The Kalang River is surrounded by a number of State forests as well as National Parks, privately managed forests that are harvested for timber, homes and farms. The State forests in this catchment are regrowth forests, which means they have been harvested in the past and have regenerated naturally. Many of the forests in this catchment were burnt during severe wildfires in 1968 and have regenerated into the thriving forests we see today.
The State Forests around the Kalang River are part of a large network of regrowth forests in the Bellingen area that have been consistently producing timber for more than a century while continuing to support thriving populations of native wildlife. Our aim as always is to manage the forests to maintain this balance.
Across the north coast, there are nearly four million hectares of forest in National Parks and State Forest. Less than 10 per cent of these forests (350,000 hectares) are available for timber production, providing a robust conservation network at a regional scale.
Forests that are suitable for timber production are divided into compartments and we generally expect to carry out a carefully planned operation to harvest the mature timber in each suitable compartment every 20 years or so before leaving the entire area to regrow naturally over another 20 or more years. Before a single tree is touched, Planning Foresters spend 12 to 18 months in the compartment completing a range of environmental assessments, carrying out ecological and Aboriginal cultural heritage surveys, reviewing timber volumes, assessing roads and consulting with neighbours to develop a detailed harvest for each operation.
These harvest plans are developed in line with the strict native forestry regulations and ensure there are appropriate measures in place to protect the unique environmental features of each location, including flora, fauna, soil and water. Each of these plans is published on our plan portal before work commences.
You can watch our Senior Planning Manager describe our planning process in the Kalang River catchment in the video below.
In the Kalang River catchment there is extensive mapping of rainforest, old growth and steep slope. These areas are identified during our planning process and they are set aside for protection so they are not disturbed. We use sophisticated LiDAR imagery and data to map the terrain under the forest canopy, so we know exactly where creeks, streams and watercourses are and exactly how steep the slopes are. In this catchment, we only work on the ridgelines and leave vast areas untouched to protect waterways, including a 100-metre buffer zone on the Kalang River, which means the the areas to be harvested are quite remote from the river itself.
Protecting the health of waterways is a priority and it is at the forefront of all our planning work and operations. We have spent more than four decades completing hydrology research and water quality monitoring, which has consistently shown that water from streams in forests is among the highest quality in the landscape.
The videos below explain our water quality protection measures and monitoring programs in more detail.
Forests are dynamic and diverse and are home to a vast varity of flora and fauna. Before harvesting takes place,professional ecologists survey the wildlife, birdlife and vegetation in the area to identify threatened species and ensure the forest retains the conditions and habitat they need to thrive. They do this by establishing a range of different wildlife protection zones specific to the species found in the forest, which meet the strict requirements developed by expert scientific panels to ensure wildlife continue to thrive in State forests.
Our staff carefully mark out exactly which areas can and can’t be harvested and which trees must be retained as a seed source or for flora and fauna protection. This marking is done both physically in the forest and electronically, with each tree electronically tagged using high resolution landscape mapping, mobile computing and GPS technology.
The harvesting machinery operators use GPS systems in the forest to ensure that the plan is strictly implemented and that harvesting avoids any areas that we require to be protected.
In the Kalang River catchment, State forests form just one part of a broader landscape that contains forested land that is set aside for conservation, land that is actively managed and private property. We are continuously working in this catchment, returning to each compartment every 20 years or so to carefully harvest a small number of trees as each new crop matures.
In the Kalang River catchment, we only work in regrowth forest that has been harvested for timber previously. We use a very low-intensity harvesting method called light single tree selection, which means a small number of individual trees are selected and harvested and the majority of trees are left untouched. The harvesting machinery operators use GPS systems in the forest to ensure that harvesting avoids any areas that we require to be protected. Careful planning and management ensures these forests will continue to produce a sustainable supply of timber well into the future.
Log dumps are small clearings where logs are temporarily stored before they are picked up by trucks and transported to timber mills for processing. We establish temporary log dumps in each operation that we then restore and regenerate to native forest when the operation is complete.We try to minimise the number of log dumps in any operation and in the Kalang River catchment log dumps are up very high in the catchment alongside the roads that travel along the ridgelines.
Auditing and regulation
We take a great deal of pride in the work that we do and we spend a lot of time planning and reviewing our operations. There are strict regulations governing timber harvesting in NSW and all of our harvesting crews use GPS so operators know with a high degree of accuracy which areas are protected and we can also track where crews have been to ensure the harvest plan has been complied with.
The forests will be naturally regenerated after this operation. This allows a diverse variety of native species to regenerate in these forests. We do not use any fertiliser or weed control during the natural regeneration process.
NSW has the largest number of hardwood sawmills in Australia and the timber and wood products industries directly employ more than 500 men and women in the Coffs Harbour, Nambucca and Bellingen areas alone according to ABARES. The timber from the State forests in the Kalang River catchment is supplied to several sawmills in the Bellingen Valley, Nambucca and Grafton who will process it into a range of timber products that may include power poles, timber flooring and decking, pallets, fencing, roof battens and plywood.
The full range of timber products from power poles to timber pallets for transporting goods provide an important source of local work and revenue to businesses in the Bellingen area. Forestry Corporation staff and contractors also live and work locally in regional centres across the NSW north coast.