Day in the life: Forest Practices Officer

Day in the life: Forest Practices Officer

Posted 19 April 2024


Forest Practices Officers (FPOs) are trained and appointed by Tasmania’s independent forestry regulator, the Forest Practices Authority (FPA). While FPOs have legal obligations to the FPA, they are employed in the forestry sector or work as independent consultants, offering specialist knowledge to support farmers to plan forestry activities.

Hafwen Pearce is an FPO working in Northern Tasmania, and we asked her what a day in her life looks like.

“It all starts with a plan, a task and intent. Your task may be to assess a coupe for special values, or visit a harvesting operation to check a newly formed road is compliant, or undertake a regeneration assessment.

“Within and behind all these tasks (and there are many more) lies training, procedures, knowledge and experience that take years to develop as an FPO.

Connecting regulations with operations

“The forest practices system is co-regulated so, as an FPO, that means you wear two hats: one as a delegate for the FPA, and the other as a planner or supervisor for a company.

“You are required to balance these two objectives to ensure legal and commercial forest operations. This takes both integrity and professionalism to navigate through conflicting objectives.

“My favourite part of being an FPO is being in the field developing a plan ready for harvesting.”

“It seems straightforward, but there are always competing objectives for values identified in the forest: flora, fauna, soil and water, landscape, and Aboriginal and European cultural heritage. When you are preparing a Forest Practices Plan, you get to know your landscape and history of the place.

“You could be in Glover country, or be looking for Aboriginal stone flakes near streams, or looking for tramways and pig ovens. The countryside is soaked in heritage and history that, as an FPO, you have the opportunity to explore.

“The stories that go with the landscape are deep, the townships and dwellings throughout the bush are remnants of a pioneering life and it’s all there to find if you are looking carefully.

Covering all angles

“Managing these cultural and environmental values must go hand-in-hand with considering the economic and social implications of landholders’ operations. There are a number of production and commercial considerations to ensure viability.

“These include: do you have a commercial volume? Do you have legal access? What sort of wood product will you recover? Have you got the right machinery mix for the timber and ground conditions? What time of year should you be in the coupes? Are markets good for the sale of product? Will the harvesting operation be profitable? Are there lease or license constraints, community groups or neighbours’ considerations? Have you appropriately considered the aesthetic impact on the landscape?

Supporting landholders

“The complex responsibilities of an FPO are a culmination of years of training and mentoring, generations of trials and improvements, of lessons learnt, research, and a shared experience of an industry that has evolved and developed an environmental consciousness that contributes to a sustainable forest industry today.

“We share that knowledge with landholders. We’re available to discuss plans and guide landholders through the process so they can make informed decisions about their forest practices. Many FPOs also work with forest owners to prepare Forest Practices Plans and ensure they are legally compliant.

“It’s simple to get the ball rolling: landholders can contact an FPO through the FPA’s contact list.”

Access the FPA contact list from fpa.tas.gov.au/landowners or learn more about the legal considerations of trees on farms with the Tree Alliance Knowledge Hub at treealliance.com.au