The alternative to clear-fell logging

//The alternative to clear-fell logging
The alternative to clear-fell logging2019-04-23T01:19:29+00:00

Clear-Fell logging alternative

It needs to be stated unequivocally that the authors of this website are not opposed to the practice of logging in native forest.

Indeed, the region in which we live – the Murrindindi Shire – situated in the north east of Victoria, covering an area of 3,889 square kilometers and including the townships of Alexandra, Buxton, Eildon, Yea, Flowerdale, Kinglake, Marysville and Molesworth, has enjoyed a rich history of logging dating back to well over 100 years. In fact, small mills operated in the area from the late 1870’s, supplying sawn timber for local consumption.

Due to the challenging and steep terrain in much of  the Central Highlands, light timber tramways drawn by horse, were constructed in the forests to transport sawn timber to the railway from mills located deep in the forest close to stands of timber. To get the timber to the railway, gravity and later with small steam locomotives were employed.

The industry back then was extremely labor intensive, employing a great deal of men. These timber pioneers lived with their families in the bush, which in turn supported local schools and businesses. There local tramways were their soul
connection to the outside world.

The devastation wrought by the 1939 bushfires that swept through Victoria had a catastrophic effect upon the timber industry, causing tragic loss of life among the forestry workers and their families. Many of the mills, houses and machinery were destroyed forcing the government of the day to ban the rebuilding of mills in the forest.

From this time forward, Mills were established in the major towns of the shire and saw logs were transported from the forests to the mills near town. This decision not only lead to the expansion of a domestic timber industry but lead to thriving employment within the shire.

These were the times of Selective timber harvesting where tress were sourced according to their value, cut down by axe, then cross cut saw and later the chainsaw.

At no stage during this type of harvest was the widespread destruction of the understory of a harvested tree (tree-ferns and ground cover) impacted. The soil and the tree trunk remained in place.

Timber extracted from the forest was bound for local and domestic (Victorian) consumption. The labor requirements of the industry alone resulted in wage payments in the tens of thousands of pounds and significantly boosted the local economy

The same cannot be said of the current method of clear-fell logging. Indeed, apart from the timber resource itself, this is where similarities end.

Clear-fell logging is on an industrial scale, employing minimal labor.

Huge machines rip trees out by their roots, cut them into lengths and load them onto B double log trucks. This timber is not sent to local mills (they no longer exist within the Murrindindi area). They are transported predominantly to the Japanese owned (Nippon) Australian Paper Mills in Maryvale, in the Latrobe Valley. It is at this very site where most manpower is employed.

When you factor in the actual loss of employment to the local towns and the potential loss of employment opportunity for ecotourism from a devastated, once beautiful rich biodiverse forest landscape, the losses to all Victorians is enormous!

Compounding the losses to our local economy, more than 85% of the timber harvested from our forests is wood chipped and sent overseas. We then import it back in the form of paper product.

This practice -put simply-is fragrantly unsustainable in every way.

There simply needs to be a better way forward.

If logging was to cease in the catchment today, timber could be readily source from current plantations tomorrow!

  • In 2017, Victoria produced 9 million cubic metres of logs from plantations. This would easily supply the pulp and paper mills at Maryvale several times over and employ the timber workers who lose their jobs in our native forests.
  • Currently Australia export lower value wood products (woodchips and unprocessed logs) that predominantly comes from plantations and import lower volumes of higher value wood products (such as paper). This means fewer jobs! If on the other hand plantation logs were processed here, more jobs in the timber industry would be created.
  • The industry is primarily a pulpwood industry focused on making paper and supports very few direct jobs
  • Ceasing logging in the headwaters of our catchments – and sourcing timber instead from well managed plantations – could boost water supply and create more jobs.

Historic Photos courtesy of National Library of Australia Collection

Colour photo courtesy of David Blair

Click images for more detail