Bulga State Forest is a regrowth forest, which means it has been harvested for timber and regrown many times in the past. The forest contains areas of hardwood timber plantations, areas of natural forest that are managed for renewable timber production and areas that are permanently set aside for conservation.
In NSW, there are strict regulations developed by expert scientific panels to ensure wildlife is protected during forestry operations. Timber harvesting takes place in around one per cent of the State forest estate each year, which is around 0.1 per cent of the broader forested landscape. Before any timber harvesting operation, professional ecologists survey the wildlife, birdlife and vegetation to identify threatened species and ensure the forest retains the conditions and habitat they need to thrive. Within each harvesting unit, areas are set aside for wildlife habitat and feed and habitat trees are identified and protected. Once harvesting is completed, retained trees and soil seed reserves will enable harvested areas to regenerate thereby providing long-term wildlife habitat and providing timber resources for the future.
Current operations in Bulga State Forest
Forestry Corporation is planning to resume timber harvesting operations in late 2020 in part of the natural forest in Bulga State Forest. The operation has been planned in line with the strict regulations and will be a low-intensity selective harvesting operation that will remove some mature trees to produce renewable timber products and allow the young regrowth space to continue maturing for the future.
As with all our operations, Planning Foresters have completed a range of environmental assessments in the compartment, including ecological and Aboriginal cultural heritage surveys, as well as assessments of timber volume and roads and consultations with forest users and neighbours.
These assessments and consultations inform the harvest plan developed in line with the strict native forestry regulations and ensure there are appropriate measures in place to protect the unique environmental features of each specific location, including flora, fauna, soil, water and community uses. This plan is published on our plan portal.
The harvest plan set aside around half of the area for conservation, including areas that are permanently set aside as old growth, rainforest, riparian vegetation and koala habitat. As part of the operation was completed around 18 months ago, the remaining operation will be limited to approximately 80 hectares (around 16 per cent of the gross planning area). In this remaining harvest area, trees are being selectively harvested, in line with strict wildlife habitat protection measures.
Following the completion of this work, operations are also expected to resume in the adjoining native forest compartments, in line with harvest plans published on our plan portal.
Forestry Corporation has also recently carried out operations in a hardwood timber plantation within Bulga State Forest. Plantations grow eucalypts, which are a native species, but are not natural forests. Plantations are planted specifically for timber production, frequently on previously cleared farmland, and are fully replanted for the future after each harvest.
Responding to the impact of fires
While the 2019-20 fire season impacted large areas of the landscape, including State forests, national parks and private property, the robust underpinning protection measures continue to provide a very high level of protection for wildlife and their habitat. Forestry Corporation has carried out an assessment of the environmental impact of 2019-20 wildfires and implications for timber harvesting.
In recognition of the fire impacts, harvesting in native forests has been reduced by moving many operations on the north coast into hardwood plantations, which have been established specifically for timber production. In addition, Forestry Corporation has been working with the Environment Protection Authority who have authorised selective harvesting in a small number of areas impacted by fire following development of additional site-specific conditions designed to further mitigate harvesting impacts. These measures have limited operations in areas not impacted by fire.
Protection of koalas and their habitat is a core priority and specific searches are carried out prior to and throughout harvest operations. There are also clear regulations that require feed trees and habitat to be identified and protected throughout the harvest area. These measures were developed on the basis of ongoing research. This research shows that koalas continue to occupy forests where timber harvesting takes place at the same rate as unharvested forests. Read more about koala research in State forests.
Trained staff will complete thorough searches for koala use in line with the regulations and will continue carrying out additional searches for individuals throughout the operation.
All Forestry Corporation’s operations are completely transparent, with detailed harvest plans published on our plan portal and operations independently regulated by the EPA. Forestry Corporation’s forest management is also independently certified to the Australian Standard for Sustainable Forest Management, Responsible Wood.