Michael Ryan, forest scientist, VicForests Melbourne
Letter to the editor, The Age, 23 June 2009.
GAVAN McFadzean (Comment, 22/6) rightly points out that the old-growth mountain ash forests of the Central Highlands are important carbon stores. These are also relatively rare as much of this forest was killed during the 1939 fires. The old-growth forests remaining after 1939 were predominantly in Melbourne's water supply catchments. Unfortunately, they are far from fire resistant and many magnificent stands, including the state's top 10 tallest trees in the Wallaby Creek and O'Shannassy catchments, were killed in the February fires.
The small portion of the mountain ash forests that are harvested for timber production have, almost exclusively, originated from the wildfires of 1939. These regrowth forests form the basis of the Victorian hardwood sawmilling industry. Logs from the Central Highlands that are not suitable for sawing are predominantly used for paper production, creating value-added products and sustainable jobs in regional Victoria.
Sustainable timber production is greenhouse friendly, with harvested forests being regrown and becoming carbon sinks. As the trees grow they continue to take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere — at a greater rate than old-growth forests.