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Thursday, 08 October 2020
VicForests audit report released

The Forest Stewardship Council Australia (FSCA) notes the release by VicForests of its 2019 Controlled Wood audit report.

Controlled Wood is considered a first step on the road towards Forest Management Certification under the National Forest Stewardship Standard.

FSCA is a not-for-profit overseen by a nine-member board – three members representing industry, three representing social interests and three representing environment stakeholders. The Board is completely at arm’s length from the audit and certification process.

FSC certification is a third party independent scheme which relies on independent certification bodies (auditors) to assess whether applicants meet the relevant criteria.

The independent auditor in this case, SCS, found VicForests did not meet the criteria for Controlled Wood. A version of the report made public by VicForests can be found here.

The independent auditor’s report states wood will not meet the standard for Controlled Wood if it is:

  • “Illegally harvested wood;
  • “Wood harvested in violation of traditional and civil rights;
  • “Wood harvested in forests in which high conservation values are threatened by management activities;
  • “Wood harvested from areas being converted from forests and other wooded ecosystems to plantations or non-forest areas;
  • “Wood from forest management units in which genetically modified trees are planted.”

The broad reasons given by the independent audit team included failure to protect protected species of animals and plants, hollow bearing trees and old growth forest, as well as concerns with how VicForests interacts with stakeholders including environmental groups.

The independent auditor’s report notes there was a “failure to safeguard the habitat of a Critically Endangered and protected species” being the Leadbeatter’s Possum; and there were "deficiencies in application of protective conservation measures for known locations/occurrences of HCV [High Conservation Value] species that did not follow the FSC Precautionary approach, including the Greater Glider, the Tree Geebung, Forest owls, Orbost Spiny Crayfish, and Barred Galaxias."

The auditor also noted some improvements in VicForests’ practices.

FSC certification for both Forest Management and Controlled Wood has been achieved by plantation and native forest managers across Australia.

FSC encourages VicForests, and all forest managers, to strive for certification under the FSC standards.

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