What is the program?

The Forest Protection Survey Program (FPSP) aims to protect animals and plants that are either threatened or of high conservation value where they occur in areas (or ‘coupes’) of State forests that are scheduled to be harvested.

The program is designed to ensure that our forest fauna and flora can survive and thrive while concurrently reducing disruption and uncertainty to the timber industry.

This survey work is taking place in State forests in eastern Victoria in Gippsland, the Central Highlands and North-East regions.

What are we protecting?

The harvesting of trees, building of roads, disturbance to undergrowth and ground logs can seriously impact threatened species and their habitat.

To reduce these impacts, individual threatened species’ and specific habitat areas are prescribed as protected.

These measures are not expected to protect every individual threatened animal or plant but to ensure enough protection of habitat to allow populations to persist in perpetuity.

In Victoria, 20 mammal species, 14 birds, 6 reptiles, 7 amphibians, 14 fish, 12 crustaceans, 2 terrestrial invertebrates and 315 plant species are protected by prescriptions under the Code of Practice for Timber Production 2014 or due to Action Statement requirements.

Of these, ‘critically endangered’ species include:

  • Leadbeater’s Possum
  • Flat-headed Galaxias

‘Endangered’ species include:

  • Spotted-tail Quoll
  • Southern Brown Bandicoot
  • Long-footed Potoroo
  • Glossy Black Cockatoo
  • Smoky Mouse
  • Trout Cod
  • Macquarie Perch
  • Barred Galaxias
  • Alpine She-oak Skink
  • Booroolong Frog
  • Spotted Tree Frog
  • Southern Barred Frog
  • Baw Baw Frog

A spotted Tail Quoll showing interest in a terrestrial camera bait station

Species considered ‘vulnerable’ include:

  • Long-nosed Potoroo
  • Masked Owl
  • Yellow-bellied Glider
  • Greater Glider
  • New Holland Mouse
  • Grey-headed Flying Fox
  • Dwarf Galaxis
  • Murray Cod
  • Giant Burrowing Frog
  • Green and Golden Bell Frog
  • Alpine Tree Frog
  • Southern Barred Frog
  • Broad-toothed Rat
  • Brush-tailed Phascogale

A Sooty Owl observed during a night time spotlight survey

What is being surveyed?

Surveys are being undertaken for plants, arboreal and terrestrial mammals, some bird species, frogs, fish and crayfish, and vegetation communities.

Considerable effort is being made to survey for Leadbeater’s Possum using thermal imaging/call playback, and arboreal cameras. Spotlighting and call playback is being used to search for Greater Glider, Yellow-bellied Glider and various owl species. Terrestrial (ground) cameras are being used to search for Potoroos, Smoky Mouse, Dunnarts and other ground-dwelling mammals.

Aquatic species, including native fish and crayfish, are surveyed in summer or autumn when stream-flows are low and water clarity is high.

How does it work?

The VicForests’ Rolling Operations Plan provides the basic information about what is planned to be harvested and where. This information, along with a wide range of other information such as Habitat Distribution Models and species lists, is used to help prioritise what species will be surveyed where and when. The proposed harvest date is used by DELWP to prioritise when surveys will occur where.

Surveys for the program were initially conducted by a team of experts, botanists and fauna specialist from the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research. As the program has progressed during 2018-2019, external companies have been engaged to conduct the surveys. This has created some exciting new job opportunities in regional areas. Future surveys will continue to be conducted by a mix of private companies and experts from within the department.

Surveys are prioritised according to the highest-priority species, and the process includes a desktop assessment of:

  • Which coupes are planned for harvest, where and when (data provided by VicForests)
  • Which target species to be surveyed
  • Which survey techniques and technology, such as remote cameras and audio recorders can be used
  • Seasonal variation in detecting some species of plants and animals
  • Impact of timber harvesting on each target species (depending on the species life characteristics and silviculture method

The data gathered from these survey programs builds a better understanding of the habitats and location of many threatened species and helps provide a clear guide for the timber industry.

The aim of the program is to survey at least 80% of coupes planned for harvest each year. VicForests is also required to undertake its own assessment of biodiversity values on coupes prior to harvesting.

Detections of threatened species may trigger an operational management action such as a buffer or filter, or a Forest Management Zone change as required under the Code of Practice for Timber Production 2014 (PDF, 685.6 KB) (the Code), the Management Standards and Procedures for timber harvesting operations in Victoria’s State Forests 2014 (PDF, 1.3 MB) (MSP) and/or Planning Standards for timber harvesting operations in Victoria’s State Forests 2014 (PDF, 1.2 MB) (PS).

Management Outcomes

The FPSP aims to complete surveys at least 2-3 months prior to the proposed harvest date. The results of surveys are provided as soon as possible to VicForests so they can be considered in pre-harvest planning. The survey design and the processes used to implement surveys help to minimise impacts on the timber industry.

Management actions vary for each species, habitat feature or community, and by geographical location and may require any of the following:

  • Exclusion of timber harvesting within or in proximity to a detection site or identified habitat features
  • Modification of timber harvesting within or in proximity to a detection site or identified habitat features, or
  • Establishment of new FMZs, such as Special Protection Zone (SPZ) or Special Management Zone (SMZ) around the detection site to manage for and protect relevant habitat features, populations or individuals.

As the timber harvesting regulator, DELWP has ultimate oversight of forest management zones and is responsible for auditing VicForests’ adherence with the Code of Practice for Timber Production 2014 and Management Standards and Procedures. VicForests is accountable for determining management actions and applying operations prescriptions to protect values on coupes planned for harvest.

Resources and tools

FPSP survey guidelines

Updated to version 4 Survey Guidelines : 13/10/2020

Page last updated: 16/03/21