State forests are managed over the long-term to grow and regrow and our fire recovery program includes forest assessments, seed collection and storage and expansion of our nurseries to grow seedlings.
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. 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. We are also expanding our nurseries and ramping up our planting program to restock plantations in the shortest possible timeframe.
We are working with local mills to help ensure timber is available for the NSW community to rebuild after the fires. 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. Find out more about selective harvesting in fire-affected native forests.
Operations in forests not impacted by fire
The Regional Forest Agreements set aside around a quarter of all forest in NSW for permanent protection in national parks and conservation areas and designated a small proportion of native forest to be managed for multiple uses including timber production.
Timber harvesting takes place in around 0.1 per cent of forested land in NSW each year in line with strict regulations that were developed by expert scientific panels to protect and maintain wildlife habitat, the Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (CIFOA).
The CIFOA conditions were specifically developed to protect koalas and koala habitat during forestry operations and ongoing research shows koalas continue to occupy forests where timber harvesting takes place in line with these conditions at the same rate as unharvested forests.
While the 2019-20 fire season impacted large areas of the landscape, these robust underpinning protection measures continue to provide a very high level of protection for wildlife and their habitat.
However, Forestry Corporation is taking additional precautionary steps to minimise the impact of operations following these fires. Harvesting in native forests not impacted by fire has been reduced by moving the majority of operations into hardwood plantations, and working with the Environment Protection Authority who authorised selective harvesting in a small number of areas impacted by fire following development of additional site-specific conditions designed to further mitigate harvesting impacts.
Forestry Corporation is continuing to work with the EPA in good faith to develop and implement site specific operating conditions in areas affected by fires to continue to balance the community’s need for timber with high levels of environmental protection.
Following an environmental assessment, Forestry Corporation has also proposed a gradual return to working under the prescriptions of the Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval augmented by additional voluntary measures to minimise the impact of operations in the post-fire landscape.
Timber is an important renewable product that is in demand as communities rebuild from recent fires and creates ongoing employment in local communities. Forestry Corporation is committed to working collaboratively with the EPA to ensure this resource continues to be managed in line with ecologically sustainable forest management principles following the recent fires.
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.
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.
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.