How we look after the environment
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During the harvest-planning stage, we search databases for:
- records of threatened species or regional ecosystems in or near the proposed harvest area
- protected environmental matters under the Australian Government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999) (EPBC Act).
We assess the likelihood of these protected matters being present in the harvest area and the potential risk of impact from native timber harvesting if they are found to be present.
- inform decisions made about areas not available for harvesting
- identify values that require specific prescriptions in the operational harvesting plan
- may result in a field survey to confirm the presence of environmental values and how best to protect them.
The Australian and Queensland governments are addressing koala population decline through conservation strategies, as they confront threats like urban expansion, disease, habitat loss, vehicles, dogs, and drought and fire.
Koalas are listed as endangered in Queensland under Queensland's Nature Conservation Act (1992) (NC Act) and the Australian Government’s EPBC Act.
Queensland’s native timber harvesting is selective, where individual trees are chosen for harvest from across the available area, leaving some large trees for habitat purposes and leaving some areas unharvested. This ensures that suitable habitat for koalas is maintained in the remaining forest.
Forest harvesting operations on state-owned land must comply with state and commonwealth planning and policy provisions for koala protection, including:
- Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999)
- Nature Conservation Act (1992)
- Code of practice for native forest timber production on Queensland's state forest estate (2020) (the Code).
Koala protection measures
There are many things we do to protect koalas during forest operations, including:
- reviewing koala records on Wildnet and the Atlas of Living Australia
- checking Queensland Government koala habitat mapping
- applying practices as though there could be koalas on a proposed harvesting area, even if they aren’t
- conducting field habitat assessments (like searching for scats, tree markings and incidental sightings) to measure the presence and distribution of koalas
- undertaking a significance assessment of proposed operations under the EPBC Act, and self-assessments of each proposed harvesting operation
- identifying and protecting high-use koala trees, which are indicators of a koala’s home range
- training our staff and forest operators to spot koalas and ensure trees are inspected for the presence of koalas and any other wildlife before harvesting
- conducting harvesting operations to maintain habitat links within the harvesting site and between the site and adjacent areas
- temporarily stopping operations or moving to another part of the forest if a koala is found, until the koala moves.
Research shows that koalas will tolerate low levels of disturbance, such as the selective harvesting that we authorise (New South Wales Resource Assessment Commission), and they continue to occupy forests once harvesting is complete.
Also, there is no discernible change in koala density from pre-harvest to post-harvest periods in the control locations (national parks) or harvested state forests.
In July 2022, the Federal Government changed the status of the greater glider (southern and central subspecies) to endangered under the EPBC Act. The glider is listed as vulnerable under NC Act.
Key threats to greater gliders include broadscale habitat clearing and inappropriate fire regimes.
Native timber harvesting is also listed as a threat in the Australian Government’s conservation advice about this species, although is focused on the more intensive clear-felling timber harvesting that is practiced in the southern states, but not in Queensland.
Specific measures to protect gliders and their habitat are detailed in the Code of practice for native forest timber production on the QPWS forest estate 2020. These include very strong protections for trees with hollows, which are a key habitat requirement for greater gliders.
We are reviewing potential impacts of selective native timber harvesting on the greater glider to ensure selective native timber harvesting operations do not pose a threat to this species.
The Code includes provisions to protect watercourses and maintain their integrity and water quality.
Watercourse-protection buffers are established around all watercourses, wetlands and water features with harvesting restrictions to enhance the natural filtration of water, trapping sediment and stopping it from entering waterways.
We conduct harvesting operations in a way that aims to minimise soil disturbance that can lead to erosion.
- ensuring all snig tracks and haul routes used for timber removal are drained and stabilised
- machines use walk-over techniques to minimise removal of surface vegetation, leaf litter or topsoil disturbance
- restricting harvesting on steeper slopes
- postponing operations when ground conditions are saturated.
We proudly recognise and respect First Nations peoples (Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders) as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Queensland’s forests and we are committed to protecting cultural heritage values when forest products are harvested.
We implement strategies to help mitigate the risk of damage to Aboriginal cultural heritage and non-Indigenous cultural heritage and ensure that our customers and their harvesting operators are aware of their legal responsibility to protect cultural heritage.
Key legislation applying to forest harvesting operations include:
We have a stringent planning and due diligence process to protect cultural heritage, including:
- searching the database and register for the proposed harvesting area and surroundings
- locating cultural heritage features (in some instances)
- implementing protective exclusion zones around identified cultural heritage sites or features
- assessing the level of previous forest disturbance in comparison to the proposed activity.
The outcome of this process is included in the operational harvest plan so that the harvesting operators are aware of any known values in the area.
We also advise our customer (the permittee) of the outcome of the due diligence process so they can take effective steps to meet their duty of care obligations.
If cultural heritage is identified after harvesting operations start, harvesting operators are required to stop operations to avoid harm.
We do not authorise timber harvesting operations in areas in the Torres Strait or subject to the Torres Strait Islander Cultural Heritage Act 2003.