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A review of forest practice codes in Australia


Abstract
1.0 Introduction
2.0 Current state of codes
4.0 New initiatives
5.0 Conclusion

Robert J. McCormack
Senior Research Scientist
CSIRO Division of Forestry
Canberra, Australia

Abstract

About 70% of forestry activity in Australia is conducted on public land. Cutting levels in these forests is generally close to calculated sustainable yield. There has been an increased public interest in forestry in Australia, as internationally, and this has led to scrutiny of the performance of public forestry agencies in both environmental and economic terms.

Internal guidelines specifying standards of forestry practice have been under development by most larger forestry organisations in Australia for some decades. Recently, in line with international practice, these are being refined and published as Codes of Forest (or Logging) Practice. In current form, many of the documents reviewed concentrate on prescription and control with monitoring generally only for compliance purposes and not for enhancement of code.

Currently most codes or their equivalent guidelines do not extend to private land (two States are exceptions). A new National Forest Policy process is underway in Australia, and under the terms of agreements already signed, individual states are developing public Codes of Forest Practice and developing legislative means to extend coverage over public and private lands. Scientific committees have been set-up to determine appropriate environmental baseline standards and propose monitoring methods. This should enhance the ongoing development of Codes of Forest Practice.

1.0 Introduction

Forestry activity in Australia occurs substantially on public land. This has come about through the processes of European settlement, and some background to these developments is helpful in understanding current forestry practice. Australia always had a limited forest cover and the rapid development of agriculture involved widespread forest clearing, leading by the turn of this century to a perceived need to protect forested lands. Australia has a federal system, and matters relating to the control of land are constitutionally under the control of the individual states. Forest services were established early in this century to manage and protect remaining forest on public lands, which was by then much of the remaining higher quality tall forest. For the last 60-70 years therefore, much of the timber production has been dominated by controlled cutting from public forests.

Administratively, our system is similar to Canada, where much of the forest is state owned, but also like western USA (USFS lands) where forest management is directly conducted by the forestry agencies, rather than managed on a concession or tree farm basis by industry. Australia has also established a substantial plantation resource, largely of P. radiata managed on 30-40 year rotations and this now supplies about 50% of domestic wood consumption. Plantation production is similarly split about 70% from state forest, 30% from private plantations. Cutting levels in Australian forests are high, at or approaching current sustained yield projections in most regions. Domestic consumption is close to current sustainable production levels in net terms, but relies on a balance between imports of paper products and some sawn timber with significant exports of Eucalyptus woodchip. In the past 30 years a large scale Eucalyptus woodchip export industry has been developed (About 1/3 of the national cut, 5 million tonnes out of 16 million is exported).

There are several important contemporary influences on Australian forestry practice. Public attitudes to forestry appear to have undergone significant changes. Industrial development and population concentration have resulted in the emergence of an affluent, but highly urbanised population increasingly concerned with environmental issues. This concern has intensified focus on the environmental impact aspects of forestry in Australia as it has internationally. The publicly preferred position of some major environmental groups is to phase out production forestry from native forests. Clearfelling, "Old Growth" harvesting and rainforest clearing are important issues. In most areas the first cutting cycle is coming to an end. Pre-European, or "old growth" stands are necessarily becoming relatively rare (outside reservation areas) and plans for their cutting raise some public controversy.

There is also a rising concern with economic performance, and in the balance of responsibility between private and public sectors. There is a national trend to identify the commercial aspects of public organisations as prospects for privatisation. This poses particular difficulties for Australian forestry, especially in the natural forest areas, where there is a joint production of commercial and public goods.

However, the effects on required levels of organisational performance are clearer, and both public and private organisations are being closely scrutinised, and are generally restricting non-commercial components of their operations and reducing staffing. Overall there is a significant influence from new management developments such as "Total Quality" and "Best Management Practices".

The final influence on the implementation and revision of Forest Practice Codes in Australia is the National Forest Policy. The policy is a joint Commonwealth and State initiative designed to harmonise principles of forest use, and overcome a decade of dispute between the two levels of government regarding conservation issues. While the Commonwealth government had no direct control over land use and thus forest policies, it can exercise considerable indirect control through its responsibility under international treaty (e.g. World Heritage) and other constitutional powers. The involvement of these two levels of government in sometimes acrimonious and politicised forest use debates is regarded by many as a significant problem. The National Forest Policy Statement (NFPS) and following activity is designed to establish common ground and a framework for future forest use. One of its activities is development of a harmonised approach to forest practices, with each state developing a published code, adhering to a set of agreed principles of sustainable forest management.

2.0 Current state of codes

Some of the major publications of Codes of Forest Practice within Australia are listed in Table 1.

Table 1. Development of codes of forest and logging practice.

Australian Capital Territory

1978

Code of Logging Instructions

New South Wales

Mid 1980's

Codes of Logging Practices-Various Districts

 

1993

Code of Forest Practice: Native Forests, State Forests and Other Crown-Timber Lands [1]

Western Australia

1985

Code of Softwood Logging Practice Timber

 

1987

Code of Hardwood Logging Practice

 

1993

Harvesting in Western Australia [2]

Tasmania

1987

Forest Practices Code

 

1993

Forest Practices Code (revised) [3]

Victoria

1989

Code of Forest Practice for Timber Production [4]

Queensland

1994

Code of Forest Practice for Timber Harvesting in Privately Owned Forests in Queensland

 

 

Guidelines drawn from Harvesting and Marketing Manual - Conditions imposed in harvesting of State Forests. [5]

South Australia


No native forest logging - Plantation instructions part of harvesting contract

National Level

 

 

CSIRO

1979

· Environmental Guidelines for Forest Harvesting [6]

Standing Committee on Forestry

1990

· National Principles for Forest Practices related to Wood Production

National Forest Policy Statement, 1992

1994

· The development of consistent nationwide baseline standards for native forests

International

 

 

Including Australia

1994 Draft

South Pacific Code of Practice for Logging of Indigenous Forests - Draft


1994 Drafts

Criteria and Indicators for the Sustainable Management of Boreal and Temperate Forests (Montreal and Helsinki processes)

Authorisation and Enforcement

Timber harvesting in Australia, which is generally the primary focus of these Codes of Practice, is conducted in almost all cases by independent logging contractors, who in most states are employed by the wood buyers. This has the potential to lead to confused lines of communication and enforcement difficulties. Further, there are also significant forestry activities on private lands, in some cases harvesting for conversion to agriculture, in others harvesting and regeneration.

Two states (Tasmania and Victoria) have enacted a specific legislative basis for their codes. Tasmania enacted the Forest Practices Act, 1985, and the Forest Practices Amendment Act 1994. These provide for a Forest Practices board and an independent Forest Practices approval and auditing structure reporting to the Minister for Forests. Victoria has implemented the Timber Harvesting Regulations, 1989 made under the Forests Act 1958. The provisions of the codes in each of these states covers forest harvesting operations on both state and private lands to a greater or lesser degree. In Tasmania, coverage is identical reporting to an independent Board. Coverage is less direct in Victoria. The regulations provide for a separate regulation and approval process in Victoria. In other states, control over forest practice is generally exercised through a combination of regulations under the various forestry acts and the contractual agreements for timber sale. They generally only cover operations on state forests although in Western Australia, control is extended to some private lands operations where the state agency has a role in either supply of logging services or in the timber sales process.

States that are signatories to the new National Forest Policy Statement have accepted an obligation to develop Codes of Forest Practice relating to wood production activities to cover both state and private forestry operations down to some minimum practically enforceable scale. Tasmania has not signed, but already has independent and comprehensive coverage.

In states where contractors are employed by the forest owner, enforcement of adherence to the Code is achieved through contract conditions. Where there is separate legislative basis for the Code, the legislation prescribes the evaluation and enforcement mechanism. In other states, where the logging services are provided under contract to the buyer, the state forestry agency separately licenses the contractor and operators. Failure to adhere to Code provision is addressed under the terms of the license to operate on state forest. A graduated scale of suspension according to assessed degree of seriousness of the offence is common.

Operational Planning

Operational planning covers a number of important activities, including longer term yield regulation, and shorter term timber harvest planning.

Yield regulation: Generally, Australian native forests are managed under sustained yield principles, with timber outputs sold under a mix of long and short term supply agreements. Forestry agencies have a variety of established planning hierarchies (strategic, medium term and tactical plans) at state, region and district level for state controlled forests. In native forests these usually consider multiple uses, and yield levels are typically determined at a regional level. There have been considerable pressures on forestry yield regulation systems in recent years imposed by the increased recognition of the needs to protect and manage more actively for a range of uses, and from the withdrawal from production of significant areas of "old growth" forest. This has severely disrupted long term cutting plans and reduced short term harvest levels in some areas.

Public involvement in these planning process varies, but is increasingly accepted as important. In many states, regional longer term management plans are open to public comment at the draft stage. These generally describe the proposed mechanisms for the longer term delivery of conservation and wood production values. The newly proposed National Principles prescribe an operations plan identifying stands and coupes to be harvested in the short term (3 years). Controversy and dispute more often arises at the individual forest or compartment level.

Timber harvesting plans: Timber Harvesting Plans (THP's) are used in some form in all states for the immediate control of operations on state forests at the harvest block or coupe level. THP's generally describe how the proposed operation adheres to the locally governing Code of Practice. In Tasmania and Victoria, THP's are required for private operations also. THP's range from public documents in some states to annexures to contract documents in others.

Responsibility for the development of THP's generally rests with the forest owner.

Responsibility for approval of THP's varies between states. In Tasmania and New South Wales, plans include an external approval component (Tasmania - independent Forest Practices Act; New South Wales - Environment Protection Agency, Dept of Conservation and Land Management and National Parks and Wildlife Service). In the remaining states, approval process rest within the forestry agencies.

Table 2. Topics addressed in harvesting sections of State codes.

Tasmania

New South Wales

Victoria

Western Australia

· Design & Planning

· Planning

· Coupe Design

· Coupe Marking

including

· Tree Marking

· Water Quality

· Felling

 

Flora

· Tree Felling

Protection

· Extraction

 

Fauna

· Snigging

· Slope Limitation

· Loading &

 

Landscape

· Log Dumps

· Wildlife Habitat

Landings

 

Archaeology

· Safety

· Landscape Values

· Environmental

 

Geomorphology

· Fire Precautions

 

 

Protection inc.

· Wet Weather

 

· Log Dumps

 

 

Water

· Snig Tracks

· Wet Weather

· Snig Tracks

 

 

Crop Trees

· Landings

· Licensing and Control

· Fuel Dumps

 

 

Landscape

· Water Quality

 

· Site Rehabilitation

 

 

Habitat

· Steep Country

 

 

 

 

Flora

 

 

 

 

 

Fire

Roading

Roading difficulty varies widely between states. In the Tasmania, New South Wales and Victoria where steeper and more difficult areas are common, the Codes cover roading in considerable detail. In general these three codes are written for interpretation by forest operations personnel (and contractors) and include excellent illustrations.

Harvesting

Each of the four major published codes (Tasmania, New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia) cover harvesting practices in detail. Major sections are indicated in Table 2. The Tasmanian and Victorian codes are generally more descriptive and include broader principles. In the Victorian case, the Code is backed up with regional prescriptions. The Western Australian and New South Wales Codes are generally more prescriptive and related directly to legally enforceable terms of contract.

These varied approaches result in differences in the degree of specification of numerical or other performance standards. Some of the areas where stricter prescriptions are set are in the area of water quality protection and the rehabilitation/protection measures applied to snig tracks. Three areas are selected for presentation in detail. These are cross bank spacing, width of stream side reserve and conditions for wet weather closure in some detail. Tables from the individual state codes or supporting prescriptions are presented in Tables 3-12.

Cross Bank Conditions

Table 3. Western Australia-spacing of cross drains on snig tracks.

Slope (degrees)

Lateritic Gravels

Other Soils

0-2

nil

nil

3-5

200m

100m

6-10

100m

50m

11-15

60m

30m

16+

30m

15m

Table 4. Tasmania - spacing of cross drains on snig tracks.

Gradient, degrees

Soil Erodibility Class

Low

Moderate

Mod-High

High

V. High

0-3

Nil

Nil

Nil

100m

40m

4-14

120m

100m

80m

60m

30m

15-19

80m

70m

60m

40m

20m

20-26

40m

35m

30m

20m

NL

over 26

20m

20m

NCL

NCL

NCL

Notation:

NL = No Logging

 

NCL = No conventional logging

Table 5. Victoria-recommended maximum distance between cross drains on snig tracks.*

Soil Erodability

Track Grade (percent)

0-10

11-20

21-30

31-40

41-50

51-60

Low

125

85

60

40

20

5

Moderate

110

70

45

30

15

5

High

100

60

30

20

10

NP

* Drawn from prescriptions for Control of Timber Harvesting in Native Forest Dandenong FMA

Table 6. New South Wales - maximum bank spacing for various track slopes.**

Slope (Degrees)

Maximum Bank Spacing (m)

<5

as specified

>=5 - <10

60

>=10-<15

40

>=15-<20

30

>=20-<25

20

>=25-30

15

** Drawn from Standard Erosion Mitigation Guidelines, 1993 (Supporting Code)

Table 7. Queensland - cross bank spacing.

Grade of Snig Track (degrees)

Maximum Spacing of Cross Drains (m)

Low Hazard

Moderate and High Hazard

Tropics

Other

Tropics

Other

<5

60

80

30

40

5-15

40

50

20

30

15-25

20

30

10

20

25

10

20

10*

10*

* Cover crops in base and banks of all drains to be established also.

Streamside Reserves

Table 8. Western Australia - streamside reserve width (m).

Stream Order

Width Either Side

Total Width

Minimum Width

First

30

60

20

Second

30

60

20

Third

30

60

20

Fourth

75

150

50

Fifth, Upwards

200

400

100

Table 9. Tasmania - minimum streamside reserve widths.

Stream Classification

Minimum Horizontal (one side)

Total Reserve

Class 1 - Rivers and Lakes used for water supply

40m

80m

Class 2 - Creeks and other watercourses - Catchment > 100 ha

30m

60m

Class 3 - Watercourses carrying running water most of year -Catchment 50- 100 ha

20m

40m

Class 4 - All other watercourses carrying water for part or all of the year for most years

No logging machinery within 10m of the streambank except at defined crossings


Table 10. Victoria - streamside reserves.*

Stream

Reserve (one side)

Main River (5000 ha)

40m

Permanent Stream - generally flows throughout year

20m

Temporary Stream and drainage line - where soil is saturated at some time most years

5m

Saturated stream flats, springs, soaks, swampy ground and standing water

20 m (40 m adjoining main river)

* Drawn from Prescriptions for Control of Timber Harvesting in Native Forest Dandenong FMA

Table 11. New South Wales - streamside reserves.**

Filter Strip - Catchment > 100 ha (> 40 ha if erosion hazard is high)

20 m one side

Protection Strip - All other drainage lines identified on plan

10 m one side

All remaining drainage lines identified in field

5 m one side

** Drawn from Standard Erosion Mitigation Guidelines, 1993 (Supporting Code)

Table 12. Queensland - buffer strip requirements (summary).

Designated Permanent Watercourse in Coastal Forest

10m and up to 30 m where designated. No heads/debris in buffer.

Designated Minor Permanent and Designated Intermittent Watercourse in Coastal Forest

10 m - No heads in buffer where possible.

Designated Minor Permanent and Designated Intermittent Watercourse in Western Dry Sclerophyll Forests

No harvesting or debris in watercourse.

Wet Weather Restrictions

Western Australia



Extraction:

Soil damage ("A" horizon removed, or mixed with "B" or "severely compacted" not to exceed 10% of a block. Skidding also can be stopped at Forest Officer's discretion.


Road Use

Closure at Forest Officer's discretion

Tasmania

 


Extraction:

Soil saturated and turbid water flowing 10 m, water flowing from track into streams, blading of mud required to maintain trafficability, soils rutted to 300 mm over more than 20 m. Recommence when water stops flowing. Further closure at Forest Officer discretion.


Road Use

Water runs in wheel ruts more than are 100 mm deep for distance greater than required culvert distance

Victoria

 


Extraction:

Suspended in certain high mountain regions by season. Otherwise, suspended when soil is saturated, or if ruts > 15 cm are likely to form.


Road Use

Suspended when water flowing on non sealed road surface, trucks cannot proceed without assistance, mud is being deposited on a gravel or sealed road, road structure is being damaged, where muddy water would enter streams. Forest Officer may suspend at discretion.

New South Wales



Extraction:

Suspended automatically when water runs in table drains, wheel ruts or snig tracks. Exemptions or additional closure may be ordered by Forest Officer. Within forest, processing operations may continue under some circumstances.


Road Use

Same Conditions. Roads may be closed/opened separately from bush operations.

Queensland

 


Extraction

Suspended when soil becomes saturated and free surface water runs in water tables or on log dumps. Further closure at discretion of Forest Officer.


Road Use

Non-bitumen roads closed while snigging is closed except where authorised by Forest Officer.

Work Safety

 

Western Australia

As covered by regulation and OH&S Acts. Provision of Safety equipment

Tasmania

Not covered under Code (separate OH&S Act)

Victoria

Code demands compliance with relevant OH&S legislation.

New South Wales

Code requires compliance with OH&S legislation. Additionally requires equipment certification.adequate training, and provision of safety equipment. Some additional

Reforestation/Regeneration

Forestry practices associated with regeneration of native forests receive comprehensive treatment in Tasmania, Western Australia and Victorian Codes. Important forestry practices include the use of burning and site preparation. In New South Wales the Code is restricted to Logging practice and reforestation not covered.

Forest Protection and Maintenance

General forest maintenance principles are discussed in Tasmanian, Victorian and Western Australian Codes. Topics include fire protection, pests and diseases and related hygiene. Use of chemicals is treated by separate Chemical Usage Code in each case.

4.0 New initiatives

The National Forest Policy Statement adopted a broad set of principles guiding sustainable forest use. Increasingly these processes include both domestic and international consideration. One domestic step has been the formation of an expert committee to set consistent baseline environmental standards for native forests. The process aims for consensus views among representative experts and covered Soils, Water Quality, Flora and Fauna, Pests and Diseases, and Forest Productivity. Each expert panel was charged with the task of defining baseline standards or guidelines, and recommending suitable performance indicators and monitoring methods. The process is yet to reach conclusion, but suggested goals and guidelines are summarized below:

Soils

Set limit on areas disturbed as determined by rutting > 10 cm
Set limit in reduction in porosity
Maintain site organic matter and nutrient supplying capacity at defined level
Minimise soil erosion

Water Quality

Standards for suspended particulates, total P, N, Salinity, Chemicals
Standards in recreation contact areas - Water clarity, bacterial content

Flora and Fauna

Viable populations of all plants/animals conserved

Species not to suffer continuing reduction in range

Viable samples of every ecosystem retained in each biogeographical region

Conservation status of Rare, vulnerable or Endangered not to decline

Threat to abundance, survival or evolution of species halted

Conservation of metapopulations in regional context

Landscape fragmentation to be avoided

Regional Management plans to include information on status and distribution of flora and specify conservation measures

Forest management strategies to complement nature conservation strategies

Pests and Diseases

Overstorey and understorey to retain state of health, growth rates and life spans

Established pests and diseases should be managed within tolerable levels of damage

Newly introduced pests and diseases should be contained, evaluated and eradicated where possible

Introduced pests should be maintained below levels where they cause substantial declines of native flora and fauna.

Management practice should not reduce populations of native vertebrate pests below regional viability.

No new vertebrate pests should be allowed to become established in native forests

Forest Productivity

Site productivity should be maintained
Areas harvested must be regenerated so as to sustain productive potential
A diverse structure of the forest to be maintained at regional level

Allied to this has been the development of a suite of measurable performance indicators. This work can provide the basis for the development of a more refined code of practice.

5.0 Conclusion

Most states in Australia now have identifiable Codes of Practice, for either logging or forestry more generally. These operate generally under either regulation empowered by the various Forestry Acts, through legal contract, and generally relate to public lands only. The Codes extend to private lands in two states, one with separate forest practices legislation.

The general approach followed in preparing Codes ranges from one with an emphasis on principles as well as prescription, through to almost fully prescriptive. As yet comparatively little emphasis is placed on direct monitoring of outcomes so that the effectiveness of Codes could be evaluated, or continually improved.

Recent work on developing baseline environmental standards and performance indicators, and the development of a National Forest Policy process suggest that Codes of Forest Practice will continue to evolve with an increasing emphasis on principle and quantitative performance standard with a corresponding reduction in reliance on direct prescription.

Literature Cited

[1] State Forests. 1993. Code of Logging Practice - Native Forests - State Forests and other Lands, Forest Planning and Environment Division, State Forest of New South Wales, Pennant Hills, Australia, 60 p.

[2] C.A.L.M. 1993. Timber Harvesting in Western Australia. Department of Conservation and Land Management, Como, Western Australia., 167 p.

[3] Tasmanian Forestry Commission. 1993. Forest Practices Code. Tasmanian Forestry Commission, Hobart, Tasmania.

[4] CFL. 1989. Code of Practice: Code of Forest Practices for Timber Production. Department of Conservation, Forest and Lands, Victoria. 57 p.

[5] Queensland Timber Board. 1994. Code of Practice - Timber Harvesting in privately-owned forests in Queensland. Queensland Timber Board, Brisbane. 10 p.

[6] CSIRO. 1979. Environmental Considerations for Forest Harvesting, Cameron, A. and Henderson, L.E, Editors, CSIRO Division of Forest Research. Canberra. 71 p.

Author's Contact Information

Robert J. McCormack
Senior Research Scientist
CSIRO Division of Forestry
P.O. Box 4008
Canberra, A.C.T. 2600, Australia
Telephone: +616281-8234
Fax: +616281-8239
E-mail: Bob.McCormack@cbr.for.csiro.au


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