Image for Real Native Forest Blackwood

The article A missed opportunity for the Forestry Peace Agreement by Dr. Gordon Bradbury (18/05/2011) is sadly misguided nonsense, in my opinion.

While I am not surprised Tasmania is hosting three international forestry experts, (so many come here from all around the planet all the time), I take issue with the misguided article Dr. Gordon Bradbury has written, and seek to put him straight on a couple of points.

While I agree there is little being shown in Tasmania of a preparedness to do Blackwood plantations properly, and the attempts undertaken in the recent past have been dismal failures, and while that could easily change, you have to ask some fundamental questions about native forest Blackwood, and understand what it is the market wants.

There is no problem with the management of Blackwood in native forest in Tasmania. Blackwood lives to around 120 years, so old-growth Blackwood is nothing like old-growth Huon Pine, some of which are more than 3,000 years old and still growing. However, plantation grown Blackwood of 20 years is nothing like mature native forest Blackwood. Mature Blackwood usually has a rich, deep colour and often has complex grain patterns that are sought after by cabinetmakers, furniture designers, and wood turners.

I love the shimmering madness of fiddleback Blackwood, even though it is difficult to work with. On the other hand, plantation grown Blackwood is straight, light in colour, less in density, strength, and tightness of grain, and really rather boring. I have no doubt that in this form it is more attractive to the makers of veneered plywood panels, and examples of those can be seen on the walls of the Stanley Burbury Theatre on the Hobart campus. However, ask a wood turner or a craftsperson seeking the high trilogy of good design, good materials, and good workmanship, and they will say they prefer the tortured complexity and uniqueness of native forest grown Blackwood any day.

No comparison!

The Britton family in Tasmania’s north-west has been in the Blackwood saw milling business for just over one hundred years. In that time they have visited some patches of forest in their harvesting area on more than three occasions for major harvesting activities. On each occasion they have harvested what they needed, and were always presented with trees of a range of ages, from newly emerging saplings to mid-aged stands to some quite old trees across the landscape. With careful management there will always be old trees, new regrowth, and the full spectrum in between. There will never be the need for herbicides, pesticides, irrigation, or any other such intervention, and not far away there are reserves that will never be touched. In the scenario I describe the arts-based wood sector can get exactly the kind of Blackwood it treasures.

Why would you seek to shut that down? An expansion of the plantation sector, with the right controls, would be welcome for the markets that want it, but moves to shut down the existing native forest supplies are just not on.

I dispute the suggested need to transition out of native forest, and call on decent people to contemplate what they would lose, and the number of people downstream from the harvesting and processing side of the industry that would lose their livelihood and the object of their passion.

Attached are images of jewellery boxes I have made, featuring fiddleback Blackwood and Bird’s Eye Huon Pine.

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