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Dr Nerissa Hannink, Media Office, University of Melbourne, Mob: 0430 588 055, nhannink@unimelb.edu.au

A new survey has revealed ways to improve the social acceptance of forest management, while maintaining timber supply and benefiting the environment. The report released by the University of Melbourne provides an insight into Tasmanian community views on forest management methods, applied to the landscape over the long term. It is hoped that this understanding will help forest managers to balance environmental and timber outcomes in a socially acceptable way.

Dr Rebecca Ford from the University of Melbourne’s School of Land and Environment will discuss the findings at a seminar in Hobart this Friday 20 November.

“People judged the options primarily on effects on the environment. Options that were believed to have lighter impacts on the environment were more socially acceptable. Beliefs about effects on wood supply were also significant, but had much less overall effect on social acceptance,” says Dr Ford.

The survey involved 490 Tasmanian residents from the Huon Valley, other Tasmanian regions and recent visitors to the state. Forest management options used in the survey were developed by industry, environment and forest management experts, many with innovative ideas about ways to manage forests using combinations of logging methods across the landscape. 

A postal questionnaire was sent to all participants, including colour pictures of how each hypothetical management option would look in 95 years and information about outputs for the environment and wood supply. The participants were asked to note how acceptable they found the options on a scale from 1 to 7.

The study found that:
 The averages of the three groups were very similar, but Huon valley results were more polarised.
 Three options led to wood supply outputs similar to current management, yet had higher environmental and amenity outputs and were significantly more socially acceptable. Details include:
- A feature of these three options was that they had a relatively large proportion of native vegetation that was not logged at all, and contributed to good environmental and amenity outcomes.
- One strategy for achieving wood supply close to current levels, was the establishment of more eucalypt plantations on areas of private land or state forest.  Plantations enable wood to be produced very efficiently from a compact land area, thereby limiting the environmental impacts to a small area and allowing other forests to be protected from logging.  On native forest, the clearfell, burn and sow system with thinning has a similar effect, in that it enables production to be increased from a smaller land area.
- Another strategy for achieving good outcomes on wood supply, environmental and social acceptability was the aggregated retention logging method.  This method leaves about 20% of a logging area unlogged, with retained patches contributing to old forest habitat for dependent species.  

Other report authors include Mr Eric Smith, Professor Ian Bishop and Dr Kathryn Williams. The study was funded by an Australian Research Council grant with industry contributions from Forestry Tasmania, the Forest Practices Authority and assistance from Tourism Tasmania.