to occur within its preferred habitat. This particular study will be looking at commonly occurring habitat characteristics such as understory density, tree connectivity density and diversity of size of hollow bearing trees, and species of plants to identify which of these are most attractive to the possum and why.
VicForests’ Research and Development team has positioned 16 remote sensing cameras across 16 hectares of young regrowth forests in areas where Leadbeater’s Possum’s have recently been detected (within the last 1-2 years),
Previously, scientists have employed a range of survey methods to detect the presence of Leadbeater’s Possum across the montane ash forests of Victoria’s Central Highlands. These have included stag-watching, , call play-back surveys and more recently, baited remote camera surveys and thermal imaging cameras.
More than 600 new Leadbeater’s Possum colonies have been identified in State forests since 2014. However, very little, if any investigations have occurred in the past 10 years to understand how Leadbeater’s Possums use their habitat.
The majority of work that has previously been done on the habitat preferences of Leadbeater’s Possum in montane Ash forests has focused specifically on older mature regrowth forest. To date, there has been little work dedicated to understanding the species habitat requirements in young regrowing forest, particularly forests that have recently been harvested for timber.
This pilot study will act as a preliminary investigation to determine the feasibility and costs that may be required for a full-scale occupancy study, while also providing insight into the chosen data collection method (which in this case is key habitat characteristics), bait use and camera placement requirements.
Almost 500 forest industry leaders attended an Industry Gala Dinner hosted by the national timber association Australian Forest Products Australia (AFPA) including headline speakers Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Senator Anne Ruston, Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Resources.
Additional speakers included a number of Government Ministers, Shadow Ministers and MPs who spoke about key policy priorities and developments within the renewable forest, wood and paper industries.
Ross Hampton, CEO AFPA said: “This is the night of nights for the forest industry. We will be talking about plans for the growth of our industry and building on the already significant contribution to Australia’s environment, innovation, job creation, community well-being and economic development.
“The forest industry contributes about $23 billion to the economy each year. When one includes the full value chain such as truss and frame making, this industry is responsible for about 120,000 direct jobs – many in regional communities around Australia.
“In terms of innovation, the forest industry is leading the world in adapting leading-edge technology to ensure sustainability and underpin competitiveness. These are achievements that should be suitably recognised.
Following our commitment of seeking Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) certification we have been readying our business for a Dec 2017 audit in eastern Victoria against the FSC® Controlled Wood Standard.
To ensure that VicForests is well prepared for the audit, we have resourced a small team lead by Dr. Nora Devoe. To date, key areas of focus have included reviewing the pre-audit gap analysis and ensuring any of identified ‘gaps’ are managed and improved so that our forest management, processes and systems will meet the requirements of the standard. This has been a positive process to undertake, as it has resulted in improvements across our business.
Our auditors have been selected based on their extensive experience with FSC® and their knowledge of VicForests. They are global leaders in forest auditing and our next major milestone for VicForests will be to undergo the audit of our operations in December.
Achieving Controlled Wood certification is an important stepping stone to full FSC® forest management certification which we are aiming to achieve by 2020. FSC® is globally recognised; among the benefits of FSC® certification will be enhanced confidence in the sustainability of our management and our products.
VicForests attended a community meeting in Mirboo North on Thursday 14 September to speak to local residents about planned operations in the area.
Lachlan Spencer, VicForests General Manager Stakeholders and Planning said that VicForests openly encourages input from the public into its operations.
“Every year, we formally call for public submissions through public advertisements into proposed operations over the next three to five years,” Mr Spencer said.
“This year we have added a more proactive approach of letter dropping, meeting local communities in areas of planned operations and reaching out to local groups.
“The first communities where we have taken this approach have been in Noojee and Mirboo North where there has been a strong community interest.
"We look forward to working together with the local Mirboo North community and developing our plans in a way that incorporates their feedback," Mr Spencer said.
Mr Spencer said that encouraging input into its planning process is an important step in VicForests planning process.
“We are committed to providing community members the opportunity to have an input into our forestry practices,” he said.
VicForests welcomes the opportunity to talk to people they don't always hear from.
“In the last six months VicForests have conducted over 500 community conversations, attended 10 local events and received many hundreds of letters,” Mr Spencer said.
“We have also received a range of reports regarding threatened species which improved our planning process.
“We believe that forest planning needs to be a partnership between VicForests, the Department of Environment Land Water and Planning, science, interest groups and the local communities. All VicForests proposed and approved operations can be viewed online via an interactive online mapping system.
VicForests congratulates the 29 successful recipients of this year’s Community Support Program and we look forward to contributing to the various community projects across Victoria.
The program is intended to contribute to the wellbeing of local communities by providing grants of up to $2,000 to charity, sporting, educational and community groups in regional Victoria. This year VicForests provided a total of $57,000 in grants as well as contributing to an additional seven community groups through in kind donations such as timber for building materials or seedlings for garden projects.
Some community groups who were successful this year include the Wurega Aboriginal Coop for the development of an access ramp, the Anglicare Mount Beauty Emergency Food Relief program and the Moojii Aboriginal Council training program.
VicForests received 80 applications this year and unfortunately we are not always able to contribute to every project but we encourage community groups to continue to apply in the coming year’s programs.
The initiative, which is now in its eighth year, has provided over $400,000 to communities as well as many in-kind donations and ongoing support to other groups and services across the State.
With most of Australia experiencing a combination of above average temperatures and below average rainfall over winter, large parts of the country face above normal bushfire potential for the fire season. The Southern Australia Seasonal BushfireOutlook2017 shows the most at risk areas. The warmer and drier than average weather over recent months, combined with the forecasts for spring, suggest that the southern fire season is likely to commence earlier than usual and be more active than normal.
The Southern Australia Seasonal BushfireOutlook2017 is used by fire authorities to make strategic decisions on resource planning and prescribed fire management for the upcoming fire season. The outlook is developed at an annual workshop convened by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and AFAC. The workshop discussed the weather, landscape conditions and cross-border implications leading into summer and determined areas that had the potential for a fire season that was above normal or below normal.
The Outlook map shows the bushfire outlook for southern Australia through to the end of 2017. This map has been combined with the outlook for the northern Australia bushfire season, which was released in July, to show the areas of fire potential for all of Australia. (See Hazard Note 36, July 2017).
This Outlook will be reviewed towards the end of spring to take into account the impacts of actual temperatures and rainfall in the lead up to summer.