According to the official corporate ‘blurb’, our state forest manager, Forestry Corporation (FC), claims, among other things, to produce sustainable hardwood timber from native forests.
This message has long been projected by the industry, but what does it really mean by “sustainable”? Certainly, their hardwood operations in state forests fail to sustain biodiversity, despite their being responsible for managing a million hectares of NSW’s state forests for conservation.
The term managing in this case is fairly loose, and essentially means they no longer plan to log those forests. There is no physical management of any note, such as weed or feral animal control, so much of that million-hectare estate is currently clogged with exotic weeds.
Is the hardwood division economically sustainable? Again, with that division recording multi-million-dollar losses annually for the last 20 years, the answer again has to be no.
Is the quantity of timber supplied sustainable? In that respect the industry’s record over the past 230 years is abysmal. It took only 50 years to drive the majestic Red Cedar to virtual extinction, then another 50 years to do likewise to the iconic Hoop Pine, using them for box wood, and they were only saved from further exploitation by the development of cardboard cartons and plastic crates.
At Gibberagee State Forest, where the government is currently allowing FC to log koala feed trees by the hundreds, the harvest plan’s estimated yield makes for interesting reading.
From the 325 hectares of available forest, FC expects to harvest a mere 1,118m³ of high-quality large sawlogs; 956m³ of high-quality small sawlogs, and 31m³ of “poles, piles, and girders. However, by far the largest component of the expected yield is 1,388m³ described as “low-quality salvage”. I imagine that’s wood which is only good for woodchip or burning to generate electricity.
Over the decades log sizes have progressively decreased and for small logs today, 15cm diameter at the small end, less than 30% of that wood is salvaged.
Native forest logging has never been sustainable, and it’s time to put an end to it.
- John Edwards
Published in the "Voices for the Earth" column in The Clarence Valley Independent 21st June 2023 under the title "Unsustainable Wood".