DELWP, through agreement with VicForests, is operationalising the protection of all large trees greater than 2.5 metres diameter in timber harvesting coupes statewide. This provides a consistent approach to large tree protections.
Large Tree Protection
In March this year, DELWP introduced a new state-wide protection measure for large trees as announced by the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio. This has initially been implemented by agreement with VicForests and will be formalised in the regulatory framework in 2019.
In all coupes where timber harvesting is conducted, VicForests must retain and protect all large trees from the direct impacts of timber harvesting and regeneration burning, including by ensuring that slash and bark accumulation is cleared from within 3 metres of the base of retained trees.
A large tree is defined as a living tree of any species with a diameter at breast height (1.3m above ground) equal to or greater than 2.5 metres over bark.
Where practical, large trees are to be incorporated into retained patches or within expanded exclusion areas.
A large tree may only be removed where a risk assessment determines that it poses an immediate risk to safety. The risk assessment must be documented and demonstrate that all alternatives to removal of the tree were appropriately considered.
This standardises large tree protections across the state.
Improving the protections for large trees will provide benefits to a range of hollow-dependant fauna including the Greater Glider, Leadbeater's Possum, Yellow-bellied Glider, Mountain Brush-tailed Possum, Masked Owl, Sooty Owl and Powerful Owl.
A size-based measure has been implemented because tree age is difficult to estimate by observation in most forest types, whereas diameters can be reliably measured pre-harvest. VicForests will measure candidate large trees using diameter tape. Trees of any species within a timber harvesting coupe that meet the large tree definition will be marked with a GPS and recorded on the Forest Coupe Plan, and protected. These large tree location records will then be included on a centralised register of large trees.
If there is no practical alternative that has a lesser environmental impact, the construction of roading and snig tracks through retained large tree patches or expanded exclusion areas is permitted. However, any large trees must be retained. Further, harvesting slash created during snigging or road construction must be removed from the patch to minimise fire risk.
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