In January 2017, VicForests announced it would undertake a full Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Controlled Wood audit of its Eastern Forest Management Unit covering operations in the Central Highlands and East Gippsland. This followed an earlier preliminary "gap analysis" assessment of VicForests' business against FSC standards.
The audit was undertaken in December 2017 by independent evaluators, SCS Global Services (SCS), which is a certified body accredited by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to conduct forest management and chain of custody evaluations. As part of this audit, SCS evaluation teams collect and analyse written material including VicForests processes and procedures, conduct interviews with VicForests staff and stakeholders, and complete field and office audits. The final report was received in May, 2018.
Separate to the audit of its Eastern operations, VicForests also commissioned a preliminary "gap analysis" assessment of its Western Forest Management Unit, its Community Forestry operations in Western Victoria.
VicForests' FSC Controlled Wood Audit (Central Highlands and East Gippsland) and the preliminary "gap analysis" assessment of its Western operations were released in October 2018.
The Controlled Wood audit found VicForests conformed with a majority of indicators. However the audit raised a number of areas which required further attention by VicForests in order to achieve FSC certification. The report found VicForests conformed in 15 of 23 key indicators with 3 minor non-conformities, pertaining to largely administrative matters; and 4 major non conformities.
VicForests achieved similar results in its Western operations pre-assessment except where only 3 major non-conformities were identified.
The audit raised some areas requiring further attention to achieve FSC certification, being:
Accidental encroachments into sensitive areas
Clear-felling and regeneration burns that impact old growth, threatened species and High Conservation Values (HCVs)
Enhanced consultation with stakeholders
Copies of VicForests 2017 Controlled Wood (Central Highlands and East Gippsland) audit and preliminary "gap-analysis" assessment of VicForests' Western operations can be found below:
In response to the December audit, VicForests has set out a targeted program to address issues raised in the report and prepare for a further evaluation against FSC Controlled Wood standard in 2020. This response commits to improve VicForests operations and engagement and ensure the best position to achieve Controlled Wood in the future.
This roadmap commits VicForests to:
Develop and implement new practices to further reduce boundary encroachments
Review harvest methods and regeneration practices including in relation to the impact on HCVs and Old Growth stands
Revise and improve a new stakeholder engagement plan
Activities to achieve these goals fall within three key focus areas being adaptive silvicultural regimes and outcomes, High Conservation Value (HCV) retention, protection and compliance; and enhanced stakeholder engagement. As part of this, VicForests will identify measures to guide and mark its progress across these areas which will be monitored by internal compliance and certification staff.
This monitoring and assessment will, in turn, inform training plans and implementation guidelines and methods. Figure 2 (opposite) outlines VicForests intended activity plan in accordance with these three focus areas and maps this against a proposed audit plan and timeline.