In 2020–21 the EPA focused on its forestry regulation. This was in response to the significant impact of bushfires and as part of our ambition to be a world class regulator. The EPA conducted 120 forestry inspections.
We assessed 90.9% of high-risk native forestry operations for compliance against the native forestry regulations and guidelines
80 inspections across 43 different Crown forestry operations
40 inspections across 36 different private native forestry operations
The work involved:
- enhancements to guidance and training for regulatory officers, IT systems and regulatory tools, including the development of a new environmental risk assessment tool
- increased operational, technical and legal resources for forestry regulation to increase the speed of on-ground deployment and timeliness of investigations
- more engagement with local communities interested in ecological sustainable forestry management, Forestry Corp NSW and Local Land Services.
We increased our presence on the ground and provided more compliance education at all stages of logging operations. We also worked closely with the:
- general community
- Aboriginal groups
- environment groups concerned about the impact of logging on the environment, their communities and their regional economies.
In 2020 the EPA issued extra environmental conditions (‘site-specific operating conditions’) to the Forestry Corporation of NSW. These were to supplement the existing IFOA conditions in 66 fire-affected state forest compartments. These extra controls were placed on forestry operations in burnt forests to minimise further environmental impacts.
In 2020–21 the EPA started ten forestry prosecutions (five under the Forestry Act 2012 and five under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016) against Forestry Corporation of NSW. The number of operations that were issued with a compliance action can be found on our website.
The events of the last two years have shown how in forestry regulation, as in other areas of regulation, the EPA takes a risk-based approach, engages with communities and industry on complex regulatory frameworks, and adapts its regulatory approach when necessary.
Environmental monitoring to inform forest management decisions
In 2020–21 the EPA continued engagement in the development and implementation of a long-term environmental monitoring program alongside multiple agencies and independent experts collaborating with oversight from the Natural Resources Commission. We continue to input into this developing program and functions, along with the Department of Primary Industries, as an approval authority, approving the monitoring program approach in December 2020. This approach to monitoring uses several interdependent strategies that target various environmental features of interest such as: forest structure and function, species occupancy and persistence, and water quality and forest regeneration. The program should be fully under way by the end of 2021.
Another core feature of the monitoring program is targeted research projects. Research projects currently near completion include: the response of koalas to different harvesting intensities and bushfire impacts, and how climate change might affect the outcomes of the Coastal IFOA over time.
In response to the devastation of the 2019–20 wildfires, the design of the monitoring program has been expanded to track the recovery of the above broad range of environmental features post wildfire and the interaction of this recovery with past and future logging.