By Jed Lanyon
The Future of our Forests survey was developed to hear what communities value about forests, how they use forests and what they want to see from Victoria’s forests in the future.
There were 12,859 visitors to the page resulting in 2,824 survey responses received. A majority of participants (52.8 per cent) were between 40 and 64 years of age and a majority were located within the metropolitan Melbourne region (58.2 per cent).
Some of the key results from the survey found that protection of forests and biodiversity was paramount.
When asked ‘How can we protect and improve forests for all Victorians’, respondents indicated that it was most important to protect native forests from timber harvesting (52 per cent) followed by biodiversity protection and restoration (42 per cent).
The remaining themes were increase engagement with Aboriginal community (28 per cent), support industry and employment (27 per cent), increase access to the forests for human connection (26 per cent), create the Great Forest National Park and Emerald Link (24 per cent) and increase recreational use of forests (10 per cent).
Forest management should deliver greater protection of forests. Conserving plants and animals, maintaining water and catchment health, maintaining natural landscapes, and storing carbon and mitigating climate change were ranked the top four values for forest management from respondents.
However, there are still a proportion of people (18 per cent) who regard jobs and economic benefits as an important aspect to be managed.
When asked ‘What are we currently doing well regarding forest management in Victoria’, most respondents answered providing access and facilities for activities they enjoy (55.5 per cent).
A little over a quarter of respondents, rated providing Victorian communities with an opportunity to have their say (33.3 per cent) as something that is being done well.
Followed by managing bushfire risk and/or fuel loads (21.5 per cent) and protection of our flora and fauna (20.7 per cent).
Only 9.1 per cent of respondents believed the forests were being adaptively managed to effectively respond to a changing climate and major bushfires.
When asked ‘What could be done to alleviate concerns and improve the things most valued about forests in Victoria’, the majority of respondents (73 per cent) said stronger focus on biodiversity conservation followed by stronger focus on the health and structure of our forests (71 per cent) and improved protection of ecosystem services (67 per cent).
These strongly supported statements are consistent with the other questions, rating the health and biodiversity of the forests as most important.
The survey was available through the Engage Victoria platform from 20 December 2018 to 31 March 2019.