Letter to the Editor: Sounds sustainable to me

DEAR News Of The Area,

IN answer to Warren Tindall’s question in his letter titled ‘Why are today’s logs so small?’ in the Coffs Coast NOTA (2/2/24), part of the reason that “today’s logs are so small” is that timber harvesting only occurs in regrowth forests in NSW.

Regrowth forests contain a mix of regenerating, young pole and early mature forest that has been harvested for timber many times over the last 150 years.

The average log size from regrowth forests is smaller than the logs being harvested prior to the introduction of the Regional Forest Agreement in March 2000.

Before the RFAs, sawmills sourced their timber from both existing regrowth forests along the coast and older, more mature forests further inland.

Many of these older forests were classified as “old growth”, as part of the Comprehensive Regional Assessment-RFA process and were protected in conservation reserves or by prescription through regulation.

Currently, over 90 percent of known old-growth forests on public lands are within formal or informal nature conservation reserves (http://www.oldforests.com.au/pages/Presentations/Clancy.pdf).

The change in average log size is entirely because of these changes, not overcutting, as suggested by Mr Tindall.

As an incentive to invest in technology capable of handling a smaller average log size, sawmills were offered resource security in the form of Wood Supply Agreements, which reflected both the terms of the RFA and the sustainable yield of timber from the forest.

On State forests, the sustainable yield is calculated over a rolling 100-year period, which were updated following the 2019-20 bushfires.

Simply put, the sustainable yield is ensuring the amount of timber harvested or allocated under contracts does not exceed the growth rate of the forest.

On the north coast, despite the widespread impacts of the fires, the long-term sustainable timber yield had only declined by four percent and “the models show that the total volume of timber produced today can be sustained over the long term” (Source: https://www.forestrycorporation.com.au/sustainability/the-story-of-forestry/timber-volumes-and-modelling).

That sounds sustainable to me.

Mr Tindall’s reference to jinkers (log trucks) full of “diminishing matchsticks”, as evidence of the decline in log diameters, and claims that “poor quality timber comes from the skinny resource”, fails to acknowledge that plantations and regrowth forests require thinning of the slower growing and defective stems to promote the growth of the better quality, healthier retained stems.

As a forest scientist with more than 35 years’ experience on the NSW north coast in both public and private sector forestry and land management, I think I have a pretty good handle on “post-war logging history and the current resource’s maths”.

Jamax Forest Solutions.

One thought on “Letter to the Editor: Sounds sustainable to me

  1. Thanks for this informative contribution to the debate. Unfortunately I don’t share your confidence in the long term environmental sustainability given the gradual conversion to preffered commervial species forests ( blackbutt, flooded /bluegum) here on the Coffs Coast and continual degradation of threatened species habitat by TSI timber stand improvement strategies and loss of biodiversity. When you can see where recent harvesting has occurred by the broken crowns, deliberately trashed non commercial species, thick lantana and privet you have an issue. I respect your wealth of experience but you need more then just a commercial perspective. A broad scale view while important also ignores local biodiversity and weak surveys which find nothing mean we have no real idea of what forestry practice has exterminated over the years.

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