Find out more about the forest management plan.
What is the forest management plan?
What is the forest management plan?
Western Australia’s national parks, conservation parks, nature reserves, State forests and timber reserves are vested in the Conservation and Parks Commission and managed by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions under 10-year management plans developed in consultation with the community.
A forest management plan provides the overall policy framework for protecting and managing forests on public lands in our south-west. It is a statutory management plan under Part V of the Conservation and Land Management Act 1984 (CALM Act). It contains a statement of policies and/or guidelines proposed to be followed and a summary of the management activities proposed to be undertaken on CALM Act lands.
The forest management plan planning area provides for the management of approximately 2.5 million hectares of lands in the south-west of Western Australia. The plan facilitates management of multiple values and uses of our south-west forests, including biodiversity conservation, customary practices, tourism and recreation, water, apiary and other forest-based industries.
Why is a new forest management plan needed now?
Management plans are prepared for a 10-year period. The current Forest Management Plan 2014-2023 will end on 31 December 2023, and the next plan (Forest Management Plan 2024-2033) is expected to commence on 1 January 2024.
In September 2021, the State Government announced significant changes in policy settings affecting the future use and management of the south-west forests. These included ending large-scale commercial logging of native timber from 2024.
The draft plan gives effect to these policy directions, along with other major developments such as the commencement of the South West Native Title Settlement and new management agreements with Noongar Traditional Owners.
Why do we need to manage our forests?
Western Australia’s south-west forests are important for biodiversity, conservation, habitat, recreation, tourism, industry, and water supply.
The south-west forests:
• are significant spiritually and for customary use by the Noongar Traditional Owners
• are important for a rich diversity of native plants and animals
• are a major recreation and tourism asset • have rich natural and cultural heritage
• are the catchment area for most of the State’s population’s water supply, and
• support employment in a range of forest-based industries. Read more about our forests on the DBCA website.
What are the objectives of the plan?
The draft plan is more concise and readable than the current FMP, with an increased focus on identifying and managing Noongar values, and the health of the south-west forests in the context of a drying and warming climate.
The four strategic goals are:
1. To value and protect Noongar cultural heritage and support Noongar Traditional Owner involvement.
2. To conserve biodiversity and support ecosystem resilience.
3. To maintain or improve forest health and enhance climate resilience.
4. To deliver social and economic benefits through the provision of goods and services.
What is different about the draft plan compared to previous plans?
There have been a number of Government policy changes affecting the future use and management of the south-west forests. The most significant change is the end of large-scale commercial timber harvesting in native forests from 2024.
Other key changes reflected in the plan include the commencement of the South West Native Title Settlement, which will establish new management agreements between DBCA and Noongar Traditional Owners, and a greater focus on adapting to climate change.
These new directions and changes provide an opportunity to pursue a new approach to the management of south-west forests. The draft plan prioritises biodiversity and forest health, while meeting the needs and aspirations of current generations and ensuring sustainability for future generations.
How was the draft plan developed?
The draft plan was prepared following wide-ranging consultation with government agencies, key stakeholders and the community. The plan is also informed by scientific research and management experience, input from technical experts and results from monitoring and evaluation processes.
In April 2022, during the planning and development stage of the draft plan, a public online survey was conducted and targeted focus groups were held with representative sectors, as well as stakeholder meetings with peak bodies, industry organisations, community-based groups, government departments and authorities.
The draft plan was developed with the consideration of legislation, government policy, community feedback, and ecologically sustainable forest management principles and criteria.
The draft plan was developed to be concise and readable, with an increased focus on identifying and managing Noongar values, and the health of the south-west forests in the context of a drying and warming climate.
How will the final plan be implemented?
The final plan will be implemented using an adaptive management approach.
Adaptive management is often referred to as ‘learning by doing’ and involves several elements, including planning and design, monitoring, evaluation and reporting. Adaptive management is based on evidence and learnings, meaning that programs and activities can be adjusted if they are not successfully meeting management objectives
The implementation of management activities will be through the State’s Forest Management System, which includes the various laws, policies, guidelines, and operational procedures for forest management
Formal management partnerships between DBCA and Noongar Traditional Owners are an important aspect of how the plan will be implemented. These recognise the continuing connections that Noongar people have to the south-west forests and their cultural responsibilities to care for country.
Full implementation of the management activities, as documented in the draft plan, would require a new and significant investment in forest management and conservation. The draft plan has been written so that many activities are ‘scalable’; that is activities do not have to be fully implemented, or not all activities need to be implemented, depending on the desired outcomes.
An end to native forest logging
Why will logging in native forests cease?
In September 2021, the McGowan Government announced an end to large-scale commercial timber harvesting from the commencement of the Forest Management Plan 2024-2033. This will take effect from 2024.
The decision to preserve a minimum of at least 400,000 hectares of karri, jarrah and wandoo forests from commercial-scale timber harvesting was based on ever-increasing impacts of climate change, the importance of maintaining biodiversity and forest health, the need for carbon capture and storage, and declining timber yields.
From 2024, timber taken from our native forests will be limited to forest management activities that improve forest health, including ecological thinning operations, and clearing for approved mining operations.
While this decision will mean an end to large scale commercial logging operations, there will still be forest management activities undertaken for forest health.
To give effect to this announcement, the focus of the Draft Forest Management Plan 2024-2033 has shifted from commercial timber harvesting to forest health and resilience.
Read Premier McGowan’s announcement.
Public consultation period
When was the public comment period for the draft plan?
A two-month public consultation period was conducted from 18 October to 18 December 2022 to obtain feedback on the Draft Forest Management Plan 2024-2033, in accordance with the Conservation and Land Management Act 1984.
What are the next steps?
Public submissions are being reviewed and considered in the development of a final plan, which is scheduled for release in 2023.
The final plan will be submitted to the Minister for Environment for approval in accordance with the Conservation and Land Management Act 1984.
The Forest Management Plan 2024-2033 is expected to commence on 1 January 2024.
How will public submissions be considered?
There are clear parameters for management plan submissions. The following criteria outline how feedback may or may not result in amendments to the final plan:
The forest management plan may be amended if a submission:
- provides additional information of direct relevance to management
- indicates a change in (or clarifies) government legislation or management policy
- proposes strategies that would better achieve management objectives
- indicates omissions, inaccuracies, or a lack of clarity.
The forest management plan may not be amended if a submission:
- clearly supports proposals for the plan
- makes general or neutral statements
- refers to issues beyond the scope of the plan
- refers to issues that are already noted within the plan or already considered during its preparation
- is one among several widely divergent viewpoints received on the topic but the approach in the plan is still considered the best option
- contributes options that are not feasible (generally due to conflict with legislation or government policy)
- is based on unclear or factually incorrect information.
Will there be a report of public submissions?
A summary of public submissions will be available on the FMP webpage, along with the final Forest Management Plan 2024-2033.
The summary report will not link individual names to submissions however it may include a list of the organisations that made submissions.
Traditional owner involvement
How will traditional owners be involved in management of the south-west forests?
For the Noongar Traditional Owners, the development of the plan is set against the background of the South West Native Title Settlement and new legislation (the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2021) and legislative amendments to the CALM Act, which offer improved protection for significant sites and Aboriginal cultural heritage.
As part of the South West Native Title Settlement, Noongar Traditional Owners and DBCA will enter into formal agreements to manage all CALM Act lands and waters in the Settlement Area (referred to as the South West Conservation Estate) together, including the south-west forests. These agreements offer recognition and support for Noongar Traditional Owners to carry out their roles and responsibilities as protectors and managers of country and culture and facilitate two-way learning to support integration of traditional knowledge with contemporary science and management practices.
The six Noongar Regional Corporations are expected to be established in late 2022. DBCA is committed to consulting with Noongar representatives and will engage with the Noongar Regional Corporations when practicable. Engagement with traditional owners and Aboriginal groups will continue into the implementation of the plan.
These new cooperative and joint management partnerships mark a new era for collaboration to share Noongar and Western knowledge in managing south-west forests.
What is ecological thinning?
Ecological thinning is an active forest management and climate adaptation tool undertaken to support forest health and resilience as the landscape continues to become drier and warmer. It involves the selective removal of individual trees to improve or maintain ecological values and reduce the current and future moisture stress of a given area.
The potential benefits of ecological thinning include:
- reduced moisture stress in forest stands
- increased soil moisture
- increased resilience to drought, heatwave events and bushfire
- reduced fuel loads to mitigate the risk of bushfire
- faster growth of remaining trees to maturity, reducing the time required to develop suitable habitat, such as hollows, for fauna
- long-term carbon storage.
Where and how will ecological thinning be undertaken?
The draft plan proposes thinning be undertaken primarily in mining rehabilitation areas, and younger regrowth jarrah and karri forest.
Ecological thinning prescriptions will vary across forest ecosystems. The draft plan proposes an overall annual thinning program up to 8,000 hectares across all forest ecosystems, with additional areas able to be considered for thinning with the approval of the Minister for Environment.
Selection of specific locations for thinning will involve assessing observed and projected changes in rainfall, groundwater trends, forest condition and potential habitat for threatened species. Any proposed thinning will also need to ensure protection of the value of the land to Aboriginal cultural heritage.
Forests within the conservation reserve system – in national and conservation parks, nature reserves, informal reserves in State forests such as old-growth forests – will not generally be considered for ecological thinning in the term of the new plan.
Will the timber from ecological thinning activities be used?
While the overall scale and location of ecological thinning will be driven by forest health objectives, the thinning of young regrowth stands will generate quantities of small stems which may result in excessive fire risk if left on the forest floor.
The draft plan provides for the salvage, removal and sale of the timber generated, by the Forest Products Commission.
How will the success of ecological thinning be measured?
The draft plan adopts an adaptive management approach to forest management. Practices such as ecological thinning will be conducted with sufficient monitoring to determine if it is working, or if changes need to be made over time.
This will likely involve measuring consistency of application with silvicultural guidelines and indicators of forest health over time, such as the composition and condition of vegetation and hydrological benefits.
How do you respond to some claims that ecological thinning is just logging by stealth?
The State Government has committed to ensuring long-term forest health through active forest management techniques. Importantly, the renewed focus on maintaining forest health through active forest management will provide for targeted thinning of south-west forests.
Ecological thinning will be designed to support biodiversity conservation, forest health and resilience as the landscape continues to become drier and warmer in the future. It is intended to occur in younger regrowth areas, with smaller trees, not the more mature forest with larger trees that the timber industry currently targets for sawlog products.
Other forest management activities
What other active forest management activities are included in the draft plan?
Apart from thinning, the draft plan facilitates a range of active forest management programs and activities including prescribed burning, the control of pest animals and weeds, and the management of diseases such as Phytophthora dieback.
Fire is an important component of forest health and for ecosystem functioning. DBCA’s fire management and prescribed burning program aims to manage biodiversity at a range of scales and is supported by research and over 60 years of operational experience. The department is committed to working with Noongar Traditional Owners to better understand, share and incorporate culture fire knowledge.
The Western Shield program delivers fox and feral cat management to over 85 percent of the area covered by the plan and will continue to be a key approach for biodiversity conservation and maintaining forest health over the next 10 years. DBCA will also seek to identify new and innovative approaches to managing foxes, feral cats and other pest animals.
Phytophthora (or jarrah) dieback is the most significant plant disease affecting the south-west forests, with many native flora and threatened species susceptible. Management has mainly focused on minimising the spread of dieback through awareness training and good hygiene practices. This will continue to be an important approach, together with new control techniques and technologies.
How much forest will be protected in conservation reserves under the plan?
The draft plan provides for around 320,000 hectares of existing reserve proposals to be progressed and a further 400,000 hectares of State forest and timber reserves to be incorporated into national parks, conservation parks and nature reserves.
Increasing the level of protection for an additional 400,000 hectares will involve consideration of changing State forest and timber reserves to other formal conservation reserve categories (i.e. national and conservation parks and nature reserves).
The draft plan provides for a process to refine the boundaries of State forest and timber reserves in consultation with traditional owners and stakeholders, including the resources sector, conservation groups, local government and other parties.
Why are there still over 300,000 hectares of proposed reserves from previous plans that have not been created yet?
The proposed reserves have not been progressed mainly due to the South West Native Title Settlement not being resolved, identified mineral resources and mineral prospectivity, and the rights of State Agreement Act mining lessees. Since 2019, commitments for the reservation of lands and waters elsewhere in the State, through the State Government’s Plan for Our Parks initiative, have also been a high priority for the Commission and DBCA.
Areas proposed in the current plan for inclusion in a national park, nature reserve or conservation park are however managed by the Department consistent with their proposed land category and purpose.
Will the new plan allow for the collection of firewood?
From 2024, timber taken from our native forests will be limited to forest management activities that improve forest health and clearing for approved mining and other operations.
As a result of these land management activities some wood products will still be available such as firewood. In addition, some native timber will also be available from approved mine site operations which will also provide a source of firewood along with other timber products.
Firewood is currently made available through different methods, including commercial firewood contracts managed by the Forest Products Commission, and areas of State forest made available by DBCA where the public can collect firewood.
DBCA will continue to provide for public firewood areas, largely in the south-west State forest, where members of the public are permitted to collect firewood for domestic use.
Firewood cannot be taken from national parks, nature reserves or conservation parks. It’s important to note that firewood should not be taken from other non-CALM Act public lands, or private property, without permission.
The draft plan provides for the development of a Public Firewood Management Strategy to address the broader issues associated with demand for and sustainability of public firewood and how this could be addressed over time.
How much will firewood cost under the new plan?
Firewood will continue to be produced commercially from clearing for approved mining and infrastructure, and through ecological thinning operations. The cost of firewood is not determined or prescribed through the forest management plan.
What is the impact of climate change on Western Australia?
Climate change and its impacts on rainfall in the south-west, and the decline in rainfall since the 1970s has been deemed greater in the south-west than anywhere else in Australia.
Information and reports on climate change in Western Australia is available at the following websites:
Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development
The Government of Western Australia
Independent silviculture review
What is silviculture?
Silviculture is the science and practice of managing forests and woodlands to meet the wide range of needs and benefits to landowners and the community, now and for the future. It considers the ecology, establishment, growth, health, use and quality of forests. How a forest grows depends on the characteristics of the tree species, and how they are affected by the soil and climate.
DBCA currently uses a series of silviculture guidelines to outline the management principles for the various forest types, and the silvicultural treatments that can be applied to them. The guidelines seek to ensure that a wide range of forest values is catered for at a local scale and complement a range of other measures described by the plan. These guidelines will be revised as part of developing the Forest Management Plan 2024-2033.
What was the independent silviculture review?
The Forest Management Plan 2014-2023 includes a management activity requiring an independent expert panel review current and proposed silvicultural guidelines and practices. The purpose of the silviculture review was to fulfill the review requirement, and to assist development of silvicultural settings for the Draft Forest Management Plan 2024-2033.
The expert panel reviewed current and proposed silvicultural guidelines and practices within an ecologically sustainable forest management (ESFM) context. The silvicultural practices and guidelines for Forest Management Plan 2024-2033 need to be reviewed and re-set to focus on forest health and improved resilience outcomes.
For more information read the Independent Silviculture Review Panel report or fact sheet.
How has the panel’s advice been used?
The report and recommendations of the Independent Silvicultural Review Panel was one of many inputs contributing to the development of the Draft Forest Management Plan 2024-2033.
The report mentions the forest industry and providing wood to the industry – why if native forestry is ending in 2023?
The State Government’s announcement included provision for timber to be taken from the forests for activities that improve forest health and clearing for approved mining operations. Ecological thinning is a forest management activity that reduces the number of trees within an area to support forest health and resilience as the landscape continues to become drier and warmer in the future.
People will still want to be able to heat their homes with firewood and buy high quality, locally manufactured timber furniture. Timber taken as a by-product of ecological thinning activities should be used rather than going to waste and could contribute to meeting this demand through small businesses and other commercial means.
How will fire be managed under the new plan?
Fire seasons are becoming longer and more intense due to the impacts of climate change. In the south-west, the decline in rainfall since the 1970s has been greater than anywhere else in Australia. As a result, the south-west landscape is dry and is remaining drier for longer periods, which influences the flammability of forest vegetation. This places an even greater importance on bushfire mitigation.
As part of the new plan, DBCA will continue to be responsible for the management of fire in south-west forests, parks, nature reserves and other lands that it manages, including managing fuel loads through planned burning.
Will forest roads remain accessible for fire management?
Forest roads, firebreaks and fire access tracks are important for fire management and are heavily relied on by fire crews when responding to bushfires and conducting prescribed burns in forested areas.
DBCA will continue to be responsible for the management of roads on lands that it manages in south-west forests within available resources, including for public access, fire management, and other forest management activities.
Basic raw materials
What are basic raw materials?
State forest and timber reserves contain supplies of gravel, shale, clay, sand, limestone and rock that together are known as basic raw materials (BRM) .
These materials are used for road making and building throughout the south-west, and those from State forest and timber reserves are provided to government agencies and local governments through leases issued under section 97 of the Conservation and Land Management Act 1984 (CALM Act) .
DBCA also uses BRM for building and managing recreation sites and other essential management activities.
What is an apiary site?
Honey (and related products such as bee pollen, bees wax and royal jelly) is collected by apiarists who access areas covered by the plan using a system of designated apiary sites registered with DBCA.
DBCA manages and issues apiary permits and licences in accordance with Part 8A – Apiary permits and licences of the Conservation and Land Management Regulations 2002. These may be issued for periods of up to seven years and can be transferred between apiarists.
Land that DBCA can issue apiary permits or licences for include national parks, conservation parks, nature reserves, state forest, timber reserves, pastoral leases, mining tenements and unallocated Crown land.
Learn more about beekeeping on Crown Land on the DBCA website.
How does the plan impact mining?
Mining activities are primarily approved and governed by processes managed by other government agencies under legislation such as the Environmental Protection Act 1986, Mining Act 1978, Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources Act 1967 and various State Agreement Acts.
Mining operations are not approved under the CALM Act and do not rely on forest management practices or the forest management plan to occur.
Was the draft plan referred to the EPA?
The Draft Forest Management Plan 2024-2033 has been referred to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) for a determination on whether the plan requires assessment under Part IV of the Environmental Protection Act 1986 (EP Act).
The EPA has requested further information be provided, including the public consultation report and any proposed changes to the plan resulting from the public consultation, before making its determination.
What happens next?
Once the requested information has been provided, the EPA will invite public comments through its consultation hub on whether or not the EPA should assess the plan and if so, the level of assessment.
The EPA will then publish its decision on whether or not to assess the Forest Management Plan 2024-2033.
If the EPA decides to assess the plan, it will prepare a report and recommendations for the Minister for Environment setting out the key environmental factors identified in the course of the assessment, the EPA’s recommendations as to whether or not the proposal may be implemented, and the conditions and procedures to which implementation should be subject.
EPA assessment reports are made publicly available on the EPA’s website.
Further information on the EPA Assessment process is available at https://www.epa.wa.gov.au/step-step-through-proposal-assessment-process