Nambucca State Forest is a multi-use public forest, managed for community recreation, environmental conservation and timber production. Like many native forests managed by Forestry Corporation, it is a regrowth forest, which means it has been harvested in the past and regenerated naturally. Large sections of this forest were established as a timber plantation, which was planted for timber production, but the area is now managed as a native forest. It is part of a large network of regrowth forests on the north coast that have been consistently producing timber for more than a century while continuing to support thriving populations of native wildlife. Our aim as always is to manage the forests to maintain this balance.
Recent operations in Nambucca State Forest
Forests that are suitable for timber production are divided into compartments and we generally expect to carry out a carefully planned operation to selectively harvest the mature timber in each suitable compartment every 20 years or so before leaving the entire area to regrow naturally over another 20 or more years.
In June 2020, Forestry Corporation completed a small-scale low-intensity thinning operation in part of Nambucca State Forest, while ensuring forest cover remained across the entire forest and giving remaining trees more room to grow into the future. The image below of a recently-harvested part of Nambucca State Forest in the background, shows how trees have been retained throughout the harvested area.
Before a single tree is touched, Planning Foresters complete 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 detailed harvest plans that are 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. Each of these plans is published on our plan portal before work commences.
While the 2019-20 fire season impacted large areas of NSW, the forests affected by fire have not been lost. Some areas were badly affected by hot intense burns, but in some areas the impact was akin to a low intensity hazard reduction burn. Other areas were not burnt at all. Because many native tree species are adapted to fire, in many forests the trees will not die and will continue to grow on for the future. All areas affected by fire will regrow and we are already seeing fire-affected native forests regenerating well, particularly following good rains on the north coast of NSW.
Operations to harvest and regrow renewable timber take place in around 0.1 per cent of forested land each year, an average of 40 per cent of each harvest area is left untouched to maintain habitat throughout harvested areas and all areas are completely regrown after harvesting to provide ongoing habitat and timber for the future.
In recognition of the wide-ranging impact of the fires, immediately following the fires, 70 per cent of Forestry Corporation’s harvesting operations on the north coast were moved into hardwood plantations. The Environment Protection Authority has authorised selective harvesting in a small number of areas impacted by fire following its own independent assessments of the fire impacts in those areas and the development of additional site-specific conditions to mitigate risks in those locations. You can read more about this process here. Many areas were not impacted by fires and a small number of operations are taking place in areas of unburnt forests, with these operations carefully managed and spread across the landscape to ensure wildlife continues to be protected.
Forestry Corporation has a key role in firefighting and prevention and is closely monitoring the recovery of fire-affected forests. Find out more about our fire management and recovery efforts.
Protecting wildlife and biodiversity
There are strict regulations around forestry operations that were developed by expert scientific panels to ensure a high level of protection for wildlife and forest biodiversity during harvesting operations.
Forests are dynamic and diverse and are home to a vast variety of flora and fauna so before harvesting takes place, professional ecologists survey the wildlife, birdlife and vegetation in the specific area to identify threatened species and ensure the forest retains the conditions and habitat they need to thrive. They do this by establishing a range of different wildlife protection zones specific to the species found in the forest, which meet the strict requirements developed by expert scientific panels. There are also areas of forest set aside in permanent wildlife habitat clumps.
Our staff carefully mark out exactly which areas can and can’t be harvested and which trees must be retained as a seed source or for flora and fauna protectiony, with each tree electronically tagged using high resolution landscape mapping, mobile computing and GPS technology. The harvesting machinery operators use GPS systems in the forest to ensure that the plan is strictly implemented and that harvesting avoids any areas that we require to be protected.
The NSW Government uses a robust koala habitat modelling system that maps the quality of koala habitat and surveys and monitors koala occupancy across the landscape using songmeters. Modelling found that there is are around 1.6 million hectares of high quality koala habitat across northern NSW and songmeter surveys have shown high occupancy on the north coast.
The measures in place to protect koala habitat during timber harvesting have been developed by expert scientific panels drawing on this data to ensure habitat is protected and koala populations maintained during and after operations. Research demonstrates that koalas use areas that have been harvested for timber at the same rate as unharvested areas of forest.
Find out more information about koala management, modelling and research in State forests.
Aboriginal cultural heritage
Forestry Corporation has been speaking with the local community about its operations in Nambucca State Forest for many months. In line with legislative requirements, Forestry Corporation engages with Local Aboriginal Land Councils ahead of all forestry operations. Our dedicated Aboriginal Partnerships team are our representatives who liaise with Aboriginal groups and communities throughout NSW. This team carried out cultural heritage surveys prior to this operation to develop a cultural heritage report in collaboration with the Local Aboriginal Land Council. We continue to liaise with community members during operations.
Maintaining community facilities
Forestry Corporation has a long-running relationship with the Nambucca Valley Cycle Club, which has facilitated the establishment of an extensive network of mountain bike tracks within the Nambucca State Forest. Our current operations will take place alongside some of the mountain bike tracks, so we have been working closely with club members to minimise the impact on the mountain biking infrastructure and minimise the disruption to club events. This collaborative approach has been followed throughout the development of the harvest plan and continued throughout the timber harvesting operations.
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.