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Study identifies opportunities for NSW forest owners

24 January 2018

New research from the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has highlighted promising opportunities for 18,000 North Coast private native forest (PNF) landholders, to increase income and create new jobs through ecologically sustainable forestry operations.

The study sheds light on the extent and status of the region’s privately owned forests, finding a large number of properties could be more actively managed for forestry and other environmental and social values.

DPI Leader Forests Research Dr Christine Stone said the $750,000 project surveyed more than 600 landholders, wood processors and contractors, and mapped more than five million hectares of North Coast forests.

“We have produced a range of practical resources for landholders to assess their own land – a level of data that the North Coast has not had access to before,” she said. All of the region’s forests have been mapped into timber yield association groups using satellite imagery.

“Aerial photography was also used to assess one million hectares of timber resources, with the information consolidated into forest growth status and site productivity maps,” Dr Stone said. “These mapping products allow landholders to consider their property from a forestry value perspective.”

The project team developed a model that rates larger blocks of forested land according to their forestry importance. The model takes account of forest size, type and productivity, terrain roughness and distance to wood processing facilities. While three quarters of the PNF on the North Coast are commercial forest types that can be sustainably managed for timber, Dr Stone said forest productivity is well below what it could be.

“Data on stand condition suggests there is great potential to improve the health and productive capacity of these forests through more active management,” she said. “There’s a great opportunity to engage with landholders more to increase their awareness and education of silvicultural practices, which can deliver major returns in the medium to long-term.”

Dr Stone said with the right care, this could turn currently underutilised resources into an industry that has the potential to create a new job for every additional 533m3 that is processed. “Research found that many landholders currently use their forests for multiple purposes, providing environmental, social and economic services simultaneously,” she said.

“It was promising to learn that most landholders see timber production and conservation as something that should go hand-in-hand – not separate.” Private native forests span more than 2.9 million hectares of North Coast land – making up more than half of the forests in the region.

To view a selection of the North Coast PNF resources, visit NSW Department of Primary Industries website at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/forestry/private-native-forestry

Source: New South Wales Dept. of Primary Industries

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