28 December, 2006

LETTER: Guess who saved our forests?

Peter Sheehan, Camberwell
The Age, December 28, 2006

My forester daughter was fortunate to spend Christmas Day with us after two weeks in the mountains near Matlock fighting the bushfires. With others, she was planning and setting out control lines that were then constructed by a team of bulldozer operators. Their collective skills in dangerous bush operations held those fires until the rain came. They stopped the Mount Terrible fire from burning through Melbourne's catchments.

Guess where these saviours of the forests came from? Not from the Wilderness Society, but primarily from the timber industry. They mainly used access constructed for previous logging. So Melbourne's catchments are saved for another blow-up day when, after another lightning strike, they will need saving again.

Unfortunately, most foresters in Victoria are public servants and so constrained from responding to the mangled forest science that passes for "the forestry debate". They deserve better thanks for this most recent effort than pre-emptive and opportunist distortions.

Gavan McFadzean of the Wilderness Society sure knows how to defend a weak position ("Trees don't start fires", Opinion, 27/12) — imagine and exaggerate any potential opposing argument and then mount a scattergun attack on things never claimed! We do agree on one thing, though, within the stream of inaccuracies: the logging and regeneration of forests probably has little net influence on the frequency of bushfires.

What McFadzean conveniently omits to mention, though, is that the timber industry undoubtedly does make a huge contribution to controlling the inevitable and potentially more frequent bushfires.

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