Bushfire-affected forestry operations

The unprecedented 2019/20 bushfires had a major impact on native forests, the environment, wildlife, local forestry industries and the community.

Five million hectares in NSW have been burnt, including more than 890,000 hectares of native State Forests. This is over 40% of the coastal and tablelands native State Forests in NSW.

The EPA has been working with other NSW Government agencies and the Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) to understand the impact of the fires on the environment and wildlife, local communities and the forestry industry. Forestry operations are proceeding under special conditions in selected areas of fire-affected State Forests to assist in bushfire recovery efforts for fire-affected regional communities.

The EPA has issued FCNSW with a set of supplementary site-specific environmental conditions to be applied to these harvest operations. The conditions are required to be applied in addition to the prescriptions set out in the Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval, and are issued on a case by case basis, only where it may be determined that the environmental risk associated with harvesting operations can be reasonably mitigated.

These additional conditions aim to mitigate the specific environmental risks caused by the bushfires at each site, and are tailored for the specific impacts on plants, animals and their habitats, soils and waterways at each site. The additional conditions maximise the protection of unburnt or lightly burnt forest and limit harvesting intensity to assist with wildlife and biodiversity recovery efforts. 

Site-specific operating condition requirements

The Coastal Integrated Forestry Operation Approval (IFOA) was not designed to moderate the environmental risks associated with harvesting in landscapes that have been so extensively and severely impacted by fire. This has required the EPA to issue additional site-specific conditions that tailor protections for the specific circumstances of these burnt forests.

The rules for timber harvesting in fire-affected areas include

  • A new requirement which requires the retention of unburned or lightly burned forest in these sites to ensure they can provide ongoing refuge and food for animals that persisted during the fires
  • Increased protections around landscape features like rainforest, rocky outcrops and heathy vegetation as these areas often provide important shelter and food resources for animals, and the right environmental conditions for the regeneration of unique native plants 
  • Increased protections for hollow-bearing trees and important feed trees to ensure more nesting and food resources are retained and protected
  • In sites where koala habitat may be present, the site-specific operating conditions put in place nearly double the amount of protections for koala feed trees and habitat. FCNSW are still required to check for the presence of koalas before any trees are felled and put in place temporary exclusion zones around areas where koalas are identified
  • Intensive harvesting will not be permitted in burnt areas to lessen erosion risks and biodiversity impacts
  • Increased requirements to prevent or minimise erosion and water pollution in local creeks and rivers given the fires have removed most of the ground cover and destabilised soils. These requirements include;
    • the significant expansion of protections around streams
    • stricter limits to reduce the distance water can flow on roads, tracks and log dumps
    • requirements to stabilise exposed soils during and after harvesting operations.

The NSW EPA will be monitoring forestry activities before, during and after the forestry operations to ensure the site-specific conditions are effective, and that these additional rules are being complied with.

Site-specific operating conditions for bushfire affected forests

Site-specific conditions are issued on a case by case basis, and only where it is considered that the environmental risk associated with harvesting operations in bushfire affected forests can be reasonably mitigated.

Upper North East IFOA Subregion

Lower North East IFOA Subregion

Southern IFOA Subregion

Eden IFOA Subregion

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