Slender Tree-fern Protection

We are concerned that the critically endangered Slender Tree-ferns in our Crown land plantations are under threat from the harvest currently taking place by Hancock Victorian Plantations (HVP).

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Volunteers collecting a fertile frond for microscopic identification.

Slender Tree-ferns

Slender Tree-ferns (Cyathea cunninghamii) are listed as Critically Endangered under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee (FFG) Act 1988. This means they are facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future.

We have recorded a significant population of Slender Tree-ferns here (around 130) and recorded 79 close to creeks in the plantation. Research estimates there are only about 1000 of them left in Victoria...we are pleased that we can now add another 200 to the list with this new population. This is now a significant population, similar in size to the largest know population of around 200 in Tarra-Bulga National Park.

They are slow growing and it is thought that they need to be at least 7m tall and over 25 years old before they are mature enough to produce spores.

Slender Tree-ferns are thin and tall...they can be only 10cm wide but up to 20m high. They are found close to smaller creeks in steep gullies, as they require wet conditions and need protection from strong wind. They are found in rainforest areas with stable banks.

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Slender Tree-ferns along a Tarwin River East Branch tributary

How are Slender Tree-ferns at risk of extinction?

Harvesting close to Slender Tree-ferns leaves them exposed to damaging winds. When Slender Tree-ferns are exposed without the shelter of surrounding forest they are at risk.

Slender Tree-ferns need protection from damaging winds, fire and floods. These elements are all expected to increase in frequency with rising temperature caused by climate change.

Slender Tree-ferns are sensitive to fire. Plantation close to them increases the fire risk. Plantation pines increase the fire risk more than native forest. Forestry operations may include burning after harvest which increases the fire risk.

Slender Tree-ferns require wet soil conditions, which is why they are found close to creeks. Pine plantations close to them are likely to reduce the amount of water in the soil as these plantations use a large quantity of water.

Harvesting close to Slender Tree-ferns  and planting pines will also allow for weeds to invade and compete with new younger Slender Tree-ferns making their survival more difficult.

Adequate buffer zones are the solution to protecting Slender Tree-ferns but we don't think HVP are doing enough and are putting this critically endangered species at risk.

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Harvesting close to the Tarwin River East Branch Reserve which contains Slender Tree-ferns and Cool Temperate Rainforest

Gippsland Forest Guardians

We are working with the Gippsland Forest Guardians to help protect the remaining Cool Temperate Rainforest and Slender Tree-ferns in the Turtons creek area. Gippsland Forest Guardians are concerned that HVP are not leaving adequate protection buffers in riparian areas of the HVP plantation at Turtons creek. Harvest is currently underway.

Slender Tree-ferns are a listed species under the FFG Act and have current species-specific prescriptions in the Code of Practice for Timber Production 2014 (as amended in 2022):

"–  In the Gippsland and East Gippsland Forest Management Areas (FMAs): Apply a management area of 200 m radius over populations. Conduct a site inspection and detailed planning in consultation with the Department to ensure the species is adequately protected during timber harvesting operations”.

HVP have advised that they are leaving only 5m buffers to some of the creek areas and only 20m in other areas. This is insufficient according to the Action Statement and not enough to provide the surrounding habitat conditions the Slender Tree-ferns need to survive and recover.

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We have written clarification from the Environment minister Steve Dimopoulos that the FFG Act applies on the Crown land that HVP are currently harvesting.

Gippsland Forest Guardians are asking South Gippsland Shire Council and Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA), the responsible authorities, to ensure they are protected.

They have requested that council ask HVP to put an immediate halt to harvesting until an independent survey has been done and a detailed plan has been made in conjunction with DEECA rainforest experts to ensure their protection.

left: Harvesting close to the Tarwin River reserve.

What YOU can do:

  • Visit the Gippsland Forest Guardians website
  • Contact your local representatives to let them know your concerns (contacts)
  • Contact HVP and let them know that they need to provide better protection for our threatened species as prescribed in the FFG Act if they are to have a social license to operate on our Crown Land
  • Keep informed about the campaign as it develops by following    @gippslandforestguardiansinc on Instagram
  • Share a link to this site and share the Slender Tree-fern video
  • Contact your super fund to find out if they invest in HVP and share your concerns - Unisuper are an owner of HVP.  Consider whether you want to invest your super in this way.
  • Contact us if you would like to help and become more involved in standing up for our local forests and threatened species.
  • If you have Slender Tree-ferns on your property or know where some might be - contact us for information on identifying and recording them.
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More contacts

But biodiversity doesn’t think in postcodes, so this is an important issue regardless of where you live!

Steve Dimopolous, Victorian Minister for Environment:

Ellen Sandell Greens Spokesperson for Biodiversity, Environment and Forests:

Tanya Plibersek, Federal Minister for Environment and Water:

Your local State MP:
Your local Federal MP:

2. Action Statement Flora & Fauna Guarantee Act 1988: Slender Tree-fern (Cyathea cunninghamii) Taxon ID: 500896

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