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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 4

I Management Of Native Forests
i Rain forests

II Plantations-high Productivity Resources

III Protecting The Resource

IV Harvesting The Resource

V Solid Wood And Its Processing

VI Minor Forest Products

VII Reconstituted Wood Products

VIII Pulp And Paper

IX Export Woodchips

X Future Directions

XI Acknowledgements



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Rain forests

The rain forests of northern NSW and Queensland have posed special problems in silvicultural treatment because of their complexity and fragility and past exploitation of their most commercially valuable species. In the late 1800s and early 1900s some attempts were made in northern NSW and Queensland to re-establish red cedar by planting seedlings in small clearings and along logging tracks. Other later attempts at encouraging regeneration in selectively logged areas involved clearing around selected seed trees or clearing strips of undergrowth and reducing canopy cover to increase light access. These operations were very labour intensive but did result in some good stands, chiefly of Queensland maple and maple silkwood, but only over small areas. Attempts to improve the natural regeneration of hoop pine were started in 1916 but these were subsequently abandoned in the 1920s in favour of clear-felling and plantation establishment. In 1946 a more systematic silvicultural treatment of Queensland rain forests was introduced, in which all non-commercial species and defective trees were felled, ring-barked or poisoned and the remaining trees thinned where necessary. In areas of poor stocking the treatment was supplemented by planting seedlings of valuable species.

In the mid-1950s more effective control was placed on harvesting rain forests. In NSW a volume quota was introduced instead of the earlier area allocation; in Queensland tree-marking (selection logging) was introduced to designate the trees which could be taken by the sawmiller. NSW set a requirement of 50 per cent canopy retention for much of its rain forest logging in the early 1960s, in order to retain species diversity and to prevent the die-back of the remaining trees. In 1976 a policy based on increased royalties and selective logging at a level sufficient to maintain canopy and rain forest structure was introduced, aimed ultimately at the phasing out of routine rain forest logging. Following strong public concern for the damage claimed to be done to the Terania Creek rain forests during logging a judicial enquiry set up by the NSW government found in favour of logging, provided strict environmental guidelines were observed. The government, however, chose not to implement that finding and logging ceased in the area in 1982. Other rain forest mills were given short-term timber allocations after which they will be expected to convert to non-rain forest species.

Silvicultural treatment of some of the selectively logged Queensland rain forests favouring commercial species continued, with some relaxation of requirements, until the mid-1970s, when it ceased because of the difficulty in finding suitable areas, the heavy canopy reduction and the realization that the money spent could be more effectively applied in exotic pine plantation establishment. Selection logging of the rain forests however continued. A review of this practice by the Queensland Department of Forestry in 1983[5] concluded that it enabled a logging cycle of 40-50 years to be sustained without loss of species diversity, that water values in rain forest catchments could be maintained if logging guidelines were rigorously observed and that it 'has only a minor impact on the rain forest environment and its effects are quickly dissipated'.

Logging is now confined to less than 20 per cent of the Crown rain forest in Queensland but is still opposed by conservation groups. Following an initial cut this area is now being managed on a sustained yield basis, with much lower logging quotas following a progressive reduction over the past few years to minimize the impact on the industry.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Queensland. Department of Forestry

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 200 - 201, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher