The RIC Good Wood Guide

Native & Exotic Timbers - a Word of Caution

(See also Buying Native Timber, below)

1. Avoid Imported Rainforest Timbers

These are not ethically-acceptable from ecological or human rights standpoints. Avoid all use of them. The exception to this rule is tropical timber which can be shown to be genuinely grown in plantations (ie, certified by the FSC as such).

There may be other exceptions, where tropical timber is harvested ethically and sustainably, but without its having been given certification 1, it is very difficult for consumers to identify this timber or believe retailers' claims about its origin and environmental credentials.

2. Avoid Imported American and Canadian Timbers, such as Oregon and Red Cedar

Generally, these rarely prove to be ethically-acceptable from a sustained-yield or ecological standpoint. Avoid their use.

There are several groups working in North America and Canada to achieve FSC accreditation so that they can begin to certify timber from their own regions and elsewhere 2.

3. Avoid using Australian Rainforest and Old Growth Forest Timbers

Nowhere in Australia are native forests on public land logged on a sustainable basis. Our national heritage is being destroyed and our native timber reserves overcut. For this reason, timber from Australian native forests is not recommended. Timber from old growth forest, Australian rainforest or other areas of high conservation value is not considered ecologically responsible. There are exceptions to this 3.


These are species which frequently grow at higher elevations that are often wilderness areas. Old Growth timber is often sold in the form of large boards and beams. Avoid these large formats.


If at all possible, please try and avoid purchasing timber cut from native forests where export woodchipping is the predominant reason for the presence of the logging companies.

Woodchips, in their own right, are not necessarily a bad thing, since they actually can make good use of sawmill waste which might otherwise be burned or discarded. (A large proportion of exotic plantation resource could provide pulp, paper and 'chip, thus relieving pressure on native forests.)

However, in certain state forests, something like only one in eight logs is taken as a sawlog, the others going to the chipper. Sometimes bureaucracy/industry explanations that chipping logs not suitable for timber minimises waste, can just be a blind for an ulterior motive for maximising the extraction of woodchip trees.

Buying Native Timber

The North East Forest Alliance 4 has provided the following suggestions for buying native timbers. Following these suggestions will encourage the development of a more sustainable timber industry in this country:

  • Support small, locally-owned mills which are operating primarily in regrowth and/or plantation forests.
  • If your questions are met with disinterest, take your business somewhere else. If you are a regular purchaser, seek to develop a trust-relationship with the miller, so you know they are telling you the truth about the sources of their timber.
  • The size of the piece of timber, and whether or not it has knots, can be used as an indicator of the age of a tree - huge hardwood beams with few knots are the most likely to be old-growth. This is why the Guide recommends composite timber beams - the wood is far less likely to have been extracted from a threatened forest.

    1. See the Alternative Directory under FSC Accredited Certification Bodies for timber labelling groups working in tropical countries.

    2. See Certified Timbers Available for Import, and the Alternative Directory under Timber Certification Groups.

    3. See Timber Recommendations for Australian Users in this section.

    4. See under Forest Activist Groups.

    5. A blanket boycott of imported rainforest timbers by Australian forest and conservation groups has been in place for several years. Hopefully this can change somewhat as more community/ecoforestry-derived imported timber comes onto the market. NB: The Wilderness Society in late 1996 called for a renewed boycott of Boral's forest products, due to their continued poor environmental record. This should be taken to include Norths, Gunnings and Amcor, etc, for their cutting down ancient, old growth trees, when an increasingly plentiful supply of plantation timber is becoming available.

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