Most people make it to adulthood realising that between black and white, there are plenty of greys. In recent weeks though, we have seen attack after attack on the forestry sector that wants to make us believe the world is divided into black and white, right and wrong, good and bad. These attacks have targeted native forestry harvesters and plantation owners alike, while one fact remains: forestry in Victoria is sustainable, and trees are, ultimately, a renewable resource. Wood and fibre products also continue to store carbon for their entire lifecycle.
Activists will have you believe there’s barely any forest left in Victoria. Of course, harvest sites look rough, no doubt about it. Images of coupes after harvesting tug on our heartstrings – whereas numbers do not. But here are some numbers all the same, facts that sometimes so inconveniently get in the way of a good story.
Victoria only harvests 0.04% of native forests per year. That’s one in every 10,000 trees. This minimum quota keeps a traditional sector – barely – alive and helps secure our sovereign timber-producing capability. In Victoria, around 420,000 hectares of plantation forests produce the bulk of the state’s forest products, with over 4 million hectares locked up and protected.
And here’s another number: the Victorian plantation sector plants around 15 million trees every year while the harvested areas of our native forests are regenerated. In both situations, foresters need to factor in deer browsing, natural disasters and other events. It might mean that not every single one of those trees will survive and thrive. But foresters take great care to ensure the majority does, and those areas fully regenerate over time.
An ecologically healthy forest requires active management, with sustainable harvesting a key part of the suite of management tools that foresters use. A lock-up-and-leave approach can have catastrophic consequences for the forest and the plant and animals that call our forests home. Forest management helps create firebreaks, reduce fuel loads, and fight invasive species.
Actively managing native forests is also in line with the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which found that:
“A sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber, fibre or energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained mitigation benefit.” – IPCC 4th Assessment.
Australia’s Indigenous people have been actively managing our forests for thousands of years. While forestry has been around for centuries and has come leaps and bounds in its commitment to environmental protection. We are also finding new ways to use wood fibre to provide a renewable and biodegradable alternative to plastic. We are investing in the technology to make the best use of all forest material harvested.
Wood is an amazing and flexible product with a myriad of uses. Just take a look around your own home! The frame for your house, flooring, kitchen cabinets, books, and, possibly, the very table you are sitting at. Then there’s musical instruments, paper, cardboard, tissues, newspaper, nappies, sanitary products, and paper towels.
It’s time for us to acknowledge the disconnect many of us have between the products we love and the process it takes to make them. And while we all love trees, locking up forests and buying wood products from overseas with an unclear chain of custody is not the right way to feel better about our choices. For the love of wood – choose Victorian-made.
Deb Kerr is CEO of the Victorian Forest Products Association