High Conservation Values
As part VicForests plans to seek Forest Stewardship Council Controlled Wood Certification in 2015, VicForests is required to demonstrate that our activities do not threaten High Conservation Values (HCVs). High Conservation values are forest values or attributes that are considered to be of significant importance for conservation and face substantial threat of severe or irreversible damage from forest management activities.
There are 6 internationally recognised categories of HCV:
HCV 1 - Forest areas containing globally, nationally or regionally significant concentrations of biodiversity values, including threatened flora and fauna.
HCV 2 - Forest areas containing regionally significant large landscape level forests, contained within, or containing the management unit, where viable populations of most if not all naturally occurring species exist in natural patterns of distribution and abundance.
HCV 3 - Forest areas that are in or contain rare, threatened or endangered ecosystems.
HCV 4 - Forest areas that provide basic services of nature in critical situations (e.g. watershed protection, erosion control).
HCV 5 - Forest areas fundamental to meeting basic needs of local communities (e.g. subsistence, health).
HCV 6 - Forest areas critical to local communities’ traditional cultural identity (areas of cultural, ecological, economic or religious significance identified in cooperation with such local communities).
Stakeholder involvement opportunities
In order to communicate to stakeholders the processes we have undertaken to identify these values and to provide details on our proposed approach to HCV assessment and management of HCV Forests, we have produced a Draft ‘Strategy for Assessing and Maintaining High Conservation Values’.
This Strategy currently remains a consultation draft, and as such a key aspect to its development and continued refinement is stakeholder engagement. We are still currently seeking stakeholder feedback and welcome submissions regarding the draft HCV Strategy until Tuesday, 31st March 2015.
Specifically the consultation and refinement of VicForests High Conservation Value Strategy will lead to the following outputs:
1.A list of HCV Definitions, critical for field identification and assessment of HCV
2.Maps of potential locations of HCV or HCV Forest
3.A refined process for HCV Assessment
4.A HCV Management and Monitoring Plan
To assist in this process, an interactive HCV map has been developed to provide stakeholders with the ability to view the approximate locations and extent of potential HCV values applicable to VicForests Forest Management Unit (FMU).
The process of HCV identification and assessment is an ongoing requirement, needing continuous refinement and evaluation of all available information. Assessment does not result in a once off, absolute outcome in which all HCVs are located and mapped from the outset. Current assessment results are based on the best available information and provide a landscape-level view to where HCV forests are potentially located, and these results are used to support our subsequent multi-scaled desktop and field-based pre-harvest survey approaches.
As we continue to refine our processes and undertake further detailed assessments, VicForests will update this interactive map with our outcomes.
The following values are currently represented within the interactive map:
HCV 1.2: Threatened and Endangered Species
Species identified under HCV 1.2 are those listed in national legislation (Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999) or state legislation (Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988). Whilst forest areas catering for the most significant species have already been identified and protected within Special Protection Zones or Park and Conservation Reserves adjacent to the VicForests FMU, threatened species designated as HCV within the VicForests FMU are those assessed as significant and remain under potentially significant threat from VicForests operations.
The interactive map indicates forest areas that have undergone filed surveys that produced evidence of the following threatened species being present:
- Long-Footed Potoroo (Potorous longipes):
- Leadbeater’s Possum (Gymnobelidus leadbeateri); and
- Spot-Tailed Quoll (Dasyurus maculatus maculatus).
VicForests has also undertaken pre-harvest surveys for the critically endangered Smoky Mouse (Pseudomys fumeus), however to date has not detected any in the areas of forest managed for timber harvesting.
For more information on the species VicForests survey for and the procedures for undertaking these surveys, refer to VicForests Pre-harvest Survey Procedure.
HCV 3: Rainforest Ecosystems
VicForests has identified that the most significant threatened Ecological Vegetation Class (EVC) within its FMU is Rainforest.
Rainforest (EVC 31,32,33 and 34) is defined ecologically as closed (greater than 70% projective foliage cover) broad-leaved forest vegetation with a continuous rainforest tree canopy of variable height, and with a characteristic diversity of species and life forms.
Under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act, a number of rainforest communities are listed as ‘Threatened’ including:
- Cool Temperate Rainforest;
- Dry Rainforest (Limestone);
- Warm Temperate Rainforest; and
- Warm Temperate Rainforest (Cool Temperate Rainforest Overlap)
In line with this, rainforest EVCs have a conservation status of ‘endangered’ across much of Victoria and must be identified and protected in line with VicForests Rainforest Identification Guideline.
Using ecological vegetation class mapping, VicForests have identified approximately 6,700 hectares within the FMU which may contain stands of Rainforest. The presence or absence of this HCV in these areas will be determined during VicForests pre-harvest field surveys.
HCV 3: Potential Old Growth Ecosystems
VicForests has identified approximately 30,500 hectares of ‘potential forest areas’ that are most likely to contain Old Growth Forests using the Modelled Old Growth mapping provided by the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
VicForests is proposing to conduct detailed field assessments within these mapped areas to determine the actual forest stand classification present on the ground. VicForests has proposed the following working definitions for the assessment of old-growth forest in the field and is encouraging stakeholder feedback on these:
- Old Growth Forest – Type 1: is ecologically mature forest where the effects of unnatural disturbances are now negligible.
These are stands that have never been logged and have more than 90% of overstorey trees in any of the mature or senescing growth stages. Greater than 10% of the ecologically mature trees in the stand must be either in the Late Mature or Senescent ‘Growth Stages’. The stand will also have less than 10% of its basal area in the regrowth phase based on the assumption that if greater than 10% is present, the stand has generally been subject to significant disturbance and is thus not considered to be old growth.
- Old Growth Forest – Type 2 (Disturbed Old Forest): is ecologically mature forest where the effects of unnatural disturbances are still evident.
These are stands that have been subject to harvesting or regular prescribed burning regimes and have greater than 70% of overstorey trees in any of the mature or senescing growth phases. Greater than 10% of the ecologically mature trees in the stand must be in either the ‘Late Mature’ or ‘Senescent’ Growth Stages. The stand is also likely to have between 10-30% of the basal area in the regrowth phase, indicating that it has been subject to significant natural or unnatural disturbance.
HCV 4: Significant Water Catchments
Within the VicForests FMU there are a number of Proclaimed Water Supply Catchment areas, and the most significant used by VicForests have strict harvesting rate limits and are highly valued by stakeholders.
The water catchments shown in the interactive map include the Melbourne Water managed Thomson, Bunyip and Tarago catchments and the Yarra Tributaries catchments (Starvation, Armstrong, McMahons and Cement Creeks). As well as the Learmonth Creek catchment which is critical to Powelltown community residents.
These water supply catchments, covering an area of 50,500 hectares have been designated as Special Management Areas by VicForests and require annual monitoring and adherence to harvest area limits and other management conditions as specified within VicForests Operating Procedures – Regulatory Handbook.
HCV 6: Culturally Sensitive Areas
There are potentially many indigenous cultural heritage sites located in VicForests’ FMU including scarred trees, mounds, freshwater middens, stone tools and surface scatters. All indigenous artefacts are protected under the Aboriginal Heritage Act2006.
VicForests has mapped the areas of Cultural Sensitivity to indicate which areas of Forest are the most likely to contain potential sites of Cultural Significance within the FMU.
Approximately 300,000 hectares of forest has been identified as having the potential to contain sites or artefacts of cultural significance. The entirety of this area has been designated HCV 6 to ensure that any operations proposed within or adjacent to these areas will require additional consultation and approval of management actions to ensure that cultural heritage values are appropriately identified and protected.