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Bellingen Shire to harvest steep slopes

Removing timber from the Bellingen shire’s steep slopes ended in the 1950s-60s when Forestry Corporation (FC) realised the practice of applying conventional ground-based harvesting methods to the mountain ranges caused significant soil erosion and water pollution. Source: The Bellingen Shire Courier Sun

However, this may be set to change with an announcement that FC will undertake a trial to determine the feasibility of using alternative extraction methods, namely cable harvesting, to access timber on steep ground.

FC is taking the lead from other forestry regions that have found alternative techniques to allow both access to timber and a reduction of soil disturbance.

“Forestry Corporation is considering trialing technology that has been successfully used interstate and overseas to reduce soil and water disturbance to extremely low levels while harvesting timber in steep areas,” an FC spokesperson said.

The impact on the Bellingen Valley’s State Forest from the sample harvest will be monitored and evaluated by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).

“FC has commenced discussions with the EPA to design a trial that meets strict environmental criteria to test the technology in areas of regrowth forest that have been harvested for timber in the past. These discussions are continuing,” the spokesperson said.

In addition, the trial’s success will be evaluated on the overall benefits of alternative timber harvesting practices, costs and operational constraints.

The machinery used for the trial will be determined by specialised cable-harvesting modelling software. It measures the weight and height of logs, access to harvest area and infrastructure requirements and combines this with topographic information to determine the extraction path for logs suspended by a fixed cable.

Once the trial design has been finalised, a contractor will be engaged to undertake the work.