Government logging agency Sustainable Timber Tasmania have a few well worn lines they spin to distract the public, whose taxpayers dollars subsidise logging of our native forests that their practices are sustainable. Whether it's glossing over the fact that on average 80% of native forests logged go to woodchips, that after each forest is logged they will be intensively burned to be replaced by even aged fire prone tree crops, or the fact that logging our native forests is one of the leading factors to our biodiversity and native species loss. We've put a few of the frequent statements from STT, with some fact checks on them.
It's mostly woodchips
Woodchips account for the bulk of ‘product’ coming from our public forests. All wood product that is extracted from a forest (sawn timber logs and woodchip logs) still only accounts for about 20% at most of the entire forest that is destroyed in the clearfell operation.
Woodchipppers don’t just use the ‘waste’, they are extremely fussy about the quality of tree they take out.
The 3 Year Wood Production Plan available on the Sustainable Timber Tasmania website shows that 80% of Krushka's forests are destined for 'pulp' aka woodchips.
Logging and carbon emissions
Tasmania has carbon rich eucalyptus regnan and eucalyptus obliqua forests that have evolved over millennia and hold vast carbon stores not only in the trunks of the trees, but also in the carbon rich soils which are significant carbon sinks in themselves.
These forests can store up to 1,140 tonnes of carbon per hectare for centuries when left to their natural cycles, and when left intact these tall wet forests have proven to hold moisture in the landscape acting as fire buffers when bushfires, and escaped logging fires, move through.
Bushfires do emit large amounts of carbon, however, it is minute compared to that lost from logging and the hot management burns afterwards. The regenerating forests after a fire absorb much of the carbon in a relatively short period of time. Soil carbon remains intact. Trees and understory mostly survive and re-shoot quickly. This does not happen after logging – it takes the forest back to bare dirt – to square one. It would take hundreds of years to capture and store the carbon lost in one month of logging. Studies also show that regrowth after logging is more flammable, so native forest logging is actually contributing to bushfire threat.
Carbon stored in wood products
The government’s own reports gives a lifecycle for carbon (on average) in paper as 3 years, hardwood pallets and palings at 10 years. Whilst individual products may last longer, this is incomparable to the thousands of years of carbon storage in forests, woodlands and soils.
On average, logs suitable to be sawn into timber (saw logs) make up only an average 35% of total logs cut for non pulp purposes.
Of this 35%, sawmills convert less than 40% into sawn timber for building and furniture. Offcuts are woodchipped and pulped for paper manufacturing, along with sawdust increasingly being touted as a feedstock to make wood pellets for biomass heaters.
Sawn timber equates to 14% of log volume cut from native forest. The remaining 84% of logs cut are used in short-lived and often disposable products like copy paper and pallets.
Nothing can compete with longevity of storage in a living forest particularly when you consider the small proportion of a logged forest that ends up in a medium or ‘long lived’ wood products. The recovery rate of sawn timber from a sawlog is less than 30 per cent and the percentage of sawlogs in a forest can be as low as 10 per cent… which is why markets for ‘waste’ or pulp logs are so critical for economic viability .
Logging Tas forests saves Asian forests
The native forest logging industry states that logging our native forests will prevent logging and degradation of rainforests across South East Asia, particularly for paper production.
This is just ridiculous The wood from Tasmania’s, or any of the Australian states, plantation sectors, essentially timber farms, rather than trees growing “wild” in native forests – could replace native forest logs used for paper manufacturing several times over.
In fact, in 2016-17 89% of logs used to make wood pulp (pulplogs) for paper production in Victoria came from plantation trees, with the majority of hardwood logs exported.
And Australia is a net exporter by volume of lower-value unprocessed logs and woodchips.
Processing pulplogs from well managed plantations instead of exporting them would give a much needed jobs boost for local economies.
With most of these plantations established on previously cleared farmland, they offer one of the most robust ways for the land use sector to off-set greenhouse gas emissions.
Can't replace an ecosystem
For the past 40 years, the management of native forests has been a deliberate conversion to intensively managed single aged, single species tree crops. Native forests are being steadily industrialised to only grow the commercial tree species and nothing else.
As entire landscapes are converted from complex wet forest ecosystems to single aged eucalypt tree crops, we are creating increasingly fire prone areas and communities
After a forest is logged it is intensively burnt, to stop the existing seed bank from emerging and competing with the tree crops. Areas logged in such ways are never again complex ecosystems they once were, proof that logging cannot be sold as being sustainable.
Forest carbon banks
The Tasmanian and Australian government to date have failed to keep up with global recognition of the carbon values of our forests. We need to develop a long-term carbon storage plan that includes intact native forests.
Logging results in at least 94% of a forest’s stored carbon ending up in the atmosphere. A maximum of 6% of its carbon remains in sawn timber, for at best to 90 years, though based on the pulp and paper component of native forest logging 3-10 years is more common. This is patently counterproductive from a carbon-storage point of view.
Nothing can compete with longevity of carbon storage in a living forest particularly when you consider the small proportion of a logged forest that ends up in a medium or ‘long lived’ wood products. The recovery rate of sawn timber from a sawlog is less than 30 per cent and the percentage of sawlogs in a forest can be as low as 10 per cent… which is why markets for ‘waste’ or pulp logs are so critical for economic viability .
In addition to this, intact native forests both store carbon and transpire oxygen. Something a pulp products or a beam cannot do.
Blue Derby Wild is a community collaboration run by volunteers passionate about protecting our wild places and building a prosperous future for our region.