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22. Building partnerships - Tasmania’s approach to sustainable forest management - Graham R. Wilkinson*

* Forest Practices Board, Tasmania, 30 Patrick St, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, 7005, E-mail:


Tasmania has 3.4 million ha of forest, which represent 50 percent of its landmass. Over 39 percent of the forests are in formal reserves, with 30 percent available as public multiple-use forest and 31 percent as privately owned forest. The average annual volume of wood harvested from public and private forests is about 4.5 million m3 (Forestry Tasmania, 1998). The Tasmanian forest industry contributes about A$ 1 billion to the State’s economy each year.[27] Tasmania’s population is relatively small (474 000 people) and the wood and paper products industry accounts for more than 20 percent of total manufacturing employment.

Tasmania’s forest practices system began in 1985 with the introduction of the Forest Practices Act. The objective of the Act is to achieve the sustainable management of public and private forests. The various components of the forest practices system are described by Wilkinson (1999; 2000). The founders of the system were far sighted, believing that it should be based on a philosophy of cooperation and trust, rather than coercion and antagonism. Tasmania’s forest practices system is, therefore, delivered through a cooperative approach between government and the private sector. Partnerships have been developed in order to optimize the use of existing resources, and avoid duplication, unnecessary bureaucracy and excessive regulatory costs. As a result, Tasmania has an effective and efficient forest practices system that is supported actively by government, landowners, the forest industry and the broader community.


The challenges to the forest practices system in Tasmania continue to evolve. In the 1980s, Tasmania needed to gain the support of private forest owners and the forest industry for the introduction of a code of practice. Twenty years later, the level of support for the code within these sectors is very high. The continuing challenges are twofold:

1. It is important to maintain the philosophical approach of cooperation rather than coercion at both the personal and institutional levels. Appropriate structures and processes are necessary to ensure that institutional commitment does not diminish over time as a consequence of changes in staff.

2. The code must be updated continually and improved on the basis of research, operational experience and social expectations. Continuing improvement in the application of the code must be delivered through the training and education of forest owners and workers.

There are no major internal constraints on the ability of the forest practices system to make progress, although there are obviously limits in areas such as research capacity. The external operating environment continues to impose constraints that vary in accordance with changing social expectations. Current constraints are often related to conflict over land use (e.g. debates over the use of native forests for wood production and concerns that plantation forestry is displacing traditional agriculture). In addition, demand from the community for more information and verification regarding the efficacy of, and compliance with, codes of practice is increasing. Whilst many within the forestry sector see this demand as a threat to their business, others see it as an opportunity to demonstrate that their practices meet the highest standards of sustainable forest management.


An appropriate regulatory framework is necessary to implement codes of practice and RIL. In designing a regulatory framework, it is important to remember that forest regulation is concerned primarily with the regulation of human behaviour. Forests tend to be remarkably well behaved! The attitudes and behaviour of governments, industry, landowners, communities and other stakeholders determine the effectiveness and efficiency of regulatory regimes.

The choice of a regulatory regime depends upon the interplay of a number of factors. These include: social attitudes; the proportion of operations within the public and private sectors; the type of forest operations; institutional arrangements within government; and the availability of skills and resources in both the government and private sectors (Wilkinson, 1999). In many jurisdictions, an emphasis on government regulation and litigation leads to an increasing spiral of tightening regulations (Garland, 1996). Such processes impose considerable costs on both industry and government, and often result in systems that only achieve the minimum standards necessary to avoid penalties, rather than the pursuit of excellence. In contrast, a more self-regulatory approach with appropriate safeguards can avoid unnecessary bureaucratic costs, provide greater flexibility and autonomy for industry and deliver improved environmental performance (Gunningham and Sinclair, 1999).

Tasmania’s regulatory regime can be described as one of self-regulation by the forest sector, with oversight and independent enforcement by the government through the Forest Practices Board. The statutory objectives of the Forest Practices Board are to:

A cooperative approach has been achieved largely through the development of partnerships, which have allowed the forest practices system to:

Independent monitoring and reporting of outcomes by the board provides a high degree of transparency and credibility. The board is also empowered to take enforcement action in instances where self-regulation has not achieved acceptable outcomes.

Partnership between government and private landowners

Activities on privately-owned forests account for about 60 percent of forest practices operations within Tasmania (Forest Practices Board, 2000a). About 25 percent of these operations are conducted on land owned by forest companies; the remaining 75 percent occur on land owned by numerous small landowners. Prior to the 1980s, there was no regulation of forest management on private land and there were increasing concerns about forest regeneration and long-term sustainability (Everett and Gentle, 1977). A government inquiry in the late 1970s recommended the introduction of a forest practices system that would apply equally to both public and private tenures. At that time, there was a strongly held principle of “private rights”, with the politically powerful private sector very strongly opposed to the introduction of regulatory controls by government. To overcome this resistance, the government engaged the private sector in a cooperative way, and negotiated a package of legislation that was agreed upon mutually. The package recognized the rights of private landowners and provided benefits, in terms of resource security and streamlined approval processes. In return, private landowners gave a commitment to comply with a legally enforceable Forest Practices Code. The main features of the partnership between government and the private landowners include the following:

Partnership between government and the forest industry

A partnership between government and the forest industry was developed as part of the Forest Practices Act to recognize that all parties have a collective responsibility to ensure that forestry operations are planned and conducted properly. As an underlying principle, good forest practices should not be dependent upon the availability and presence of a government inspector. All parties should have the motivation and resources to strive for excellence. To achieve this, there needs to be a commitment to providing incentives, training and education.

Key features of the partnership between the government and forest industry in Tasmania are as follows:

Partnerships between forest companies and forest contractors

In Tasmania, the planning and supervision of forestry operations generally is undertaken by forest companies that engage forest contractors to carry out the forest operations. Partnerships between companies and contractors are usually contractual in nature, but they are underpinned by a commitment to training and continuing improvement. Such synergies have led to the introduction of RIL techniques such as cording and matting and shovel logging (see box below). These techniques have a range of economic, operational and safety advantages, in addition to delivering significantly better environmental outcomes. The close partnership between industry and contractors consistently results in better standards of forest practices than those achieved by contractors who work independently of the large forest companies (Forest Practices Board, 1999).

Matting and cording refer to the placement of small logs, logging slash and/or bark on snig (skid) tracks to create a layer that spreads the ground pressure of the logging machines and avoids direct contact between the soil surface and the machine tyres or tracks (Forest Practices Board, 2000b). Matting refers to the placement of understorey and logging slash to form a mat over the ground surface prior to any snigging (skidding). Depending upon the harvesting regime and availability of suitable slash, matting may be used to create a complete cover over the harvesting area or may be concentrated on snig tracks. Cording involves the use of larger material such as small diameter logs, which are placed on snig tracks at 90o to the track in wetter areas. Corded areas are then often matted to improve the trafficability of the tracks. The best environmental effects are achieved when cording is installed on snig tracks prior to rutting or damage to soils.

Matting and cording have been adopted extensively by harvesting contractors in the wetter, more productive forests of Tasmania. Matting and cording material is removed by logging machines and/or burned during rehabilitation works following harvesting. The environmental benefits of matting and cording are profound, with virtually no soil disturbance even on primary snig tracks. In addition, there are important benefits for the harvesting contractors due to less wear and tear on machines, less stoppages due to wet conditions, and safer operating conditions (Wilkinson, 2000).

The matting and cording of snig tracks is an excellent example of a “bottom-up” approach to RIL. Snig tracks in Tasmania previously occupied between 10 and 20 percent of the harvest area (Wilkinson and Jennings, 1994). Although the desirable objective is for minimal soil damage due to snig tracks, codes of practice generally accept that some degree of soil rutting and puddling is inevitable under wet soil conditions. Codes therefore attempt to set tolerated limits that cannot be exceeded. For example, the Tasmanian Forest Practices Code prescribes that the area of snig tracks should not exceed a maximum of 10 percent of the harvest area. Operations must cease if soils form a slurry to a depth of 200 mm or are rutted to a depth of more than 300 mm below the original ground surface over a 20 m or longer section of snig tracks (Forest Practices Board, 2000b). By the use of matting and cording on snig tracks, forest contractors have developed independently a method that virtually achieves a zero level of soil damage in suitable operations.

Shovel logging refers to harvesting systems that use excavators or tracked loading machines with log grabs (grapples) to lift and move logs while the harvesting machine is stationary. Logs are passed from stack to stack or in a continuous ribbon across the coupe to the landing. Shovel logging can reduce soil disturbance substantially because excavators have comparatively low ground bearing pressures due to their large tracks; generally their tracks are stationary while logs are being moved, and the logs are lifted primarily or slid along other logs rather than being dragged behind a machine. Shovel logging has environmental and economic advantages over conventional ground-based skidding. It can be more productive over snig distances of up to 200 m (CSIRO, 1997) and can facilitate RIL under wet conditions that would preclude conventional skidding. Shovel logging is highly suitable for clearfell operations and can be used in partial harvesting regimes provided that damage to the stems of residual trees can be minimized.

Partnerships among government agencies

Forestry is often subject to regulation by separate governmental agencies that have specific responsibilities for a single use (such as wood production, wildlife, water and recreation). A multi-agency approach can often fail to fully integrate the forest uses and values (Ellefson et al., 1997) and can lead to an adversarial approach and increased bureaucracy (Gasser, 1996; Eddins and Flick, 1997).

In Tasmania, we have tried to overcome the traditional adversarial relationship between “production” and “conservation” agencies by fostering a partnership approach. The development of agreed procedures for the management of threatened species within wood-production forests is described below as a case study.

Case study - management of threatened species within wood-production forests

Tasmania’s Threatened Species Protection Act was introduced in 1995. The Director of National Parks and Wildlife administers the Act and a permit from the director is required if human activities are likely to disturb the habitat of threatened species, as listed in the schedules to the act. About 40 percent of forestry operations potentially occur within the habitat range of threatened species, particularly in relation to the more wide-ranging forest-dependent species such as the wedge-tail eagle (Forest Practices Board, 2000a). Prior to the act being introduced, the Forest Practices Board had worked closely with the Parks and Wildlife Service and other scientists to establish efficient and effective procedures for the management of threatened species in areas subject to forestry operations. Over the years, these procedures have been refined into a comprehensive and sophisticated computer program that helps FPOs to make many routine decisions at an operational level. In addition, the collaboration with external scientists has resulted in them developing a much better understanding of forest management for wood production, rather than adopting an ideological opposition to it. This collaborative approach has now been formally endorsed in a partnership agreement between the Director of National Parks and Wildlife and the Forest Practices Board. The agreed procedures form part of the Forest Practices Code, and continuing training, research and monitoring support them. This approach has mutual benefits. For the forest industry, the management of threatened species is covered by a streamlined, efficient process that allows FPOs to make scientifically validated decisions on routine matters with a minimum of bureaucracy. In return for this benefit, the industry is prepared to fund further research and development as part of a program of continuing improvement. For the Forest Practices Board, it means that the scientists can devote their time to further research and improvement. For the Parks and Wildlife Service, self-management by the forestry sector frees up its staff to work in other areas, particularly in non-forest areas where the availability of procedures and resources are highly deficient.

Partnerships between the forest industry and the rural community

Until recently, forestry operations in Tasmania have been confined largely to the heavily forested, very lightly populated parts of the State. In recent years, tensions between the forest industry and rural communities have arisen because of changing land use. A rapid acceleration in the establishment of forest plantations on cleared farmland in more settled areas has been one outcome resulting from a broader change in traditional patterns of agricultural land use. At the same time, many people from an urban background are settling in rural areas for lifestyle reasons. Opposition to forest plantations stems from a myriad of issues, which include: shading of residences and crops; effect on water quality and quantity; fire protection; use of herbicides; and loss of visual amenity.

The response of the forest industry has been to develop a Good Neighbour Charter, in partnership with the main representative body of the rural sector. The charter sets out a commitment for consultation and negotiation with neighbours on planned operations. Generally, there is an acknowledgment by all parties of a need for give and take. Often, the negotiations lead to the voluntary adoption by industry of forest practices that are well in excess of the minimum requirements of the Forest Practices Code. At the same time, direct consultation with neighbours generally leads to a more pragmatic and reasonable outcome than might otherwise result from a more bureaucratic or adversarial approach.

Some examples of outcomes negotiated between neighbours and forest companies under the Good Neighbour Charter approach:

  • Companies often substantially modify the use of chemicals within domestic water catchments.

  • Neighbours have agreed to share the cost of fences or other animal control measures to protect crops from browsing damage and reduce the use of poisons.

  • Companies have established short-rotation Christmas tree plantations rather than longer rotation plantations in special areas to avoid issues such as shading or loss of scenic views from rural residences.

  • In situations where major bridge and road construction may lead to a temporary increase in stream turbidity, companies have provided water tanks to residences that normally extract water directly from forest streams.


The requirements to strive for sustainable forest management can place increasingly onerous demands on the resources and skills that are available within both the governmental and private sectors. The regulation of forest practices in Tasmania involves a large number of landowners and forest companies. Neither the government nor the majority of forest companies would, in isolation, have the resources to deliver best-practice forestry across all sectors in an effective and efficient manner. Collectively, partnership arrangements have facilitated the development of a very progressive forest practices system through the sharing of resources and responsibilities.

Codes of forest practice need to be complied with if they are to be effective and credible. Compliance can be achieved through either a cooperative or adversarial approach. Regulatory frameworks that adopt a highly prescriptive approach often become increasingly bureaucratic and process-driven. Partnerships by their nature require a cooperative approach, with mutually agreeable outcomes. The continuing challenge for Tasmania’s forest practices system is to maintain a spirit of cooperation and to avoid the seemingly inevitable regulatory spiral that would lead to a more bureaucratic and litigious system. This means a commitment at all levels to the maintenance and further development of partnerships among all key stakeholders.


1) RIL should be implemented where possible through an approach that fosters cooperation between government and other stakeholders.

2) Formal partnerships among government and other stakeholders should be considered and developed where appropriate to:


Ken Felton and Thomas Enters kindly provided valuable comments on a draft of this paper. I gratefully acknowledge the support and assistance of the conference organizers and my sponsors - FAO and the Tasmanian Government and Forest Practices Board.


CSIRO. 1997. Report of CSIRO forestry and forest products 1996/97,

Eddins, K.M. & Flick, W.A. 1997. The criminal aspects of environmental law - an evolving forest policy. Journal of Forestry, 95(7): 4-8.

Ellefson, P.V., Cheng, A.S. & Moulton, R.J. 1997. State forest practice regulatory programs: an approach to implementing ecosystem management on private lands in the United States. Environmental Management, 21(3): 421-432.

Everett, M.G. & Gentle, S.W. 1977. Report of the Board of Inquiry into private forestry development in Tasmania. Report to the Parliament of Tasmania, Parliamentary Paper 25, 1977, Government Printer, Hobart.

Forest Practices Board 1999. Annual report 1998-99, Forest Practices Board, Tasmania.

Forest Practices Board 2000a. Annual report 1999-2000, Forest Practices Board, Tasmania.

Forest Practices Board 2000b. Forest practices code. Forest Practices Board, Hobart, Tasmania.

Forestry Tasmania 1998. State of the forests report 1998, Forestry Tasmania, Hobart.

Garland, J.J. 1996. The Oregon Forest Practices Act: 1972 to 1994. In: Dykstra, D.P. and Heinrich, R. (eds.) Forest Codes of Practice - Contributing to environmentally sound forest operations. Proceedings of an FAO/IUFRO Meeting of Experts on Forest Practices, Feldafing, Germany, 11-14 December 1994, FAO Forestry Paper 133, IUFRO and FAO. pp. 33-42.

Gasser, D.P. 1996. Lessons from California’s forest practices act. In: Dykstra, D.P. and Heinrich, R. (eds.) Forest codes of practice - Contributing to environmentally sound forest operations. Proceedings of an FAO/IUFRO Meeting of Experts on Forest Practices, Feldafing, Germany, 11-14 December 1994, FAO Forestry Paper 133, IUFRO and FAO. pp. 117-121.

Gunningham, N. & Sinclair, D. 1999. Environmental management systems, regulation and the pulp and paper industry: ISO 14001 in practice. Environment and Planning Law Journal, 16(1): 5-24.

Hanna, K.S. 1997. Regulation and land-use conservation: A case study of the British Columbia Agricultural Land Reserve. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, 52(3): 166-170.

Wilkinson, G.R. 1999. Codes of forest practice as regulatory tools for sustainable forest management. In: Ellis R.C. and Smethurst P.J. (eds.), Practising forestry today, Proceedings of the 18th Biennial Conference of the Institute of Foresters of Australia, Hobart, Tasmania, 3-8 October 1999, pp. 43-60.

Wilkinson, G.R. 2000. Implementing a code of forest practice - the Tasmanian experience. In: Bulai, S., Tang, H.T., Pouru, K. & Masianini. B. (eds.), Proceedings of Regional consultation on implementation of codes of logging practice and directions for the future. Field Document No. 3 RAS/97/330. Pacific Islands Forests and Trees Support Programme, Suva, Fiji. pp. 192-200.

Wilkinson, G.R. & Jennings, S.M. 1994. Regeneration of blackwood from ground-stored seed in the North Arthur forests, northwestern Tasmania. Tasforests, 6: 69-78

Wilkinson, G.T. 2000. Matting and cording of snig tracks. Forest Practices News, 2(4): 1-2.

[27] US$1 = A$1.92 (July 2001).

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