On 10 February 2021 Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) advised the EPA that they would be returning to regular operations under the Coastal IFOA (CIFOA) in South Coast, Eden and Tumut for the coming period, while the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) carry out their assessment of post fire harvesting. In returning to regular operations, FCNSW will no longer be seeking additional site-specific operating conditions which have been used until now, in fire-impacted forests.
They further advised that they would be undertaking additional voluntary measures to the requirements of the CIFOA. The EPA is not aware what these voluntary measures are, and we will not be able to regulate against these. The EPA advised against FCNSW’s proposal, on the basis that additional site-specific operating conditions have been essential to ensuring harvesting activities in fire-impacted forests are carried out in an ecologically sustainable manner, and therefore meet the requirements of the Forestry Act 2012, the CIFOA and relevant Regional Forest Agreements.
FCNSW is authorised by the NSW Government to undertake forestry operations under the Forestry Act 2012 and must comply with the IFOA rules. The Act requires FCNSW to undertake ecologically sustainable forest management as defined in s.69L(2) of the Forestry Act 2012, namely:
- Maintenance of forest values for future and present generations, including:
- Forest biological diversity
- The productive capacity and sustainability of forest ecosystems
- The health and vitality of native forest ecosystems
- Soil and water quality
- The contribution of native forests to global geochemical cycles
- The long term social and economic benefits of native forests
- Natural heritage values
- Ensuring public participation, provision of information, accountability and transparency in relation to the carrying out of forestry operations
- Providing incentives for voluntary compliance, capacity building and adoption of best-practice standards
- Application of best-available knowledge and adaptive management processes to deliver best-practice forest management
- Application of the precautionary principle in preventing environmental harm
The precautionary principle requires that the EPA does not wait for full scientific certainty to take measures to prevent environmental degradation. The EPA has always acknowledged that there are gaps in the science that prevent absolute certainty on all aspects of the impact of timber harvesting following the 2019-20 fires. However, it is clear from the literature and recent reports that enough is known to suggest that the threat of the twin impacts of fire and post-fire harvesting demands very careful management.
The EPA has increased its regulatory presence on the ground at all stages of logging operations and is working closely with community, industry, Aboriginal and environment groups, concerned about the impact of logging on the environment, their communities and their regional economies.
In response to the decision of FCNSW, the EPA will further increase its regulatory oversight of future logging operations.
The EPA has a statutory objective to protect, restore and enhance the quality of the environment in NSW having regard to the need to maintain ecologically sustainable development. Where the EPA identifies non-compliance, it will take appropriate regulatory action.
State forest compartments proposed for post-fire harvesting and considered high-risk by the EPA
Each area proposed by FCNSW for post-fire forestry operations has undergone a risk assessment by the EPA, prior to logging. This process involves a preliminary assessment of the risk of environmental harm. Where compartments are identified as high risk, further assessment is required, including surveys as necessary to develop a comprehensive understanding of risk. In some cases, following preliminary assessment, FCNSW has decided not to proceed any further with survey, and forestry operations did not proceed.
The following tables identify a number of burned forest areas that have been proposed by FCNSW for post-fire forestry operations.
The risk assessment process used by the EPA evolved through 2020 and was essentially based on preliminary assessments of fire severity, soil erosion risk, risk to water quality and aquatic ecology, and risks to flora and fauna.
In December 2020 the risk assessment incorporated consideration of a number of biodiversity factors including wildfire burn severity, threatened species records, species richness and connectivity to lesser-burnt areas surrounding planned operational compartments. The EPA weighted specific attributes relative to the perceived environmental risk based on available ecological literature and existing ecological principles.
Burn severity was crucial in the assessment of individual compartments with more severely burnt areas considered lower risk based on available literature.
Key threatened species were considered higher-risk as part of this assessment and include the Yellow-Bellied Glider, Greater Glider, Glossy Black Cockatoo, Koala, Southern Brown Bandicoot, Swift Parrot and the Spotted-tailed Quoll.
The forestry compartments shown in the tables below were identified as having a high risk through the preliminary risk assessment process. Therefore the EPA did not issue site-specific operating conditions for these compartments.
Other compartments identified as lower risk were issued site-specific operating conditions
This list is not exhaustive and only includes those areas where FCNSW sought site-specific operating conditions for forestry operations in burnt forest areas.
December 2020 Risk Assessment Results
Compartments considered to be high-risk
|Eden||Yambulla||301, 302, 309, 339, 340, 341|
|South Coast||South Brooman||52, 53, 54|
|South Coast||Shallow Crossing||212|
Pre-December 2020 Risk Assessment Results
Compartments considered to be high-risk
|South Coast||Benandarah||108, 109, 114, 116|
|South Coast||North Brooman||49|
|South Coast||Tallaganda||2450, 2451, 2455|
|Eden||East Boyd/Timbillica||209^, 210^, 211^, 219^|
|Eden||East Boyd||11, 12, 13, 192*|
|Eden||Nadgee||124, 148, 116^, 117^, 95*^, 59, 60, 63|
|Eden||Nullica||652, 654, 655|
*Compartments considered high-risk due to data deficiencies
^Compartments subsequently identified as lower-risk due to updated information