Technical Updates

Tuesday, 30 March 2021
Interpretation Update

Regarding the potential for harvesting of HCV 3.3 old-growth forest in the Australian NFSS

Periodically, FSC ANZ or FSC International’s Performance and Standards Unit (PSU) receive requests for interpretations from stakeholders, certificate holders, certification bodies and Accreditation Services International (ASI) seeking guidance on the correct application of a specific requirement within an FSC standard.

These interpretation requests typically arise from differing understandings between different stakeholders about how specific requirements are to be applied.

Where a request involves a nationally determined standard or framework, PSU seeks a draft from the National Office that has been reviewed and approved in a chamber-balanced process.

One such interpretation request involving a nationally determined standard was submitted to FSC regarding the potential for harvesting of old-growth forest in the Australian National Forest Stewardship Standard (NFSS) (FSC-STD-AUS-01-2018).

Old-growth forest is defined in the NFSS as “ecologically mature forest with negligible disturbance” where ‘mature forest’ is defined as “forests that contain overstorey trees typically greater than 100 years old and beginning to develop structural features typically found in older forests, including large spreading crowns, tree hollows and stages of senescence.

At issue is the guidance box on old-growth forest on page 66 of the NFSS. Besides providing guidance on identification and assessment of HCV 3.3 (old-growth forest), the guidance box contains the following:

It is important to note that the presence of HCV 3.3 old-growth forest in the management unit does not necessarily exclude harvesting. It is the responsibility of The Organization to demonstrate that its status at a landscape level will be maintained and not threatened as a result of management activities.”

Due to the ambiguous nature of this wording an interpretation request was submitted to FSC requesting clarification around the potential for harvesting of old-growth forest in the NFSS.

Developing the interpretation

To assist FSC ANZ in developing the interpretation, a chamber-balanced advisory working group was established to work through the issue. The working group’s draft interpretation was supported by the FSC ANZ Board of Directors and recently approved by PSU.

The interpretation

The interpretation, which was published on 29 March 2021 CET, can be found here.


FSC ANZ would like to acknowledge and thank Mark Annandale, Suzette Weeding and Sean Cadman for their contributions on the advisory working group.

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