TCFA Research into alternatives to clearfelling in old growth forests (operating plan)

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​​Introduction

The purpose of this plan is to set out operating arrangements for the implementation of the Australian Government’s commitment in the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement (TCFA) to invest $2 million to research alternatives to clearfelling old growth forests in Tasmania.

Background

TCFA commits the Australian and Tasmanian Governments to cooperate in a programme to facilitate a significant reduction in the use of clearfell harvesting in old growth forests. The aim is to phase in non-clearfelling techniques so that, by 2010, no more than 20% of the area of old growth forest harvested each year in Tasmania will be clearfelled, compared with 50% at present.

Clause 30 commits the governments to jointly fund a package of forest operations and management, industry development and research and development activities. Clause 76(i) commits the Australian Government to a contribution of $2 million towards research into alternatives to clearfelling. This supplements the $11.1 million being invested by Tasmania in further research and implementation, including training and support for harvesting contractors. From this $11.1m, Tasmania is contributing $0.4m to the segment of this
programme being jointly managed with the Australian Government. The joint investment will facilitate acceleration of the current research programme based at Warra in Southern Tasmania, and will enable its expansion into other forest types in other parts of the state.

This programme effectively complements separate TCFA investments in intensive forest management and hardwood industry development.

Objective

The objective of the programme is to identify, commission and report on research into and operational trials of alternatives to clearfelling old growth forests in Tasmania.

Desired Outcomes/Benefits

The desired outcomes of the programme are:

  1. Assurance that alternative silvicultural approaches in old growth forests are supported by sound science;
  2. A contribution to Forestry Tasmania’s capacity to meet TCFA’s target of capping clearfelling in old growth forests at 20% of the harvestable area by 2010;
  3. Help Forestry Tasmania to maintain industry access to a minimum sustainable yield of 300,000m3 per annum; and
  4. In so doing, help the industry to enhance the value of its outputs and maintain existing employment levels.

Key Outputs/Milestones

Direct outputs of the programme will include:

a) An accelerated research and field trials programme, including economic analysis (see Attachment A);

b) A communication strategy for consideration by Ministers;

c) Assistance to Forestry Tasmania in convening a panel of international experts in forest conservation and management;

d) An international conference as part of a review of the Warra-based research programme and recommendations on future directions;

e) Annual reporting to Ministers;

f) A review and formal evaluation of the programme and final report to Ministers;

Related Outputs

In addition to the $2.4m provided for this programme of research and extension by the Australian and Tasmanian Governments, Tasmania is investing a further $10.7m into a broad range of activities designed to develop and implement silvicultural improvements and to deal with OH&S and other operational issues. These activities will include

Activity                                                                                                Timing

Operational extension of variable retention trials on State forest across Tasmania           2005-2010

Review of safety issues                                                                                                 2006

Workforce training                                                                                                        2006-2010


Project Management

Governance

The project’s governance framework will be headed by a high-level, joint Australian and Tasmanian Government implementation committee (IC).

Implementation Committee:

Dr Hans Drielsma, Executive General Manager, Forestry Tasmania
Mr Tony Bartlett, General Manager, Forest Industries, Department of Agriculture,
Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), Australian Government

The IC has primary responsibility for developing this plan and annual progress reports for the consideration of Ministers. It will also oversee the work of the Technical Support Group, and manage the provision of information to stakeholders. The IC will also design, implement and report to Ministers on the final review and evaluation of the programme.

It is proposed that the IC be supported by a Technical Support Group as follows:

Mr John Hickey, Forestry Tasmania
Mr John Davidson, Bureau of Rural Sciences
Dr Steve Read, Forestry Tasmania
Mr Mark Neyland, Forestry Tasmania

The Technical Support Group will be responsible for:

  • analysing and providing advice to the IC on research and extension outputs as they are finalised;
  • supporting the review of the Warra research programme and helping to convene the 2007 International Conference for this purpose; and
  • drafting annual activity reports for consideration by IC and provision to Ministers;

Consultation

The IC will ensure that key stakeholders are kept informed of progress with this programme.

Key stakeholders include

  • Forestry and Forest Industries Council of Tasmania;
  • Timber Communities Australia;
  • CRC for Sustainable Forest Landscapes; and
  • Tasmanian Conservation Trust

Reporting

The Implementation Committee will report to Ministers by 31 August 2006 on 2005-06 achievements and activities under the research and field trials programme or other activities. Subsequent reports to Ministers will be through overall TCFA Annual Reports on Implementation.

A representative of the Technical Support Group will provide updates on research and field trial projects to meetings of the IC.
Normal agency budget and operational reporting protocols will also be adhered to.

Budget and Expenditure

The Australian Government has allocated $2 million to the programme in 2005-06, with Tasmania adding $0.4million in 2006-07 from its overall budget of $11.1million.

The expenditure of these funds will be determined by the IC in accordance with the research plan.

It is proposed that the Australian Government’s contribution of $2 million be paid to Forestry Tasmania following the agreement by Ministers to this plan.

These funds will be acquitted as part of the annual reporting to Ministers.

Communications Strategy

An ongoing communications strategy for the project will be developed. Communication activities will focus on well timed and regular announcements of key milestones and outcomes as well as stakeholder communication and management. Key communication
opportunities and events may include:

  • Ministers announce details of the initial plan, including the research and field trials
    programme;
  • Regular information sessions for identified key stakeholders;
  • Ministers periodically announce progress with the programme;
  • Ministers comment on outcomes from the International Conference/Review of the Warra Research;
  • At the end of the programme, Ministers announce the results and any further steps in implementation.  

Programme Activities and Milestones

Proposed milestones for the Alternatives to Clearfelling programme are:

December 2005/January 2006Payment to Forestry Tasmania of the Australian Government’s $2m contribution following approval of this plan by Ministers
January/February 2006Commencement of the research and field trial programme;
February/May 2006Appointment of a Panel of Experts by Forestry Tasmania
August 2006Report to Ministers on 2005-06 achievements, including first acquittal of programme funds
September 2007International conference to incorporate review and outcomes of the Warra-based research;
August 2007, 2008 and 2009Annual reports and funds acquittals to Ministers
2009-10Review and formal evaluation of programme and final report to Ministers

Risk Management

Risk

Treatment

Likelihood

Impact

Research fails to produce cost-effective alternatives.

Focus research on most practical options identified by FT research and operational experience to date, plus advice from the expert panel/international conference.

Low

Severe

Skills shortages lead to delays in completion of programme

  • Annual reports include forecast of possible impediments to achieving timelines;
  • Organisations involved in the research will have sufficient skilled personnel.

 

Low

Moderate to high

Lack of industry and stakeholder confidence regarding the likely achievement of programme goals

  • Highest quality scientists engaged;
  • Strong focus on operational trials involving skilled contractors;
  • Maintain good information flow to industry and other stakeholders;
  • Public annual reporting of progress

Low

Severe


Attachment A

Plan of Research and Field Trials

Item

Description

Commencement

Completion

Silviculture

 

 

 

Engage researcher in variable retention (VR) silviculture

Task would be to facilitate and monitor outcomes from operational VR coupes and facilitate the identification and development of best practices

January 2006

December 2010

Visit by operational expert in VR from Pacific North-West (ie Canada?)

Provide advice on best practice solutions from VR implementation in the Pacific North-West

January 2006

April 2006

Development of updated VR silviculture and thinning manuals

Involves a preliminary silviculture manual to guide harvesting and regeneration practices at initial trial sites. Progresses to final, comprehensive manual arising from experience during the program, to be accompanied by a revised thinning manual

January 2006

January 2010

Visit by key research/operational staff to VR management areas in Pacific North-West

Will enable access to best practice examples in :

  • Planning, harvesting and site operation; and
  • Biodiversity monitoring

July 2006

Nov 2006

Silviculture Budget

$0.78 million

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biodiversity

 

 

 

Engage biodiversity researcher for VR-related issues

Will coordinate analyses of biodiversity responses to Warra trials and evaluate habitat in VR coupes for birds and hollow-dwelling mammals

January 2006

December 2008

Engage data manager for Warra site

Curate data for silvicultural systems trial, set up metadata base, facilitate data storage and retrieval

January 2006

December 2010

Biodiversity Assessment

Complete 1- and 3-year post-harvest biodiversity assessments at Warra site

January 2006

December 2008

Biodiversity Budget

$0.76 million

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forest Health

 

 

 

Assessing health and integrity of aggregates at age three*

Forest health surveillance to ground check aerial surveys

January 2007

June 2007

Assessing risk to landscape from incomplete burning of VR coupes*

Develop existing work and combine with Warra site data and experience from operational coupes

July 2006

June 2007

Assessing VR browsing risks*

Additional assessment work required

July 2006

June 2007

Forest Health Budget:

$0.12 million

 

 

 

 

 

 

Safety

 

 

 

Evaluation of a range of trial sites*

Employment of a consultant for a detailed review and evaluation of these sites

January 2006

June 2007

Harvesting technology improvement

Review of technology improvements that may facilitate safe, cost effective VR harvesting

July 2006

June 2007

Safety Budget:

$0.08 million

 

 

 

 

 

 

Productivity

 

 

 

Timber yield modelling*

Will compare VR trial plot regrowth yields with those from “normal” silviculture regrowth

July 2006

June 2007

Long term soil impacts*

Aim is to compare 2001 and 2006 soil chemical and physical properties on the same clearfell site to determine whether lower intensity burning is warranted

July 2006

June 2007

Productivity Budget:

$0.08 million

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social and Economic

 

 

 

Economic evaluation of operational VR coupes*

Review of cost data, including unit costs to growers, contractors and processors, with net present value analyses

July 2006

June 2007

Implications of VR for the Leatherwood resource*

Beekeeping consultancy

July 2006

June 2007

Research high value markets for old growth timber*

Economic consultancy

July 2006

June 2007

Social acceptability study

Social consultancy undertaken by University of Melbourne

January 2006

December 2009

Public engagement

Interpretation of the Warra trials

July 2006

June 2007

Social and Economic Budget

$0.18 million

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review

 

 

 

Review of Warra Research Program

Will include conference of internationally recognised experts in forest and conservation science

January 2007

September 2007

Warra Review Budget

$0.4 million

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OVERALL RESEARCH AND FIELD TRIALS BUDGET

$2.4 million

 

 

* To be written up for September 2007 International Conference