21 April, 2006

ARTICLE: Not Out of the Woods Just Yet


New York Times, April 20, 2006

OUR forests are the heart of our environmental support system. And yet, in the 36 years that have passed since the first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, we have lost more than one billion acres of forest, with no end in sight.

The people most vulnerable to the disappearance of forests are the poor: nearly three-quarters of the 1.2 billion people defined as extremely poor live in rural areas, where they rely most directly on forests for food, fuel, fiber and building materials. But those of us in the developed world are hardly immune. Smaller forests mean fewer predators keeping insects and rodents in check in the Northeastern United States, a phenomenon linked to the spread of Lyme disease and West Nile virus, among others.

Everywhere, forests prevent erosion, filter and regulate the flow of fresh water, protect coral reefs and fisheries and harbor animals that pollinate, control pests and buffer disease. That is why the single most important action we can take to protect lives and livelihoods worldwide is to protect forests. And one of the best ways to do that is to change how we think about their economics.

First, we must connect local, informal foresters, who harvest timber and other forest products for a small fraction of their value, to better markets. A good example is in Papua New Guinea. A community there receives about $13 for a cubic meter of tropical hardwood. That same cubic meter of wood, transferred through a series of intermediaries, shows up in New York Harbor with a new price tag, $700. Minimally processed into thin veneer, it sells for $2,300. That same cubic meter, fully finished, goes for over $3,000. Small forest holders who receive just pennies on the dollar for a valuable natural resource can hardly be expected to practice sustainable forestry. Opening access to regional and global markets at fair value will create strong incentives for sustainable forest management.

Second, we must recognize the importance of forests in maintaining water and soil by encouraging their preservation along rivers. Markets can help here, as well. Costa Rica's hydroelectric power companies pay upland farmers to keep land forested to prevent the companies' dams from filling with silt. The cost is shared between a power company and its customers. Logic dictates that those who benefit when forests stop erosion should return some of those benefits to those who protect forests.

Third, we must seek a global trade agreement that promotes legally, sustainably harvested timber. We should not tolerate the forest destruction abetted by most countries, which will neither monitor what is extracted at home, nor place conditions on imports. When we first visited Sumatra and Borneo fewer than 20 years ago, there were vast tracts of forest. Recent estimates indicate that these two islands, among the six largest in the world, could be largely clear-cut by 2012. With those trees will go people's livelihoods, communities, cultural values and health, as well as the forests' unexplored biological diversity.

Finally, we must protect the role that forests play in mitigating global warming by absorbing carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. Markets for trading carbon dioxide emissions credits must expand to all sources and all nations. They already exist in the developed world, where yesterday morning carbon credits from efficient factory operations and tree re-planting projects were traded at roughly 30 euros per ton.

If a company in Belgium can own carbon credits because it has reduced its factories' carbon emissions, then a forest owner in the Central African Republic should be able to trade the carbon credits he earns by not cutting down its trees. To the atmosphere, a ton of carbon is a ton of carbon. By opening trade in carbon credits to all countries, we provide economic opportunity to developing nations and create a very powerful incentive to conserve forests.

Together, these measures have the potential to reverse rates of forest loss. Sustainable forests, in turn, can form the basis for the health and economic well-being of the poorest among us, while benefiting everyone else as well. What could be a more satisfying vision for Earth Day 2006?

Don Melnick is a professor of conservation biology at Columbia University. Mary Pearl is president of Wildlife Trust."

Original article

ARTICLE: Supporters sought to lobby Govt on sustainable logging

ABC News Online
21 April 2006

A campaigner for sustainable logging in the Wombat Forest is trying to rally like-minded people to lobby the State Government.

Increasingly tough restrictions being placed on logging activity in the forest have forced some sawmills to close.

But Loris Duclos says a State Government adviser told her the Government had not made a final decision on the forest's future.

"He reassured me that the Government did not have a lock-up agenda for the Wombat, so those who support a small native forest industry in this area need to be ringing the minister and making sure that a strong voice from this side of the debate is heard, because they certainly hear a lot from the other," she said.


ARTICLE: Supporters sought to lobby Govt on sustainable logging

ABC News Online
21 April 2006

A campaigner for sustainable logging in the Wombat Forest is trying to rally like-minded people to lobby the State Government.

Increasingly tough restrictions being placed on logging activity in the forest have forced some sawmills to close.

But Loris Duclos says a State Government adviser told her the Government had not made a final decision on the forest's future.

"He reassured me that the Government did not have a lock-up agenda for the Wombat, so those who support a small native forest industry in this area need to be ringing the minister and making sure that a strong voice from this side of the debate is heard, because they certainly hear a lot from the other," she said."

Original article

18 April, 2006

LETTERS: Green logging solution gets the chop

David Hall, Brunswick East
The Heraldsun (letter), 18/4/06

Your article on Ron the “lumberjack” (“Ron vows to go out swinging”, April 8) brought up the important point that the environment movement is not about no logging, it’s about sustainable logging that makes sense.

Woodchipping old-growth forest in 2006 doesn’t make sense on any level. It isn’t boosting the economy. It isn’t creating jobs. And this isn’t wasteland.
The area being clear-felled in East Gippsland is a national treasure. Its destruction is so sad.

I applaud Ron for his comments, and I applaud the unlikely alliance between loggers who do have a vision for the future with greenies who always have.

Bracks would win my vote and that of many of my friends and family if he was brave enough to stop woodchipping of old-growth forests.

Colin Smith, St Kilda
The Heraldsun (letter), 18/4/06

Your story about the small timber cutter in Bruthen (“Ron vows to go out swinging”, April 8) shows up the hypocrisy of the State Government about forestry. It denies him any logs and sends them aji to the chip-mill instead. This makes a nonsense of its claim to be interested in value-adding. Instead, it promotes clearfelling, which is value-destruction.

Peter Quinn, Lome
The Heraldsun (letter), 18/4/06

Park Victoria and the Bracks Government sadly are on a hat-trick of tourism decimation. After last year’s Wi!sons Promontory burn fiasco and this year’s Grampians inferno, Parks Victoria next summer could well be responsible for the Colac/Otways bushfire that is coming because an ecological burn is well overdue.

Parks Victoria and Bracks Government are pandering to inner-Melbourne greens. Parks Victoria’s pest management is also a disgrace in the Great Otways National Park.

So enjoy your visit to the Colac-Otways while you can. Parks Victoria's incompetence could well mean a charred Great Ocean Road landscape.

16 April, 2006

ARTICLE: Death puts spotlight on Leadbeater plight

John Elder
The Sunday Age , April 16 2006

Leadbeater's possum was once the tiny comeback kid of Australian wildlife.

Thought to have vanished, the possum was rediscovered alive and struggling in 1961. Ten years later it was made the faunal emblem of Victoria. Now it looks as if we will have to find a new one.

The death of the last Leadbeater in captivity, which was announced yesterday, means the little possum is no longer a promise and symbol of life renewed. In the wild, there are thought to be only a 1000 left.

In what appears to be a last-ditch stand, author Peter Preuss is calling for co-operative effort by Victoria's zoos, the timber industry and the State Government to relaunch a possum breeding program.

Preuss is the biographer of late amateur naturalist Des Hackett, who successfully bred the possums in captivity.

He said efforts to revive the possum's population faltered after Mr Hackett died in 1997, and today the possum's natural habitat was under threat from logging.

Preuss said the last possums in the wild lived in a 50-square-kilometre area in Victoria's central highlands - the mountain ash forests around Noojee, Powelltown, Marysville and Warburton.

In one positive sign, he said possum numbers were increasing in the Yellingbo Nature Reserve, an area of swamp and forest protected for the helmeted honey-eater, Victoria's bird emblem.

"This shows the possums can survive if we give them some nesting boxes," he said.

A spokesman for Healesville Sanctuary yesterday confirmed that the last captive possum, a male, died on Monday, following the death of its female mate last month. The pair had become too old to breed.

With AAP

12 April, 2006

ARTICLE: Timber group invests heavily to stay at the cutting edge

Philip Hopkins
April 10 2006

The coloured laser beams quickly hone in on the timber slab as it moves along the conveyor, pinpointing accurately how best to cut the wood.

Vince Erasmus looks on with approval. The South African, who has just joined timber group Integrated Tree Cropping as chief executive, is a firm believer in the role of new technology in giving a competitive edge. Previously, an operator would have judged manually the best way to cut the timber, but lasers do it better.

Neville Smith Timber, a division of ITC, uses the laser equipment at its processing plant at Heyfield in Victoria, along with a new piece of technology that was pioneered for the aerospace industry.

The $400,000 investment applies the technique of ultrasonic void detection to solid timber — the first time this has been done in the world.

"With ultrasonics, we're now able to affectively see inside each solid piece of timber that comes through the mill and pick up discontinuities in the wood," Erasmus said. "The technology allows us to detect tiny internal faults that are invisible to the eye."

Those faults make the timber unsuitable for appearance-grade products, but fine for structural use such as joints, lintels and bearers.

In South Africa, Erasmus was executive manager of Hans Merensky Timber, the country's largest sawmilling group and an operator of extensive eucalypt and pine plantations with a turnover of $210 million.

ITC, a listed subsidiary of Futuris Corporation, is of similar ilk; it manages more than 140,000 hectares of hardwood plantations, and through Neville Smith, is the largest hardwood timber processor in Australia.

Neville Smith's main timber mills are at Heyfield in central Gippsland, but it also has operations in Seymour, Tasmania and southern NSW. Neville Smith, acquired by ITC 20 months ago, has the capacity to process more than 250,000 cubic metres of native hardwood, all sourced from regrowth forests.

On an inspection tour at Heyfield, Erasmus said timber processing was going through a tough period. "Internationally, supply now exceeds demand for hardwood products and demand is not that good," he said. "It's difficult to sell products at the right price."

Erasmus said hardwood processing was volume driven, but customers were getting increasingly choosy, so timber quality was paramount.

Hence the new investments at Neville Smith. Erasmus said that, apart from the check scanner, ITC was buying a reconditioner kiln to dry timber more slowly and to a higher standard. A finger jointer will also be acquired to turn offcuts that would be normally woodchipped or made into sawdust into a new, higher-value product. ITC is also putting a greater emphasis on sales and marketing, having hired seven sales staff. ITC has been Perth-based, but Erasmus is seeking a house in Melbourne, signalling ITC's intention to locate itself on the east coast.

Erasmus said there was capacity for growth in the Australian timber market through high-quality niche products.

About 18 per cent of Neville Smith's products are exported, and Erasmus signalled interest in forging a partnership with a Chinese manufacturer. "China is an opportunity for us, given Australia's relative proximity to China and the cheaper shipping rates compared with other countries," he said.

ITC has launched a campaign to market its products as "GoodWood", emphasising the timber is harvested from regrowth native forests, not old growth or tropical forests, and highlighting its advantages as a storer of carbon in the age of climate change.

Erasmus said ITC intended to gain Forest Stewardship Council certification for its native hardwood products. ITC has already gained FSC approval for its plantation management. FSC is allied to WWF and is supported by green groups.

Bell Potter Securities, in a research paper, noted ITC's negative cash flow despite the company's profit of $6.3 million in the first half of 2005-06.

Analyst Ian Gibson said the result was below expectations, but was entirely due to the processing division. "With respect to processing, we believe that the operating performance has bottomed … when the recovery does come, the Neville Smith Group will be stronger."

But uncertainty about the tax treatment of managed investment schemes and the housing market may weigh on the share price, causing it to trade below Bell Potter's assessed value of $1.67, Gibson said.

ITC's share price closed at $1.09 on Friday.

Original article

11 April, 2006

ARTICLE: Protesters held over logging blockade

The Age
April 10, 2006 - 3:34PM

Police have arrested three anti-logging protesters and moved 17 other demonstrators from a blockade in the East Gippsland region of Victoria.

Goongerah Environment Centre (GEC) spokeswoman Fiona York said the protest was in an area of old growth forest being logged less than 100 metres from the Goolengook forest.

The three protester who were arrested had chained themselves to logging machinery, she said.

"The rest of them have been moved out of the coupe by 20 or so Parks Victoria, DSE (Department of Sustainability and Environment) and police," Ms York said.

Thirty arrests had been made at 15 blockades in East Gippsland since December 2005, she said.

The Goolengook Forest is the subject of an investigation by the Victorian Environment Assessment Council (VEAC).

"This particular coupe is right on the border of the assessment area that VEAC is looking into protection for Goolengook," Ms York said.

"While the Goolengook Forest is being investigated and under moratorium from logging, forest of comparable value is being logged right next door."

The area was at the headwaters of the Arte River, and the old-growth forest and rainforest were habitat for endangered flora and fauna, she said. Its unique eco-system was home to more than 300 rare and threatened plant and animal species, including the tiger quoll and the powerful owl.

"Premier Steve Bracks needs to do more than just investigate icon areas for the sake of a few votes," Ms York said.

"All old growth forest needs to be protected immediately."


Original article

07 April, 2006

LETTER: Lucky polly (Campbell "protects" the orange bellied parrot

Jill Redwood, Orbost
The Age, April 7, 2006

Luckily for the orange-bellied parrot, it spends some of the year in a marginal seat that's arguing about the aesthetics of wind farms. Our whales, sooty owls, tiger quolls and hundreds of other threatened species aren't so lucky under the Federal Government's Environment Act.

The $11 million logging industry in East Gippsland, for example, takes out threatened species every day without a shred of concern from the Howard Government.

06 April, 2006

MEDIA RELEASE: Sustainable timber industry council announced

Thursday, April 6, 2006

The sustainable growth of Victoria’s timber industry will be assisted by the establishment of a new peak advisory body, the Sustainable Timber Industry Council (STIC), the Minister for Agriculture Bob Cameron announced today.

Mr Cameron said STIC would foster a united, whole of industry approach to securing the sustainable development of Victoria’s forest and forest products sector and will provide advice to him on a broad range of timber industry issues.

“The timber industry in Victoria is based on plantation and native forest timber resources. It has an annual turnover of more than $3 billion and is of critical importance to the economic future of this state.

Mr Cameron said as part of the ‘Our Forests, Our Future’ policy initiative, the Bracks Government made a commitment ensuring that our forests, the timber industry and their communities are protected for the long term.

“That commitment was reiterated in the ‘Moving Forward’ Provincial Statement announced late last year and STIC is an important part of that process.

“One of STIC’s major roles over the next year will be the development of a Timber Industry Strategy, which will establish Victoria as a world leader in sustainable timber industries,” Mr Cameron said.

Mr Cameron said he was pleased to announce Christian Zahra as the Chair of STIC.

“Christian Zahra has an excellent understanding of the important issues facing the timber industry in Victoria and is widely respected within the sector,” Mr Cameron said.

The remaining members of STIC come from key industry sectors, and include:
  • Diane Tregoning – Chief Executive of Black Forest Timbers Pty Ltd
  • Andrew Lang – Chairman of SMARTimbers Cooperative Ltd
  • Bob Smith – former CEO of State Forests of NSW
  • Kevin White – former CEO of Hancock Victorian Plantations
  • Ken Robertson – former Strategic Development Manager for Carter Holt Harvey.
  • Michael O’Connor – National Secretary of the forestry section of the CFMEU
  • Ian Kennedy – former Executive Director of Regional Development Victoria