In early days of timber harvesting in Tasmania, special timbers were selectively harvested with good sawlog trees being felled, and mature trees not suitable for sawmilling left as seed trees to maintain forest composition. However, as the international woodchip market evolved and Tasmania’s forest harvesting became more mechanised, selective harvesting deliberately targeting special timbers gave way to broadscale integrated eucalypt harvesting. Integrated harvesting, whilst efficient, safe and economically attractive, did not harvest special timbers according to sector demand or age profiles. In fact, special timbers were not known by that name instead; being referred to as “minor species” – a minor by-product of eucalypt harvesting.
From a special timbers sustainability perspective this was certainly not ideal, and although integrated harvesting provided reasonable cost access to these timbers, it led to many oversupply or undersupply scenarios. The oversupply of special timbers led to wastage of this precious resource as it was not valued as highly as it should have been. Under-supply led to large price increases and businesses stockpiling in an attempt to future-proof their operations.
Many in both the forest industry and the special timbers wood processing sector were frustrated knowing that there was a better way to manage this precious resource.
Thankfully things have been changing.
The commodities based eucalypt industry is shifting to an industry primarily based on re-growth forests and substantial plantation assets, reducing the need to harvest in mature or “old-growth” forests. This change in direction has also provided an opportunity for a paradigm shift for the special timbers sector; an opportunity to operate on a “tread widely, tread lightly” basis to ensure that this precious resource is carefully managed sustainably, for both current and future generations.
A new special timbers management plan is due to be released later in 2017. Part of the work to inform this plan has involved an actual assessment of standing volumes of commercial sized trees, by species, and grade in land tenures where special timber harvesting is permitted. The assessment has utilised best available technology for assessment including LiDAR. After log recovery and area discounts had been applied, remaining volumes were then used to calculate an annual maximum sustainable harvest volume, by species, in perpetuity.
The study affirmed conservation assessments that none of Tasmania’s special timber species are listed as endangered, vulnerable or rare in any form. The assessment also confirmed that there are significant quantities of special timbers remaining that can be managed on sustainable, species dependent rotations in perpetuity for generations to come.