The Future of Tasmanian Blackheart Sassafras
A good number of our products come from Tasmanian woodworkers, using the iconic Tasmanian timbers for which that island is famous; namely Blackheart Sassafras, Huon Pine, Celery Top Pine, Myrtle and Blackwood, plus some lesser-known varieties such as Leatherwood, King Billy Pine and Horizontal. These special timbers, native only to Tasmania, have resulted in a thriving woodcraft sector as well as a wooden boat-building industry that is world-renowned. But what of the future for the special timbers that these groups rely on for their craft?
The Tasmanian Forestry Agreement: Is it sustainable?
You may have picked up that a big discussion on the future of Tasmania’s forests has been swirling around for years, giving birth to the Tasmanian Forestry Agreement of 2013. This agreement meant that the future of the special timber sector was thrown into complete disarray with the sustainable, selective harvesting of the forests no longer an option. The woodcraft industry uses only a fraction of the timber logged in Tasmania and through the skill of this little island’s artisans, it becomes a high-value end product unlike the trees turned into woodchips for paper. It was a shame that this vibrant creative sector had been swept up in the process of protecting Tasmania’s wilderness though all of us are glad I am sure, of the heritage listing now given to Tassie’s old-growth forests (a visit to the Tarkine, Florentine and Styx forests, containing some of the tallest hardwoods in the world, is on my bucket list).
The Special Case for Blackheart Sassafras
Blackheart Sassafras was one timber particularly affected as it is less common than other trees and its characteristic black streaks are caused by a fungus that is a naturally occurring phenomenon that cannot be cultivated; to quote one maker,
“The new Tasmanian Forest Agreement has resulted in large tracts of re-growth forests being locked up. These areas were the main source of our special timbers and with this lock up it has dramatically reduced the amount of timber available. Accordingly, our supplier has increased the price of timber. The rise in Sassafras is the most dramatic and we have been forced to pass much of the increase on to our customers. This is most regrettable but we have been given no choice.”
What it means for our customers
To all Australian Woodwork customers, if you have cherished a desire to have something in Blackheart Sassafras, now would be a good time to indulge as it looks as though this beautiful timber will become increasingly scarce and increasingly pricey. Even if the requests of the craft industry are heeded, it may not affect the future availability of Blackheart Sassafras as this highly decorative timber, once thrown away, has been recognised as extremely valuable which results, predictably, in little available for the local craft industry with most exported as highly expensive veneer. We will keep you posted on this!
Click here to view our range of beautiful Sassafras products including salt and pepper mills, various boxes, coasters and fridge magnet/bottle openers pictured below.