A substantial area of the NSW State forest estate has been impacted by bushfire.
Both timber plantations and native forests have been impacted. However, not all the forests have been severely burned and we expect many of them will recover in the coming months and years. Read more about the fire impact on different areas.
Australian forests are very resilient to the impact of wildfires. All flora in these forests have unique recovery strategies and the forests are already showing remarkable regeneration.
We have been assessing the severity of fires across the landscape. Where fire severity has been intense the forest recovery has been slower, but recovery is occurring. Monitoring of forest recovery is a focus for us as forest managers. Our fire recovery program includes forest assessments, seed collection and storage and expansion of our nurseries to grow seedlings.
State forests are managed over the long-term to grow and regrow and it is our intention that all areas impacted will be regenerated or replanted as soon as practical.
Rebuilding homes and infrastructure
Timber is the most renewable building product available and renewable timber products are going to play a vital role in rebuilding fire-affected communities. With fire affecting homes and infrastructure right across the state, timber is vital to rebuilding the state.
We are playing a crucial role in delivering the timber needed to rebuild homes and communities, maintaining local work in fire-affected communities and regrowing our forests for the future.
We are experiencing a significant increase in demand for power poles and other products required by local communities as they begin to rebuild vital infrastructure and crews are continuing to deliver these critical products to support the rebuilding effort.
Softwood salvaging operations
While pine plantations around NSW have been impacted by fire, the fire-affected trees are not lost. While pine trees are less fire tolerant than many native Australian species, pine trees that have been affected by fire can still be harvested and processed into timber products in much the same way as unburnt trees can. Once the outer bark is removed, the timber underneath is still strong and suitable for a range of uses including landscaping and structural timber.
Pine trees can be salvaged for 12 months or more after a fire. Logs can also be stored for many years if immersed in water or under sprinklers. Salvage operations in softwood plantations impacted by this season’s fires are well underway, with local crews working at a significantly higher rate of production than normal, and we will also be ramping up our planting program to restock plantations.
We are working with local mills to help ensure timber is available for the NSW community to re-build after the fires and that the local timber industry has supply into the future. Because we need to process many times the normal volume of timber in a short period of time, some timber that cannot be processed locally will also be exported. This will offset some of the cost of the operations required to remove trees from fire-affected sites and prepare them for replanting.
Harvesting timber from fire-affected native forests
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has developed site-specific rules for selective harvesting to occur in a small number of locations where it considers the environmental risk associated with harvesting operations in a post-fire landscape can be reasonably mitigated. These rules augment the already robust regulations in place in all native forestry operations and are designed to minimise the specific risks to soils, water, plants, animals and their habitat in a post-fire environment.
Selective harvesting in fire-affected forests will look very different from the salvage harvesting that is carried out in pine plantations or in other states. Find out more about selective harvesting in fire-affected native forests.
Operations in forests not impacted by fire
While large areas of land in NSW were impacted by fire, many areas were not affected by fires or were affected by low-intensity burning equivalent to a hazard reduction burn. Forest recovery is being monitored closely and many fire-affected areas have already demonstrated remarkable recovery.
Following recent fires, 70 per cent of Forestry Corporation’s harvesting operations on the north coast were moved into hardwood plantations while site-specific conditions were developed for selective timber harvesting in a small number of fire-affected forests. Many areas were not impacted by fires and a small number of operations are taking place in areas of unburnt forests, maintaining sustainable timber supplies in demand for rebuilding and work in communities where employment in forestry and the timber industry is important.
All Forestry Corporation’s operations in native forests are completely transparent, with detailed harvest plans published on our plan portal and operations independently regulated. Forestry Corporation’s forest management is also independently certified to the Australian Standard for Sustainable Forest Management, Responsible Wood.
Working for the long-term
Forestry is a long-term industry and we will be replanting and regrowing forests so they continue producing renewable, sustainable timber products for the future.
We know there will be an impact on timber supply in years to come, but this will take some time to assess. These fires are large, their impact great and the recovery for local industry will be challenging. But timber is a vital product – the ultimate renewable product – and we will regrow the areas affected.
Pine plantations produce structural timber for things like house frames, and native forests and hardwood plantations provide durable timbers used for essential products such as power poles, bridge decking and external cladding and decking for homes. With fire affecting so many homes and infrastructure right across NSW, timber will be vital to rebuilding of the state.
We are committed to working with local mills to help ensure timber is available for the NSW community to re-build after the fires and that we regrow the forests and plantations so our community has a long-term timber supply into the future.