The State Government announced a new Forest Management Plan alongside the contentious shutdown of the native timber industry two years ago. The 10-year plan reflects the ongoing management of now-protected South West karri, jarrah and wandoo forests which will be limited to activities that improve forest health and clearing for approved mining operations from January 2024. The timber industry is in a state of limbo, awaiting the plan so it can make preparations of the necessary transition. After a three-month consultation process, the Environmental Protection Authority has endorsed the draft plan. EPA chair Professor Matthew Tonts said central to the assessment was the unique and exceptional diversity of the South West’s forests and the range of environmental, cultural and social values they held. “The proposed addition of 400,000ha to the conservation estate would enhance the FMP area’s biodiversity and ecological integrity and would be a good outcome for the State,” he said. As part of its assessment, the EPA considered more than 3500 public submissions and undertook targeted sessions with 12 key stakeholders and groups. The plan’s approval came with conditions relating to reporting, as well as the recommendation of an independent scientific review of prescribed burning “to give full consideration to contemporary science and knowledge on the impacts of prescribed burning on a range of environmental issues, particularly in the context of our changing climate”. “Conditions on reporting progress on achieving the 400,000ha target are critical to good environmental outcomes and the successful expansion of the conservation estate,” Professor Tonts said. The timber industry can breathe a sigh of relief, with thinning of native forests also endorsed by the EPA. “Thinning has the potential to maintain the ecological integrity and biological diversity of forest ecosystems,” Professor Tonts said. However, timber quantity and the frequency of availability from thinning is still unknown. The report to the minister for the environment — which can be found on the EPA website — is now open for a three-week public appeal period, closing on September 25. Appeals should be directed to the Office of the Appeals Convenor.