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Aussie industry says ‘bonjour’ to visiting French foresters in unique knowledge-sharing exercise

FWPA recently had the opportunity to meet a group of 32 visiting French forestry professionals who made the trip to Australia to find out more about local forestry practices and glean valuable insights from a myriad of local leaders in the sector.

In what represented a fantastic example of international collaboration and knowledge sharing in the interests of the ongoing improvement of French forest management practices, the Mission Forêt initiative was a huge success for all involved.

The nine-day trip was organised by Groupama Forêts Assurances (MISSO), a mutually financed and jointly managed fund that has specialised in forestry insurance across France since its establishment in 1947.

In particular, MISSO focuses on insuring forests, timber and industrial production against fire, storm, frost, snow and civil liability risks. The organisation currently provides insurance cover for more than 400,000 ha of French forests.

In recent years, France has experienced several consecutive summers of intense heat, low rainfall, and extensive forest fires. The 2022 fires were unprecedented in terms of intensity, speed of propagation, extent and duration.

French forestry professionals are keen to learn from Australian foresters about fire management, policy, emergency response, fire prevention and how a warming climate will affect how forests are managed in the future.

The MISSO Board of Directors organised the visit to help French foresters understand what lessons could be learned from Australian forestry, particularly in light of the 2019-20 bushfire season.

Key themes covered during the French visitors’ time in Western Australia, Victoria and South Australia, broadly included:

  • a general overview of forestry in Australia
  • forest management in the country
  • forest conservation policies
  • the role of insurance in Australian forestry
  • preparedness for and management of fire
  • sustainable forest management
  • adaptation of forestry practices in response to climate change
  • salvage and recovery following fire losses
  • management of biodiversity risks
  • the CO2

These themes were identified as being of particular interest and relevance to the French forestry sector, and reflective of the changing risk profile that applies to forestry enterprises in both countries.

The 32 delegates – comprising MISSO board members, forestry experts, independent foresters, administration staff and forest science researchers – enjoyed more than 30 highly conversational presentations and workshops given by Australian forestry industry professionals, including from FWPA.

“It was so encouraging to see such a high level of engagement between the visiting French foresters, and the Australian contingent,” FWPA Forest Research Coordinator Janette Newport said.

“It soon became clear that this was not simply a case of our French guests learning from Australia – it facilitated an invaluable two-way, mutual sharing of knowledge between countries, and created valuable contacts and connections between ourselves and our international industry colleagues.”

The study tour was designed with a strong emphasis on field visits to Australian forests and operational facilities, with local experts describing their own first-hand experiences and engaging in discussions with the visiting French contingent.

The presentations and field trips offered visitors a broad understanding of Australian native and plantation forests, and how people have shaped the landscape. This included conversations around the deep connection of Indigenous people to country, and the critical importance of active management of native forests and landscapes.

Attendees were given an overview of the current state of Australia’s forestry and wood products industry, as well as its many unique opportunities and challenges.

In terms of bushfires specifically, the scale and impact of the 2019-20 bushfire season and its impact on the forestry industry were considered. Fire management practices and responses, particularly under a changing climate, were also discussed, as well as the role of fire as a fundamental ecological process when it comes to forest evolution, ecology, and bushfire management.

The roles and responsibilities of forest owners, state agencies and the Australian Government also provided notable talking points.

In addition, the latest developments in tree breeding were covered, including how climate change is influencing tree breeding and species selection, and the technologies and practices used to enhance detection of and protection from the risk of pests and diseases.

At the end of the tour, FWPA presented an overview of the successful WoodSolutions program to the group and how it helps support professionals in the built environment to design and build with timber. Details of the many resources housed on the WoodSolutions website and initiatives that drive engagement with wood and timber products were shared. Questions from the group included the challenges around supply and demand and reaching target audiences with timber information.

“Having the opportunity to engage in one-on-one discussions with French foresters and opening the door to ongoing communication going forward has been a huge advantage of this initiative,” Newport said.

“We hope the relationships formed through this visit can be nurtured and maintained long into the future, so that both countries can continue to learn from one another.

“Let’s hope this is the first of many such visits, and that more countries around the world embrace the idea of international collaboration and knowledge sharing, for the good of the global industry, and the planet more generally.”

A reciprocal French forestry tour is already in the works, with several Australian professionals having expressed an interest in visiting France to discover what additional lessons can be learned for the benefit of Australian forestry.

Posted Date: June 13, 2023

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