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Victorian Wildfires: Implications for sustainable harvesting of native forests

Victorian Wildfires: Implications for sustainable harvesting of native forests

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Victorian Wildfires: Implications for sustainable harvesting of native forests

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  1. Victorian Wildfires: Implications for sustainable harvesting of native forests Presentation to ABARE Outlook Conference Canberra Tuesday 2 March 2010 Michael Ryan Forest Scientist VicForests

  2. Outline of Presentation • VicForests business • Responsibilities VicForests, Department of Sustainability and Environment • Volumes harvested and silvicultural systems • The Fires • Salvage harvesting and implications • Forest recovery • Conclusions

  3. VicForests business is?? Sustainable harvest and sale of trees like this: Toolangi 1939 Mountain Ashphoto: Michael F. Ryan Into $ for treasury from sale of sawlogs and pulpwood And to regenerate sites afterwards

  4. And this produces… Housing, flooring, furniture, woodchips and paperphotos: Michael F. Ryan

  5. But increasingly it has been salvaging dead timber Big Hill Mt Beauty post 2003photo: Michael F. Ryan

  6. State forest planning harvesting - responsibilities • Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE): responsible for forest management and the regulation of commercial activities and determining the sustainable area for timber production • VicForests: responsible for harvest and sale of native forest timbers and regeneration of the harvested forest in Eastern Victoria. • We are the second largest hardwood producer in Australia • We are certified to the Australian Forestry Standard • We produce a natural product virtually free from pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers • We are heavily influenced by the natural environment – especially fire • We operate on about 10% of Victoria’s publically owned forests

  7. VicForests by Numbers (VicForests annual report) • 132 Staff • $135M Revenue, • 1.7M m3 of log products per annum • 79 Contractor companies 350 employees • 35 Customers 1,300 employees

  8. VicForests by Numbers • 160 Yellow Goods Photos Michael F. Ryan

  9. VicForests by Numbers • 210 Log Trucks Photos Michael F. Ryan

  10. What sort of silviculture do we use 2008/09?

  11. Average stumpage values for future sawlog sales

  12. Fires are a natural part of our landscape Wallaby Creek Fire killed Mountain Ash burnt 7th February 2009 – Kinglake National Park photoMichael F. Ryan Control burn Powelltown photoMichael F. Ryan

  13. Fires area 1939 ~3M ha

  14. Fire Area 1983 – 460,000 ha

  15. Fire Area 2003 – 1.3M ha (Victoria figures only)

  16. Fire Area 2006/07 1.2 M ha (source VicForests)

  17. Fire Area 2009 – 430,000 ha

  18. Fire Impacts 2009 • The most devastating fires in Australia’s history • 173 people killed • 70 Communities affected including the almost complete destruction of the towns of Marysville, Strathewan, Callignee, Flowerdale much of Kinglake and St Andrews • More than 2000 houses destroyed • 430,000 ha forest burnt • Ongoing Royal Commission

  19. Fire Impact on VicForests • Around 50% of VicForests’ staff and contractor workforce was directly involved in fire fighting duties. • About 10% of VicForests timber resources severely burnt (approximately 50 000 ha – 25k Ash Species – 25k Mixed Species of 464 000 ha out of available and suitable forest area). • Affected area was primarily 1939 “Black Friday” fire regrowth • 17 pieces of contractor plant burnt. • 2 sawmills destroyed • 50 000 tonnes (~$2M) of processed pulpwood lost from in-forest log dump in Marysville • Damage to roads and bridges

  20. Business Response Four Projects Initiated: • People – manage trauma and return to work for staff and contractors • Resource – Model impact on future wood supply (80+ years) • Salvage – plan harvesting within fire killed areas • Communication – pro-active, consistent information to all stakeholders

  21. Objectives of Salvage Program • The objectives of the salvage program were to: • minimise the impact of the fire on future supply levels; • minimise impact on existing contractual commitments to customers and contractors; • maximise (given current constraints) the value recovery from burnt forests; • maximise salvage timber harvested instead of harvesting unburnt forests; • Harvest in accord with specific salvage prescriptions and Code of Forest Practice

  22. Sawlog Quality and degrade Salvage ash log – barrel checking Conventional ash log

  23. Post Wildfire recovery 2009

  24. Post wildfire recovery - Use of Aerial Imagery Figure 5: Coupe off Mt Margaret Keppel’s Creek and distinct “shadow” on North East (upper left) edge evidently burnt after the South Westerly change (photo: Lucas Russell) Figure 6: Keppel’s Creek regeneration from 2004 near Mt Margaret showing distinct “shadow” on North East (upper left) edge. This was burnt after the South Westerly change. (Image VicForests LRI imagery)

  25. Planning salvage in the burnt landscape

  26. VicForests harvest volumes – (VicForests Data)

  27. VicForests salvage volumes – (VicForests Data)

  28. Regeneration – existing seedlings plus seed Aerial Sowing following salvage operations of fire killed Alpine Ash 2006/07 Mt Beauty Photos Michael F. Ryan

  29. November 03

  30. November 04

  31. November 05

  32. November 06

  33. September 07

  34. May 09

  35. CONCLUSIONS • The February 2009 fires had a devastating impact on people, townships, the environment and many dependent industries • Much of the existing timber industry is based on harvesting the regrowth from the 1939 Black Friday fires • Timber needs to be salvaged quickly before the sawlog quality degrades • Salvage harvesting helps to meet existing contractual commitments and therefore reduces the impact of catastrophic fires on resource availability in the long term • There is still a strong future for the Victorian native forest industry but there will be some reduction in future timber availability • Catastrophic fire is an unwelcome, but essential, part of the ecology of the forests of south-eastern Australia Silvertop Ash Cotyledons – Moondara photo: Michael F. Ryan

  36. Thank you Information sources VicForests staff for photos VicForests Annual report 2009 VicForests Sustainability report 2009 VicForests annual operations report 2008/09 Bushfire Royal Commission Interim report 17 August 2009 Bushfire Royal Commission Statement of Esplin 2009 A more detailed paper is in preparation for Australian Forestry Contact Details: Michael Ryan 0411-285568 Post salvage Regeneration Big Hill Mt Beauty photo: Michael F. Ryan