Forest industry looks now to salvage operations

Friday 31 Jan 2020

The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) has warned politicians and policy makers that bushfires had caused "unprecedented" damage to the industry through impacts on native forest and plantation timber stocks. AFPA said there was a "narrow window of opportunity" before burnt timbers degraded and requested funding to support salvage harvesting operations after this summer's bushfires and to conduct fuel load reduction measures (both mechanical and by prescribed burning) across the country.

"Subject to environmental considerations, state governments should support salvaging timber from all burnt forests to clear roads, minimise fuel loads and allow greater flexibility for meeting timber supply requirements," AFPA said.

Australian National University Fenner School of Environment professor David Lindenmayer said logging in forests after fire harmed flora and fauna by removing tree hollow habitat for animals, damaged soil from trucks and equipment, and caused flow-on effects to waterways.

"It has a massive impact on soil, on birds and possums and gliders, and on large old trees. On a whole bunch of things. The forest's recovery is impaired by 80 to 180 years, so it's a massive setback," Professor Lindenmayer said.

Former logging contractor Michael McKinnell, who worked for VicForests until 2018, questioned the logic of calls to expand industry access to forests. He said while logging after fire made economic sense for certain types of timber, particularly ash which doesn't survive being burnt, it wasn't warranted in mixed species forest which predominates in major fire grounds of East Gippsland and south-east NSW.

"University of Melbourne Professor of forestry Rod Keenan said under current regulations, with logging restricted to state forests, salvage logging could be managed to minimise the environmental impacts. "There are ways to do salvage logging that doesn't impact more broadly on the environment," Professor Keenan said.

"You wouldn't expect to see logging across large areas, that's not what is happening now anyway. The timber industry is only focused on a relatively small part of the landscape." Professor Keenan said after the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria salvage logging was conducted on 10,000 hectares, out of a total of 400,000 hectares that was burnt.

AFPA chief executive Ross Hampton said it was common practice to harvest burnt and damaged trees from fire grounds for processing in sawmills.

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Source: Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Forest Products Association

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