The Orbost 'Healthy Forests' Dialogue

The Orbost 'Healthy Forests' Dialogue

Around 20 people gathered together for the GFD’s second Dialogue, held in Orbost at the end of March 2023, which focused on establishing an understanding of ‘What is healthy forest?’

The Rawson Scoping Dialogue raised the important question of “What is a healthy forest?” and this question formed the core theme of our second meeting.

Guided by a scoping paper, participants sought a definition of ‘healthy forest’ that encompasses a holistic, all-uses and all-values perspective that reaches far into the future, rather than the compartmentalised, siloed and short-term approaches that may often characterise attempts to define forest health in other forums.

This process enabled adaptive thinking from Dialogue participants, a meaningful exploration of the different definitions of healthy forest for different people, and the identification of points of commonality and difference, and the beginning of the development of GFD principles for the management of healthy forests.

“Forests are a reflection of us - we need to reimagine forests for the future.”

- Orbost dialogue participant

The framework for this discussion occurred during the field trip on Friday, when participants filled out ‘forest scorecards’ at each site while witnessing first-hand some of the devastations of the Black Summer fires around the region.

Using an Integrated Management Matrix developed by GFD member and Orbost Co-chair, Ian Cane, the matrix asked participants to look at the forest and grade it according to water yield, climate change, fire intensity, forest reproductive capacity, wood production value, fuel reduction burning suitability, fire risk management, ecological use of fire, the GLAWAC whole of country plan, biodiversity, support to the community, value for recreation and community health, and, forest connectivity at each site in the present and over time at various scales.

Participants met at the Orbost Exhibition Centre on Day Two to dive deeper into what Healthy Forests look like for the people, wildlife and landscapes of East Gippsland and to discuss new ways forward for the forests, cementing some exciting new ideas about local participation in forest management in the region.