Toolangi FCV District, 1960
This article is based on notes prepared for a tour of the Toolangi FCV District's forests by a group investigating the relationship between forest management and water supply.
When the Forests Commission was formed in 1919, it was required to take in hand vast and inaccessible tracts of unprotected forests, the management of which had been subjected, before and after the turn of the Century, to all the disadvantages of loose, changing and divided control, together with a lack of information, finance and facilities. In consequence the forests close to Melbourne and large country centres were in a deplorable state, due to the combined effects of stagnation, ruthless exploitation (indiscriminate and highly selective cutting) and repeated firing. This meant that the accessible forest fringes were virtually ransacked of sound mature timbers, and due to careless and excessive use of fire in land selection and improvement, most remaining timbers deeper into the forest, whether mature or overmature, were extensively fire damaged and often diseased.
While the heavy demands of the State's development necessitated the continuation of sawmilling and associated timber getting, and this was affected, with the gradual introduction of more complete utilisation, the Commission concurrently set about a program of rehabilitation. This program was twofold in character based on protecting the forest from fire and disease and secondly, to improve the establishment of regeneration and accelerate forest growth. The program proceeded slowly for some 20 years, due largely to restricted finance and the necessity for augmenting the FCV's scientifically trained personnel. However, a major setback in the tragic and devastating destruction wrought by the fires of 1939 also brought an awakening, and coupled with the demands caused by salvage of the fire killed forests, and such major events as WW2 and its aftermath, gave Victorian forestry a much needed impetus. It was at this stage that development of Victoria's forest estate really got under way.
The broad basis of the fire protection and utilisation of the forests, has been the development of a network of roads linked with the public roading system. There are now some 250 miles of forest roads in the Toolangi District. The standard of roads vary from all-weather timber extraction roads to unsurfaced patrol roads for fire protection purposes. The road network is supplemented by a network of firelines, particularly on ridges and along forest margins, and disposal of inflammable material by burning along road margins and in other vulnerable locations. Fire towers are located within the District and these together with towers in adjacent Districts, provide complete detection coverage. Fixed, portable and mobile radio sets, as well as telephone lines provide essential communication. Earthmoving plant, tankers, pumpers, transport and other equipment are available for suppression operations. Access is provided to permanent streams, dams are prepared where water is lacking along roadsides. Dugouts are provided for refuge in an emergency.
The principal operations are regeneration and liberation fellings, and ringbarking in selected locations. These operations have been carried out in the stagnating, overmature, fire damaged and partly cutover stands. The objectives are:
- Recovery of all residual logs.
- Promotion of seedfall.
- Creation (by making openings) of conditions (warmth, light, moisture) conducive to germination of seed and seedling establishment.
- Release of established seedlings from the effects of competition.
Healthy trees of advanced development are retained as growing stock.
Thinning, which in the Toolangi District must shortly become a major focus of work, is confined to the better quality advanced regrowth stands which yield a return from the merchantable produce, such as case logs and pulpwood, removed.
Toolangi is one of the six Forest Districts which comprise the Central Division. The District embraces some 100,000 acres of Reserved and Protected Forests situated north (chiefly) and south of the Great Dividing Range. The party will tour the headwaters of the Yea and Murrindindi Rivers in the southern fringe of this forest, which abuts the MMBW (Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works) Maroondah Catchment on the Divide, and extends northerly into the Niagaroon Forest District in the vicinity of the townships of Yea and Alexandra on the Goulburn River.
It is from these and the adjacent Upper Yarra District forests south of the Dividing Range that the great bulk of Victoria's sawn timber requirements have been drawn for over half a century. Some idea of the economic importance of these forests is that substantially over one thousand million super feet (HLV 1) have been drawn from them since 1940. This would represent a sawn timber market value of £25,000,000. Peak production was reached during 1948/49. Since 1955 the decline has been rapid and this year will see a virtual cessation of supplies from the Toolangi District.
Topography, soils etc.
Elevations reach 3,200 feet, the formation is steep to medium slopes with numerous fast flowing permanent streams. The underlying rock formation is granite and soils derived therefrom are, in the main, rich deep loams. Rainfall varies from 60” to 80” per annum.
The forest is mountain temperate moderate rainfall type, consisting of stands of mountain ash with a typical understorey consisting of silver wattle, blackwood, myrtle beech, sassafras, musk and blanketwood, and an underscrub of ferns, shrubs, wiregrass, vines and wild hops. Extensive inliers of mixed species eucalyptus, messmate and mountain grey gum, occur at the higher levels, with common peppermint, manna gum and brown stringybark frequently appearing at the lower elevations.
Age and Condition of Stands
The mountain ash stands, through which the tour will pass, largely comprise regrowth established following the 1939 fires, but scattered well developed stands of 46 to 60 years old regeneration are also present, as are much older scattered stands of badly fire damaged and overmature green timbers.
Review of Activities and Procedures
Following fires in the Murrindindi Valley in 1919, some of the fire killed ash was salvaged by the Department (felled and left in situ for preservation) and later, 1924 to 1926, much of it was milled. The party will be shown the regrowth stand which established following the 1919 fires.
Following the 1939 fires, which wreaked tremendous havoc, particularly in the fire tender mountain ash forests from Toolangi to Walhalla, the Commission set in motion an extensive timber salvage undertaking. It got underway in Toolangi in 1941 when road construction was commenced. The network of roads has since tapped all commercial stands of timber. Some 225,000,000 super feet HLV of logs have been extracted since commencement of the scheme.
Changing conditions involving economics, manpower, machinery, materials and techniques have varied utilisation practice, but basically forest procedures in both Toolangi and Marysville areas have been:
- Selective logging - the felling of mature trees which were certain to produce merchantable timber. This would usually be carried under licence (loggers and sawmillers).
- Cull logging - the felling of any tree in areas already selectively logged which would possibly yield a mill log and compensatory payment by the Department to any licensee for falling if a log was not obtained.
- Regeneration felling - the clear felling of an area with retention of selected growing stock and conversion of felled material into mill and case logs, pulpwood, etc. This is carried out Departmentally or under licence.
- Thinnings - in advanced regrowth stands by removal of suppressed or defective stems, and the spacing of remaining growing stock (dominants) to about 20 feet or to 120 stems per acre according to size and age etc. In 40-50 year old stands this results in the removal per acre of about 8,000 to 10,000 super feet HLV of logs, leaving about 60,000 to 70,000 super feet per acre growing stock.
See also:Map - Murrundindi Sawmills and Tramlines on this page.
1 Hoppus Log Volume