Australasia's home for timber news and information

Alternatives to clearfelling

The development of variable retention silviculture will open the way for Forestry Tasmania to retain stands of old growth trees in regrowth forest, in line with international best practices.

David Llewellyn, Minister for Energy and Resources, told the Tasmanian Government Business Enterprise hearing today that variable retention was already being applied to some regrowth coupes within the range of the threatened swift parrot.

“Forestry Tasmania is about to trial the harvesting method in other suitable regrowth coupes,” Llewellyn said.

“The new harvesting program provides an alternative to clearfelling and will be guided by ‘A new silviculture for Tasmania’s public forests: a review of the variable retention program,’ a report released in May.

“The report confirms that it’s possible to achieve the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement target of reducing clearfell to less than 20% of old growth coupes harvested, while still maintaining sawlog supply and jobs.

“However, this does come at a cost. The report shows that it works out at $5.20/t or $1m/year more than clearfelling.”

Llewellyn said that estimates show that 1000ha of variable retention a year could be implemented while still maintaining forest industry employment and constraining costs.

“It may be that the areas of variable retention could be increased if a biomass plant were established.

“That would allow more residues to be removed, thereby lessening the risk involved with regeneration burning in variable retention coupes.”

Key recommendations of the report include that:

  • · variable retention be recognised under the Forest Practices Code;
  • · further research be undertaken on fostering old growth elements in regrowth forests;
  • · opportunities be pursued for using harvest residues for biomass energy production;
  • · continuation of the establishment of the 5300 hectares of plantation on non-native vegetation land as provided under the TCFA; and
  • · funding be sought to expand plantations on other non-native vegetation land.
  • The report, ‘A new silviculture for Tasmania’s public forests: a review of the variable retention program’ may be downloaded from the Forestry Tasmania website at