Forestry harvest at full tilt

A burnt section of pine in the Greenhills State Forest.

Forestry Corporation of NSW has a massive task ahead over the next 12 months as they work to harvest burnt trees from fire-affected plantations across the region, working against the clock to log as much as possible before deterioration begins.

A spokesperson for Forestry Corporation said that the process of harvesting burnt trees is very similar to the harvesting of green trees, the main difference being the impact logs have on machinery and the working environment, which can become dusty with charcoal.

“This requires extra maintenance and hand cleaning,” they said.

Forestry Corporation’s main objective over the next 12 months is to harvest as much timber from burnt areas as possible. They intend to work with other forest owners on salvage operations to “ensure the industry can generate the maximum timber from the fire affected areas.”

“If we can salvage trees within the first 12 months, the wood underneath the burnt bark has the same structural properties as unburnt timber, so it can be processed into house frames, furniture and other essential renewable wood products,” the spokesperson said.

“After about 12 months, the burnt trees start to deteriorate, so we will be harvesting trees from plantations as quickly as possible to get the timber to processors while it’s still merchantable.”

Once the burnt logs have been harvested, if kept under water or sprinklers they can be stored for several years without deteriorating, which further extends the salvage opportunity.

The massive harvesting task is significantly increasing jobs in the short term as the industry harvests more than the normal annual volume of timber. There is concern amongst workers as to what jobs will be available when the burnt logs run out and the waiting period for new harvests begins.

Forestry Corporation is thinking about the long-term, focusing on the replanting process just as much as the current harvesting period.

“There will also be investment in effort and resources over the coming years as we replant and regrow these plantations with renewable timber for the next generation,” the spokesperson said.

Softwood timber plantations around Tumut are planted with a pine species native to North America which, unlike eucalyptus trees, are not fire tolerant and do not reshoot new growth after fires. That is another reason why Forestry Corporation and other forest owners are working to harvest as quickly as possible

“After pine plantations are harvested, they are replanted by hand with seedlings grown specifically for timber production in our Blowering Nursery in Tumut to regrow the plantations for future timber production.

“As the area impacted by fires this season is greater than the area we routinely harvest and replant in a year, we anticipate a larger than normal planting program over the next few years to re-establish all of the fire-affected plantations.”