The Forest Practices Authority

The Earth Sciences and Cultural Heritage Program

Earth sciences 

copyright FPA 
copyright FPA 
copyright FPA 

FPO Terry Ware (TJ Ware Forest Consultants) explains to government departmental staff, NRM groups and Huon District councillors how a forest practices plan is designed and put into practice.
copyright FPA 
Double Drum Winder 
copyright FPA 

The objective of the earth sciences section in the FPA's Earth Sciences and Cultural Heritage Program is to ensure that forest operations do not result in unacceptable rates of soil or stream erosion and that water quality and stream flows are maintained at acceptable levels. The program also seeks to improve the protection and management of geological heritage sites within forests, including the extensive and land-use sensitive karst systems (caves, related landforms and subsurface water flows) found in calcareous rocks.

The FPA's earth sciences section seeks to achieve these objectives in three ways:

  • provision of high-quality advice to Forest Practices Officers (FPOs) who prepare forest practices plans
  • running training courses for FPOs
  • conducting research and monitoring to promote improved understanding and management of forest soils, geological and water values.


The earth sciences section provides advice to Forest Practices Officers (FPOs) by responding to enquiries received through the formal notification system . Many of these enquiries require coupe inspections with the FPO planning harvest and reforestation. Enquiries and notifications are received on topics as diverse as landslide risk, soil and stream erosion, sites of geological significance such as moraines or fossil localities, and occurrence of karst landforms including caves. Some notifications involve close cooperation with specialists in other disciplines.

The  scientist in the earth sciences section worked together with an FPO to devise prescriptions that would protect eroding streams in a coupe in the Huon River catchment (see image on right), and at the same time provide habitat for the little Denison crayfish, the Mt Mangana stag beetle and two eagle nests nearby. The plan involved harvest of native forest in sections (see photograph) separated by wide streamside reserves, as well as large reserves around eagle nests.

Further information about the detailed planning of this coupe can be found at: FPA fps Huon field day March 2011 and McIntosh and Ware 2008 coupe planning


The program also trains FPOs to help them use tools developed for land-use assessments, such as the Guidelines for the protection of Class 4 streams and the Forest sinkhole manual. In addition it conducts training courses to improve general knowledge, for example, courses in rock identification and geological processes. Other field days are on specialist topics like how to construct road batters in highly erodible soils in order to limit erosion.

Research and monitoring

The third function of the earth sciences section is to conduct research and monitoring to support development of the Forest Practices Code, to keep ahead of current issues, and to monitor effectiveness of the code and specialist prescriptions. Current and recent research includes documenting the erosion history of Tasmania, investigation of rock formations on Blue Tier, the stability of ancient landslides in dolerite terrain and identification of low-altitude glacial deposits in the Picton Valley and on the west coast.

The earth sciences section also supports the Chief Forest Practices Officer and other programs of the FPA where necessary, for example by providing expert evidence in Tribunal cases, assisting with the investigation of complaints, developing the Forest Practices Code, and improving public awareness on how the forest practices system works. It also works with other government agencies to improve scientific knowledge, for example, by providing new information to update the Tasmanian Geoconservation Database curated by DPIPWE.


Tasmania's forests have long been seen as lands of opportunity for adventurous and skilled people. Their ventures into the forests have left behind heritage sites and artefacts that are called archaeological sites. These places can tell the stories of the people who made them, what they were doing in the forests and even the dates that they were active in the bush.

The first to visit Tasmania's forest were the indigenous tribes, the Tasmanian Aborigines.  They hunted the forest animals, harvested the plant foods and sought raw materials such as ochre and fine grained stone sources to make their tools. Evidence of these activities can be found in caves and rock shelters as well as open sites in preferred locations. These sites are held in high regard by the Tasmanian Aboriginal community. With the settlement of Tasmania by the British, the forests have seen attempts to extract some riches from this harsh environment. Timber getters set up small mills to saw the timber required to build the towns and cities and brought the timber in from the bush on wooden tramways to the markets. The remains of hundreds of these sawmills can still be seen in the forest to this day.

The mining boom dating from the 1870s has left numerous sites in the forests, such as: the mine itself; the processing areas; transportation infrastructure and mining settlements, including towns; and individual miner's cottages. There is estimated to be around 1000 km of water races winding their way along in the forest. These races were constructed to bring water to the mines to separate the gold and tin from the earth and to run steam engines.

All significant archaeological sites are protected under the Forest Practices Code.

The FPA employs heritage experts, as well as providing training to Forest Practices Officers, to ensure that these sites are protected.

Today, native and plantation forestry is responsible for part of the ongoing scenic change seen in the landscape. Sometimes forestry is barely noticeable, at other times it is visible but well integrated within the scenery and, less frequently, it may appear as a prominent change in the local scenery.

In recognition of the potential scenic effects of forestry on the landscape, operations are designed and managed to limit or avoid disturbance and to be as far as possible visually integrated within the scenery. Planning aims to achieve a balance between forestry operations, including harvesting, and the protection of the scenic quality and the character of the landscape. Forest practices planning takes account of: the viewing popularity (such as lookouts, scenic vistas and settlements); the prominence and visibility of operations to people; and the visual character and diversity of the landscape at the local scale. These aspects provide forest planners with a guide to analysis of the acceptable level of visual change for individual areas of the landscape.

Content last modified September 1, 2015, 12:21 pm