FROM THE BASIC DAYS OF PIT-SAWING
TO THE AUTOMATED TECHNOLOGY NOW USED IN THE SOFTWOOD INDUSTRY,
THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A TIME WHEN FOREST PRODUCTS
WERE NOT PART OF THE LOCAL ECONOMY.
The early foresters relied on strong and sturdy tools; sharp axes and even sharper saws.
The quality of their tools guaranteed not only that they met their timber quotas but also
contributed to their safety. They were incredibly knowledgeable and skilled at reading
landscape and trees, and carried out their work with the simple toolkit of the naked eye,
strength of hand and the astuteness of their ear. These foresters worked without the aid of
technology, something that we marvel at today.
The early cedar-getters would know the tree intimately by the time it was felled. The smell
would penetrate the air as would the creaking and boom of the fall. Harvesting a hundred
years ago was a physical and emotional achievement. Men and animals worked together to
transport logs down mountains and to markets. The work was slow and dangerous but the
bonds between foresters and their animal companions added to the sense of camaraderie
and accomplishment. Every person was responsible for an important link in the chain. The
forest was no place for complacency or shortcuts.
The early machines such as engines, chainsaws and trucks improved the lives of those
working the forest. New skills needed to be learned. Infrastructure that was built to hold
bullock teams was now being used by trucks, and techniques developed over the years were
challenged by new tools.
Currently, smart machines, both large and small populate the forest. Satellite sensors
alert foresters to block boundaries; hand-held drones hover above the forest measuring
trees while aircraft take photographs of the forests below. The modern day forester has
adapted sophisticated technology to deliver sustainable forests, where only carefullyselected
trees are harvested, terrain is mapped and water courses are effectively excluded.
Geographic information systems conduct electronic mapping, airborne laser technology
measures tree heights and crown shapes; sophisticated software collects and tracks data
on environmental features in real-time; and harvesting machinery is fitted with technology
that identifies the best place to cut a log to supply the right mix of timber products to market.
Research played a big part in the success of early forestry in NSW and has continued
to be pivotal to sustainable forest management today. Thorough investigation and the
application of that knowledge boosts yields, maximises healthy regeneration, innovates
along the supply chain and has built our understanding of the benefits and capabilities
of timber. With everyone working together, operations teams carry out the researchers’
methodologies, minimising the time between discovery and implementation.
While a steady ongoing timber supply has traditionally been an important focus of
scientific investigation in forests, the modern focus on the sustainability and biodiversity
of the whole forest ecosystem has seen research extend far beyond silviculture into areas
ranging from water quality to carbon storage.
Fauna has also benefited from the use of science in forests. Foresters have always
worked very closely with wildlife organisations to preserve habitat trees for the long-term
viability of endangered species. Technology has enabled tracking and conservation of the
many species who make NSW forests their home.
Programs to remove predators such as wild dogs and foxes from forests have resulted
in significant increases to populations of small mammals such as bandicoots and potoroos.
Remote sensing LiDAR data is now used to identify and protect forest structures favoured
by marsupials such as the Hastings River Mouse and years of research and monitoring
wildlife such as koalas has seen large areas of their preferred habitat set aside to ensure
their populations continue to thrive around and throughout productive areas of forest.
As technology and techniques have evolved, so too has the forestry profession. Our
forester employees have demonstrated great adaptability and exemplify willingness to
continually improve the way they operate. What has remained the same is their enduring
commitment to the sustainable stewardship of our great natural assets.