Forest management must provide for the many uses of the forest estate while at the same time maintaining the forests in a healthy and vigorous condition.
Forest management must provide for the many uses of the forest estate while at the same time maintaining the forests in a healthy and vigorous condition. A well managed forest estate is capable of a ‘sustained yield’ of timber each year, which is assessed by foresters to ensure the long-term productivity and viability of the forests of NSW. Foresters must ensure that trees removed by logging are replaced by natural regeneration or by planting, and protect the forests from bushfire and other damaging agents.
Forest management in this state is principally the responsibility of the Forestry Commission trading as Forests NSW. They are required to conserve and utilise the timber on Crown timberlands for the benefit of the people of NSW; to encourage the use of timber from trees grown in the State; to provide adequate and stable supplies of timber from Crown timberlands for building, commercial, industrial and agricultural purposes; to preserve and improve the soil resources and water catchment capabilities of lands under its management; and, where consistent with the use of State forests for the purpose of forestry and of flora reserves, to promote and provide for recreation within them.
As a public trading enterprise, Forests NSW must balance its objectives of commercial performance, where the benefit has a value in money, with the environmental, social and indirect economic benefits. These other benefits also have a value, however they are not paid for in the same way as timber. As the expectations of the community change some benefits become more important than others, Forests NSW has the responsibility to adapt. Sometimes such changes are factored into our economy, for example through carbon trading schemes, while other times Forests NSW relies on payment from government to ensure specific benefits can be provided, such as recreational facilities.
An obvious benefit derived from forests is the supply of timber, valued as a building material, and for many other uses such as furniture, panelling, flooring, wharf piles, utility poles, bio-fuel, and as raw material for particle board, veneers and plywood, paper, paperboard, and some insulation products.
There are, of course, many other benefits from the forests of NSW, including the protection of water catchments and biodiversity, the production of honey, pasture for domestic stock, bark products, Christmas trees and eucalyptus and tea tree oils. The forests also provide attractive landscapes, wildlife habitat, and recreation and education opportunities of many types.
Maintaining the connection between Aboriginal people and forests, and protecting areas of cultural heritage significance is an integral part of forest management. Forests NSW recognises Aboriginal interests and values in State forests, and is working in partnership with local communities to ensure ongoing access to forests for cultural purposes like gathering and occupation.
Forest management is also concerned with preservation and enhancement of the quality of the environment, the preservation (and improvement where possible) of the soil resources and water catchment capabilities of timberlands, the preservation of native plants, birds and animals, and the facilitation of recreation and teaching opportunities. Because of the vital role forests perform in maintaining water quality, timber harvesting procedures are designed to minimise stream pollution from soil disturbance by maintaining buffer zones and minimising water and soil run off from forest roads.
Forests play an important role in mitigating climate change, through the sequestration of carbon from the atmosphere. Sustainably harvested and regenerated forests reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) by storing additional carbon in wood products: the more timber-based products are used, the more CO2 is stored as carbon.
In 1992 a National Forest Policy was launched and continues to function as the blueprint for the management of public and private forests. As a result of this policy, 20 year Regional Forest Agreements were signed between the Commonwealth and State Governments for the coastal forests of NSW following extensive consultation with stakeholders. These agreements define how the public forests will be used and protected.
As part of this process large areas of State forest were transferred to the National Parks estate. Within the retained State forests harvest operations are excluded from 24% of State forest land for operational and environmental reasons, while an additional 24% of State forest land is in reserves, protecting rainforests, gullies and threatened species from harvesting.
The management of State forests is independently certified to the internationally recognised Australian Forestry Standard (AS 4708:2007). Forest management certification is a market-based, voluntary forest management tool designed to recognise and promote environmentally responsible forestry and sustainability of forest resources.
In 2005, the NSW Government introduced the Native Vegetation Act 2003, to end broadscale land clearing across the state. In 2007 a Code of Practice for private native forestry was introduced bringing these activities under the Native Vegetation Act 2003. The code helps ensure that logging of native forests on private property is sustainable.
It has long been apparent that the timber requirements of the people of NSW cannot be met from the sustained yield of carefully managed native forests. Pines, primarily Pinus radiata, and Eucalypt hardwoods have been planted on historically cleared agricultural land to fill the supply gap between the amount of wood used, and the lesser amount which our available native forests are able to supply under ecologically sustainable forest management. Pinus radiata has qualities not found in the NSW coniferous trees that provide softwood timbers. The object of the plantation programme is to avoid over reliance on imported timber, and to provide continuing raw materials to efficient forest products industries. Although only about 7.5% of State forest land is planted with pine trees, this small area produces about 57% by volume of NSW wood fibre.