03 December, 2008
Letter to the editor, The Age, December 3, 2008
I would like to question Phillip Dalidakis' facts (Comment & Debate, 1/12), as he asks environmentalists to roll over so that the forestry industry can continue unchecked in its, oh, so sustainable enterprise.
As reported by The Age in January, figures obtained after a freedom of information request to VicForests show that, based on its industry knowledge, more than 85 per cent of the wood derived from Victoria's native forests ends up as woodchips, waste and sawdust — hardly high value resources.
Dalidakis quotes a seemingly inconsequential threat when discussing the forest industry's effect on our water supplies; a percentage figure which, in real terms, equates to millions of litres of water. How is the industry justified in posing any threat whatsoever to Melbourne's water supply as yet another drought looms this summer?
To our great fortune, outdated ideology has saved some magnificent tracts of Victoria; perhaps Dalidakis should take a trip to Brown Mountain or, rather, those parts of it that VicForests hasn't yet had the opportunity to clear-fell — or, as he puts it, manage.
I'm sure that whaling companies wished that environmentalists could have stopped their futile debate too.
02 December, 2008
Letter to the Editor, The Age, December 2, 2008
Philip Dalidakis' article is a welcome change from the emotive rhetoric that seems to dominate the logging debate. Many viewpoints on this issue are high on sentiment and low on facts and science.
As a former doubter of the timber industry's credentials, I can see how environmentalism is turning into ideology. With 3.2 million hectares of forests already in protected reserves, it would be more environmentally beneficial to properly manage our remaining forests for timber production rather than import more illegally logged timber.
The Age, December 2, 2008
Philip Dalidakis, of the Victorian Association of Forest Industries, reminds us (Comment & Debate, 1/12) that the native forest woodchipping industry is about to start its annual summer destruction in Victoria.
However, this summer the chainsaws will be quiet in the Otways' native forests as logging has been banned.
Mr Dalidakis' predecessors at VAFI spent a huge amount of money and time dismissing arguments put forward by the community to stop Otways logging, and failed.
Now VAFI has put up exactly the same sort of simplistic statistical arguments that rely on public ignorance. VAFI suggests that Melbourne's water has a 157,000-hectare catchment area, with 306 hectares, or 0.19 per cent, logged each year. Such a statement assumes that the rainfall and forest types across the catchments are uniform. They are not. About half cannot be logged as they are within national parks. About half of the catchment is ash forest, which produces 80 per cent of the water run-off to Melbourne. Logging that targets these forests has a disproportionate effect on run-off.
Recent State Government research shows banning logging by 2010 would increase water yields from the Melbourne catchments by enough to supply a city the size of Ballarat within 40 years — or about 100,000 people. The loggers are right to be worried.
01 December, 2008
The Age, Opinion, December 1, 2008
The Victorian forest industry provides significant benefits.
As the timber harvesting season gets under way for another year, already one week has been lost to protesters chaining themselves to industry equipment in the hope of saving "what is left" of our native forests. Often such protest action is greeted with a mixture of silent and open consent from those of us who are concerned by climate change but who don't fully appreciate the environmental or scientific ramifications of simply locking up our forests. After all, how can an industry that cuts down trees claim to be both environmentally sensitive and sustainable?
Victoria has more than 3.5 million hectares of forest in protected reserves while on average only 0.19 per cent of our 3.2 million hectares of state forest is harvested each year. Victoria's state forests are well managed and a range of concerns, including conservation of flora and fauna, protection of landscape and indigenous and historic values, recreation and education, are considered before any timber production.
Victoria is a global leader in the regulation and oversight of forestry activities. Planning, harvesting, regeneration and other forest management activities are required to meet a code of practice for timber production. They are regulated by the Department of Sustainability and Environment and independently audited annually by EPA Victoria. VicForests, the state-owned organisation responsible for the sustainable harvest and sale of timber from state forests, is also independently certified to the Australian Forestry Standard, an internationally recognised standard for responsible forest management.
An example of propaganda outstripping the pace of truth is the issue of timber production in Melbourne's water catchments. Annual timber production in the 157,000-hectare catchment area averages only 306 hectares, or 0.19 per cent. Yet numerous environmental groups continue to claim that timber harvesting is directly responsible for Melbourne's low water yield. Independent reports commissioned by the DSE demonstrate that the impact of timber production on Melbourne's water yield is minor in comparison with the real threats of climate change and bush fire.
Recent history supports these studies and provides a level of perspective when you compare this small amount of timber production with the 1 million hectares of forest burnt in 59 days during the 2003 alpine bushfires. One of the many benefits of the timber industry is that it provides vital support in defending our forests against the effects of bushfire through the maintenance of fire tracks, reduction of fuel loads and the provision of fire-fighting machinery and personnel.
Despite accusations to the contrary, the principal objectives of any native forest harvesting operations are to maximise the value obtained from the timber, maintain the health of the forest and ensure good regrowth for future generations.
Saw logs from native forests remain the priority of timber harvesting and are a high-value resource processed domestically to produce flooring, furniture, decking and other value-added products. Harvested timber that is unsuitable for processing into high-value sawn timber is used to produce essential secondary forest products such as paper, cardboard, firewood, garden products and energy. This makes the forest industry very efficient and a generator of little waste.
Current timber plantations are largely being managed for the production of paper products and not furniture or flooring. Even if this were to change overnight, it would require a substantial area of eucalypt plantations grown on good land and need at least 25-30 years to replace what is being sourced from native forests.
All sustainably managed plantation and native forests also store carbon, which is important as we enter a carbon constrained world. Australia's forestry industry is carbon-positive, helping to offset our national greenhouse gas emissions. Growing trees absorb carbon from the atmosphere and store carbon; about half the dry weight of a tree is carbon. This carbon remains "locked" in the wood for the life of the product, until it decomposes or is burnt. For example, a 50 kilogram wooden table contains about 20 kilograms of carbon.
Wood products have amazing environmental credentials. They are renewable, recyclable and biodegradable. The production and processing of wood products is energy efficient. They offer a climate and environment-friendly alternative to many other products and building materials.
Although green groups and activists accuse the timber industry of no longer being relevant in today's world, the opposite is true. The forestry industry directly employs 25,000 people in Victoria and contributes $6 billion in output. It provides significant social and economic benefits to regional communities and Victoria as a whole. It is also environmentally sustainable, and is based on responsible and accountable forest management.
Rather than disrupting forestry workers and shutting down timber production in pursuit of an outdated ideology, environmentalists would be better off ending this futile debate and working constructively with industry to ensure ongoing balanced management of our forests.
All sustainably managed plantation and native forests also store carbon.
14 November, 2008
Letter, The Age, 14/11/08
You'll need to excuse my mirth, Max Rheese (Letters, 12/11), in taking your approach to "wise use principles". Surely someone whose organisation lobbies for the logging of old-growth forests has a conflict of interest when lecturing about the "key to conservation".
I'm sure you feel that Australian forestry practice is among the best in the world; it seems we have a State Government that reneges on its 2006 promise and simply allows the logging industry to bulldoze through our state forests, destroying 400 years of Victoria's natural legacy.
Aside from the fact these forests are massive carbon storage banks, which release carbon into the atmosphere when clearfelled, old-growth forests are far more fire retardant than your proposed monoculture plantations; essentially a crop of pine trees.
As someone genuinely concerned for the environment, this view may seem a little over emotional, but I'd like to be able to show my kids, and your kids, just how magnificent Australia is.
13 November, 2008
Letter, The Age, 13/11/08
Old growth forests are one of the most important stores of carbon on the planet and logging them releases enormous amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Logging old growth forests causes less water to flow into our rivers and further pushes our endangered species towards extinction.
Premier Brumby has a clear choice to make, and one that will upset those that apologise for industrial destruction of the ecological systems that support life on this planet. He can show leadership by pulling the bulldozers out of Brown Mountain, or he can ignore the wishes of the community and his own policy to protect our magnificent old growth forests.
Letter, The Age, 13/11/08
Trees of many ages continue to provide the shelter, hollows and nectar that an old giant of 400 years would have when it eventually falls.
What else can the logging industry or Government now try to tell us? That annihilating these stands of forest are essential to provide five blokes with work for four weeks?
Come on Mr Brumby, we're all waiting for you to protect what you promised us in 2006.
Letter, The Age, November 13, 2008
Surely, the aims of "environmentalists" in their outcry over timber harvesting at Brown Mountain would fall within the "wise use principles" of conservation? Full protection for a portion of the forest for all time, sustainable use of a portion of the forest for human endeavour and the regeneration of harvested forest.
This is what happens now. Australian forestry is among the best and most regulated in the world and we should all support the good environmental outcomes that flow from that. We do not have to look far to see the alternative.
The emotional claptrap put forward by various writers (Letters, 12/11), — failing to recognise that more than 90% of Victoria's forests are permanently reserved — does little to foster the integrity of the environment movement.
The fact is fire is the ultimate determinant of forest structure in Victoria; therefore the environment movement should be bringing pressure to bear on land managers to better manage our forests for fire, rather than campaigns based on ideology that aim to have the remaining 9% of forest locked up.
Sustainable use with adequate protection, not preservation, is the key to conservation.
VicForests is defending the clear-fell logging of old-growth forest near Brown Mountain in East Gippsland.
The logging area has been the subject of protests in the forests and on the steps of Parliament House in Melbourne.
The East Gippsland manager of VicForests, Barry Vaughan, says the area was not part of the State Government's election promise to protect more forests.
He says the area is outside the established reserves and is producing high quality timber.
"It's very much a reflection of the site quality that's there," he said.
"It is very similar to the forest that's across the road in the national park and that's part of the reserve system which was established in East Gippsland which was a large percentage of this tall, wet forest reserved in national parks."
The environment movement says the logging coup near Brown Mountain has more value as a standing forest than as cut timber.
Amelia Young from the Wilderness Society says the large 400-year-old trees are a precious carbon bank.
She says they are also valuable for their biodiversity and as a tourism resource.
She says the Government will find it difficult to meet its promise to protect more old-growth forest in East Gippsland.
"We need young regrowing trees to continue to sequester carbon out of the atmosphere, we also need our older ecologically mature forests like those on Brown Mountain to remain intact so they can be important carbon banks," she said.
"These forests live continuously, they're self perpetuating and they don't require human intervention for their evolution."
See also: Brown Mountain old growth forest
12 November, 2008
Letter, The Age, 12/11/08
Barry Vaughan believes that harvesting what remains of old growth forest is "more sophisticated and more sustainable" than plantation timber and that timber is produced by a chainsaw. If Barry duffered and butchered a wild koala and threw it on his barbie, by the same logic he could boast of sophisticated and sustainable meat production. Of course, koala and old growth forest harvesting is sustainable, until there are no more koalas or old trees to harvest.
We've got to think, do we really want the remaining fragments of old growth forest preserved in this state or do we want to pay the likes of Barry Vaughan fat salaries to manage their total destruction and turn the definition of sustainability of its head as they spin nonsense?
Letter, The Age, November 12, 2008
Having walked through the Valley of the Giants on Brown Mountain, I am horrified that it is now being annihilated ("Nothing natural about selection of which trees live, which die", The Age, 10/11). Barry Vaughan (VicForests) can't be serious when he muses that destroying our remaining old-growth forests could be a "better thing for the world" than importing timbers and using plantation timbers. We shouldn't be importing timber from countries whose native forests are as compromised and exploited as our own. And, yes, we should be using plantation timber and engineered timber products.
I also fail to see how killing 300-year-old trees is a "more sophisticated … more sustainable way … of producing natural resources". So, we destroy old-growth forests to replace them with degraded ones? Releasing masses of carbon into the atmosphere, exterminating wildlife, biodiversity and mucking up water systems in the process? That's parochial, not sophisticated. There is nothing sustaining in forest degrading.
Enough with the "consulting". The State Government should honour its 2006 electoral promise and take immediate action to cease logging on Brown Mountain.
Letter, The Age, 12/11/08
THE Victorian Government is hellbent on the destruction of our last remaining and irreplaceable old growth forests — and is apparently oblivious to the consequences. Continued logging of Victoria's old growth forests, including logging at East Gippsland's Brown Mountain occurring now, is in direct violation of the Government's 2006 election promises.
Logging of old-growth is reprehensible on biodiversity grounds alone, but when the huge carbon emissions from logging and the severe disruption to water supply are taken into account, it is ludicrous. The pro-logging rhetoric is illogical — ancient forest ecosystems cannot just grow back after being clear-felled, and the logging of old-growth is unsustainable and uneconomic without public subsidy.
Letter, The Age, 12/11/08
OLD growth forests have long been misrepresented as museum exhibits that will stand forever. The Wilderness Society's Luke Chamberlain is just the latest conservationist to forget that forests actually live and die with his claim that "92% of Victorian old growth has been lost since European settlement. Brown Mountain is among the best still standing" (10/11). Aside from the impact of Europeans over the past 180 years, millions of hectares of Victorian forest has naturally grown old, declined, died, and been replaced by young regrowth — some of it several times over. Other areas that were young forest have since grown to comprise Victoria's current crop of 840,000 hectares of old growth, including at Brown Mountain.
The only certainty is that these old forests will eventually die or be killed by fire and that the parks and reserves in which almost all of them reside will look different in the future. In the context of this, the hysteria surrounding the harvesting and regeneration of a tiny 18-hectare portion for human use is unwarranted.
FIFTY-SIXTH PARLIAMENT — FIRST SESSION
12 November 2008, Page 25
Ms PENNICUIK (Southern Metropolitan) — My question is for the Minister for Environment and Climate Change. Will the minister confirm that three logging coupes at Brown Mountain in East Gippsland — numbers 840-502-15, 19 and 20 that are mapped by the Department of Sustainability and Environment as old-growth forest — have been approved for clear-felling this season, that one is almost fully logged, and that this is in contravention to the Labor Party’s 2006 commitment to protect the last significant stands of Victoria’s old-growth forests currently available for logging?
Mr JENNINGS (Minister for Environment and Climate Change) — I will answer the question in reverse order. I can confirm that the timber allocations this year are not inconsistent with the Labor Party’s formal commitment to make sure we reserve old-growth forests in east Gippsland in the future. This is something the government is committed to doing and something that I am committed to doing, but it has not been specified in any way that there will not be timber harvesting in areas that may be described as old-growth forest in current timber allocations.
I can confirm it is not inconsistent with the commitment made by the Labor Party in the lead-up to the last election and certainly will not be inconsistent with my intention, which is to deliver beyond the 33 500 hectares of old-growth forests that it was indicated would be added to the reserve system. It is my intention during my tenure as minister responsible for the environment to beat that number and actually have a higher number of areas of old-growth forest incorporated into the reserve system. That is something I am very happy to be measured by at the end of the term.
The thing I cannot quite verify in relation to the question is the specific numbers of the coupes in question, although if the question is, ‘Is there activity currently being undertaken in East Gippsland that is a source of contention in relation to the appropriateness of it being allocated for harvesting activity and being subject to protest activity?’, I can confirm that that is absolutely happening.
I would like to put the sequence of decisions and responsibilities that have led to this time frame. As far back as August 2004 the allocation order was signed off by my predecessor, the Minister for the Environment at that time, regarding areas that would be available for harvesting from that time over a 15-year period and that were going to be considered and reviewed in five-year cycles. In the first instance, the timber allocations that were then the responsibility of VicForests and that would be subsequently the responsibility of other ministers and agencies — that is, VicForests allocation of the timber orders that relate to the harvesting schedule — were required to comply with the allocation orders made in 2004. In 2004 the areas that are currently subject to harvesting were identified as potentially being available for harvesting, subject to VicForests determining the harvesting plan that would apply from 2004 to 2009.
Subsequently the election commitment — which was that we would increase the reserve system within East Gippsland — at one level may have been interpreted to mean that there would be absolutely no logging in areas that may be seen to be old growth, but they are not mutually exclusive commitments. In fact the coupes in question continue to be in areas known as general management zones within the forest.
There are a number of categories of forest designation, which include special protection zones and general management zones, that give guidance to the way in which those forests should be managed. The coupes in question have at no stage been designated, in my understanding, as being in anything other than general management zones. On any map that had been prepared prior to my arrival as Minister for Environment and Climate Change, or any map subsequently in relation to whether the areas in question would be added to the reserve system, this area has not appeared. It continues to not exist on those maps. I stand by the commitment of the government to increase the reserve system significantly beyond the 33 500 hectares that we identified for old-growth protection in the future, and I will be measured by that and will be accountable to the Parliament and the people on that matter
Ms PENNICUIK (Southern Metropolitan) — The minister and I might disagree on what is on the maps. One of these logging coupes has been named ‘The Walk’ by VicForests in reference to the local community’s marked and tracked tourist walk, which was also committed to by the Labor government as the ‘Old Growth Forest Walk — Goongerah’. How is this consistent with the current logging operation?
Mr JENNINGS (Minister for Environment and Climate Change) — I obviously know that commitments were made at the same time, which the member did not refer to. Commitments were made to make sure that a number of walks were generated within the East Gippsland region to try to enhance the visitor experience and hopefully be supportive of tourism activity and engagement from the community within the forests. That commitment continues to be maintained by the government and to be implemented by various agencies to try to make sure that the walks are deliver.
Again, this may be an area of contention.— It is an area of contention where people purport that there had been an alignment of a walk that had been adopted by the various state agencies. Despite the fact that there are many passionate and committed people — and good on them for being passionate and committed to environmental outcomes and sustainability in this area and generally — there has been no formal adoption of any delineation of a walking track by government agencies or the government that will define how the commitment to those walks will be delivered on the ground. That is a process and a program that the government continues to be committed to and hopes to engage with the community on. We will continue to work to deliver on that aspect of the commitment as well.
Hansard document (PDF) [link]
22 May, 2008
22nd May 2008
Environment East Gippsland has responded to the Federal Government’s report on the state of Australia’s forests as little more than a PR exercise.
"It’s little wonder that logging supporters like VAFI chime in with glowing compliments after pro-logging reports are produced on forests", said Jill Redwood of EEG. “No matter what flavour of government has been in over the decades, our forests have been and still are sacrificed as union pacifiers and exchanged for political donations. The only thing that's being 'sustained' is the parties' submission to the logging industry."
“What they didn’t announce yesterday from the report is that Australia has 10% less forests, 200,000 hectares less old growth and more threatened species than was reported in the 2003 report. The report also admits that about 1/3rd of these important conservation forests left remaining are still allowed to be clearfelled for timber and woodchips. Yet we’re told this is sustainable.”
“There are 1,290 forest dependent species classed as nationally rare and endangered. But the ALPs minister for forestry, Tony Burke, says he’s happy to keep the bulldozers knocking over Gippsland’s native forests. There’s been absolutely no change to more sensitive management of our environment since Ironbar Tuckey held the portfolio”.
“Thousands of Gippsland voters are extremely concerned about climate change, the loss of our wildlife, the destruction of our native forests by logging and the loss of water that results. But unfortunately these voters can’t match the political donations given by the large logging companies and unions that seem to influence the ALP, Liberal and National’s forest policies.”
“Tree growers in western Victoria are currently screaming out for a thousand workers to help process their wood. If jobs were really the concern, the CFMEU and the ALP would not support woodchipping but be looking at mature plantations for providing secure employment.
An NCS Pearson poll showed that 70% of East Gippslanders don’t want to see our forests turned into woodchips. Politicians must acknowledge this. Our public forests are far more precious as climate moderators and carbon stores than as woodchips, cardboard and union-pacifiers.”
For comment: Jill Redwood 5154 0145
17 May, 2008
May 17, 2008
AUSTRALIA'S forest industries are bidding for a major role in Australia's climate change future, claiming forest "sinks" could absorb 20% of the planned 60% cut in emissions by 2050.
A confidential document from the National Association of Forest Industries circulating in Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's office proposes a joint industry-government strategy for forests and plantations in Australia's carbon-constrained future.
It involves forestry not only helping meet emissions and renewable energy targets but also becoming involved in biofuel production and indigenous economic development.
Overarching these outcomes, according to NAFI, is the need for the Coalition of Australian Governments to reaffirm commitment to the 1992 National Forest Policy Statement, which opened the door to regional forests agreements.
15 May, 2008
Letter, The Age, 15 May 2008
Thursday, 15 May 2008
The halting of logging in the world's rainforests is the single greatest solution to climate change, Prince Charles has said.
Prince Charles said there needed to be rewards for preserving the rainforest
He called for a mechanism to be devised to pay poor countries to prevent them felling their rainforests.
The prince told the BBC that the forests provided the earth's "air conditioning system".
He said it was "crazy" the rainforests were worth more "dead than alive" to some of the world's poorest people.
The world's forests store carbon in their wood and in their soils.
But they are being felled for timber products, food and now bio fuels. Experts say this carbon is being released into the atmosphere and contributes to global warming.
The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, published in 2006, suggested that the destruction adds about 18% to the CO2 from human sources.
In an interview to mark BBC World Service's Amazon Day, Prince Charles said: "When you think they [rainforests] release 20 billion tonnes of water vapour into the air every day, and also absorb carbon on a gigantic scale, they are incredibly valuable, and they provide the rainfall we all depend on."
He said a way had to be found to ensure people living in the rainforest were adequately rewarded for the "eco-system services that their forest provides the rest of the world".
We're asking for something pretty dreadful unless we really understand the issues now
He said: "The trouble is the rainforests are home to something like 1.4 billion of the poorest people in the world.
"In order to survive there has to be an effort to produce things which tends to be at the expense of the rainforest.
"What we've got to do is try to ensure that those forests are more valuable alive than dead.
"At the moment there's more value in them being dead. This is the crazy thing."
Drought and starvation
The prince called on governments, big business and consumers to demand an end to logging in the rainforest.
He said the time was right to persuade business to play its part because there was increasing concern about global warming.
"Halting deforestation would be the easiest and cheapest way in helping in the battle against climate change," he said.
"Waiting for all the new technologies to come on stream is not going to be soon enough."
Charles said if deforestation did not slow down soon there would be "far more drought and starvation on a grand scale".
He said: "We're asking for something pretty dreadful unless we really understand the issues now, and urgency of those issues.
"It is the easiest way to create a win on the climate change front while all sorts of other things come along later."
The BBC's environment analyst, Roger Harrabin, says that Prince Charles' observation that saving the forests is the cheapest and most effective way of cutting CO2 emissions is "widely acknowledged".
At the recent Bali climate conference, developing countries asked for compensation from rich nations if they agreed to avoid future deforestation.
Talks are continuing, but there are issues over sovereignty – and genuine difficulties over who pays, who collects, and how much money should be offered.
Mike Childs, of Friends of the Earth, said: "The Prince is absolutely right to highlight deforestation as the single greatest cause of climate change, but putting a stop to it much more complex.
"Forests are cut down for many different reasons, such as the growing of food, animal fodder and bio fuels."
11 May, 2008
The Age, May 11, 2008
Thousands of red gums on the brink of death have been saved — temporarily at least — after 17 billion litres of water were released from dams to boost Victoria's ailing Murray wetlands.
The water sparked an immediate response from the environment. Hundreds of frogs spawned, waterbirds arrived and tortoises laid eggs. Many of the areas targeted had not seen water for two years. Numbers of waterbirds have dropped by two-thirds during the 11-year drought.
About 10,000 red gums — some 500 years old — would have been dead within a year had the environmental flow not occurred, said Dr Jane Doolan, from the Department of Sustainability and Environment.
Water has flowed through the wetlands and creeks for two weeks.
Recent studies have found that 70% of red gums in northern Victoria are dead or dying. This month's watering will cover only 900 hectares, or 1.4% of the state's river red gums.
The environmental allocation consists of 6 billion litres from the Murray-Darling Basin Commission's Living Murray program and 11 billion litres from Victoria's pool of environmental water.
It is flooding the Gunbower Wetlands north-west of Echuca; Little Lake Boort west of Echuca; the Lindsay-Walpolla site in the Mallee; and the Reedy, Kinnaird, Black and Moodies swamps near Shepparton.
State Environment and Climate Change Minister Gavin Jennings said the water had prevented ancient forests from turning into red gum graveyards. "Some of the river red gums were alive when Columbus discovered the Americas. They are part of all Victorians' heritage," he said.
The Murray remains bleak, however. Dried-up wetlands and creeks in the lower parts of the river in South Australia have started to turn acidic and leach heavy metals, including high amounts of aluminium and arsenic, zinc and lead.
The $12.9 billion water package to save the Murray has been finalised, but water specialist Mike Young, from the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, has warned that time is running out and the Federal Government must act quickly to use $3 billion to buy back the 1500 billion litres the river system needs to be healthy.
The Bureau of Meteorology winter forecast for the basin, released last week, suggested another dry El Nino phase could be on the way and there was little hope of good rainfall. The basin commission's chief executive, Dr Wendy Craik, described the situation as not terribly optimistic, but dam levels were slightly higher now than at this time last year.
It is hoped the northern Victorian environmental water will help threatened species such as the regent parrot, the inland carpet python, the barking owl, the painted snipe, the white-bellied sea eagle and the growling grass frog.
It is hoped the royal spoonbill, the great egret and the glossy ibis will benefit from the watering in the Gunbower Wetlands.
The Age, May 11, 2008
In a blow to Victoria's massive plantation industry, the State Government has moved to make thirsty timber plantations accountable for the water they use.
Companies such as Timbercorp may face extra costs as Government documents show it is considering making them pay for the water the trees suck up.
Many Victorians have sunk millions of dollars into the plantation industry because investments are tax deductible.
The move has worried the industry, which says it is being unfairly "picked on". But the documents show the Government is concerned that precious rain that would flow into groundwater and then to streams is intercepted by thousands of hectares of plantation trees, leaving less for farmers, rural towns and the environment.
Under the 2004 National Water Initiative, all Australian governments agreed that changes in land use — such as large-scale plantations — could significantly affect the amount of water available to others, and needed to be regulated. The Brumby Government, which adopted the commitment in its water plan, recently released a tender to develop such a policy. The tender documents indicate where the Government may be headed on the issue.
The Department of Primary Industries tender refers to all sorts of land use changes that affect water availability, but it clearly has the plantation industry in its sights.
It suggests the successful contractor consider a permit system or "market-based mechanisms", which the industry believes may mean it has to buy the water the trees use.
Asking companies to pay for the water trees use is controversial because it is, essentially, charging for the rain that falls on private property. Such a decision could have implications beyond the plantation industry.
"It is complicated and legally questionable about how you would charge a plantation grower for using the water that falls on their land," said Richard Stanton, manager of policy at the Australian Plantation Products and Paper Industry Council. He said the water use of plantations was exaggerated and there were far more significant issues to deal with.
The Government faces the tricky task of balancing the benefit of plantations — reducing carbon in the atmosphere, erosion prevention, better water quality — with the negative "third party" impacts of taking water out of the system.
A 2003 study said all types of reforestation in the Murray-Darling Basin would suck 600 billion litres of water from the system each year by 2020. The industry argues this overestimates the number of trees that will be planted, and its best guess is that, by 2028, plantations will take 50 billion litres from the basin.
The tender, called Impacts of land use change on water resources — policy analysis and development, shows that recent studies of south-western Victoria have found that plantations and climate change have sucked 6% to 10% of surface and groundwater from the region.
Matt Hillard, a spokesman for Victorian Agriculture Minister Joe Helper, said it was important for the Government to ensure resources were well managed.
Allan Hansard, chief executive officer of the National Association of Forest Industries, said it was too early to jump to conclusions but the industry should not be "picked on".
The companies that may be affected by any policy change include Timbercorp, Great Southern Plantations, ITC, HVP Plantations, Midway and Willmott Forests.
Under the tender, the contractor must report back with policy options by early October.
Where the trees are most thirsty
Areas where plantations are likely to be cutting water availability:
- Some areas of the Strzelecki Ranges, including the Tarra Valley.
- Parts of the Thomson and Latrobe river basins.
- Groundwater aquifers in South Gippsland.
- Surface and groundwater across much of south-west Victoria.
07 May, 2008
The Australian, May 07, 2008
The bushfire smoke that blanketed the sky above Hobart late last month graphically marked an abrupt turn in the public debate about forest management.
Environmentalists were quick to make the link between forest regeneration burns and carbon emissions, and to argue that old growth should be saved to serve as carbon stores.
Indeed, this debate was anticipated in February at a conference in Hobart on management of the world's old forests; by co-incidence that week Government adviser Ross Garnaut released his interim report on Australia's possible response to global change.
Like it or not, carbon and the forestry debate are now firmly linked. Peppered throughout Garnaut's report are references to how land cover change, and especially de-forestation, is connected to worsening climate change.
Garnaut advocates re-forestation and forest conservation to providing breathing space for new technologies to "de-carbonise" our economy in the next decade before we trigger dangerous climate change. He says Australia should be working with Indonesia (the globe's fourth-largest carbon emitter in absolute terms) and with Papua New Guinea (a potential big emitter) to reduce their carbon footprint by conserving forests.
Garnaut also has made specific reference to "structural economic adjustment" to help domestic industries, including forestry, adapt.
Clearly, if we don't practise what we preach in our forests, the charge of double standards is hard to dodge, and Garnaut's quest for "head room" to allow new clean technologies to become operational will collapse.
This would be a brave new world for forest managers and forest conservationists, both battle-scarred following decade-long debates about biodiversity conservation, aesthetics and wood production. While hard-won agreements for greater reservation and changed forest practices have been achieved, simmering tensions remain over old-growth forests and the development of pulp mills.
Suddenly the game has changed. The catch is that rules of the new carbon game for forests are far from settled.
Factoring forests into national and international carbon trades will be devilishly complicated, as complicated as the global carbon cycle itself, the full understanding of which remains on the frontiers of ecological science.
To make matters worse for Australia, the life cycles of eucalypt forests have peculiar attributes, especially the need for wildfires to initiate regeneration. This compounds the problem of neatly quantifying the carbon biomass in forests. The fact that our giant eucalypt forests arise from occasional intense fires is often forgotten.
Similarly, the fact that climate change will increase the likelihood of more frequent and bigger bushfires profoundly challenges our management. The plain truth is that eucalypt forests are periodic emitters of carbon and excluding fire from our forested landscape is neither realistic nor ecologically justifiable. Factoring eucalypt forests into the carbon economy is not for the faint-hearted.
Quantifying the current and potential carbon stocks is a research challenge. We are not yet in a position to undertake routine carbon auditing exercises that will be a prerequisite for a carbon economy. We don't have a good enough handle on the carbon dynamics of our forests, on the relative contribution made by regrowth and old-growth forests, or the life cycle of the carbon products derived from the harvest of native forests and plantations.
We need a coherent and comprehensive national monitoring framework which properly values carbon in wood products, and establishes a sensible baseline for forests and the forestry sector. The omission of the agriculture and forestry sectors from reporting frameworks shows how important this work is, and reinforces Garnaut's emphasis on research and development to enable adaptation to climate change.
Universities have a unique opportunity to create the knowledge required to help resolve many of these vexed issues surrounding carbon and forest management. Hard evidence from independent researchers will be crucial in resolving many of the claims and counter-claims about the relative carbon costs and benefits of different forest management practices. Because forest science is at the centre of the emerging carbon economy, degree courses for "landscape carbon accounting" are not out of the question.
Viewing forests through a climate-change and carbon lens changes all the old orthodoxies about forest conservation and management. With foresight, imagination and serious investment in research and training, the carbon economy presents a remarkable opportunity to create new forest-based industries and jobs.
We need to end the "forest wars" and focus on future challenges. Garnaut may be the trigger for this renaissance in forest management.
David Bowman, Peter Kanowski and Rod Keenan are professors of forest science at the University of Tasmania, Australian National University and University of Melbourne, respectively.
22 April, 2008
Letter to the editor, The Age, April 22, 2008
Many people are angry about these DSE forest burn-offs creating a toxic haze of dangerously fine particles that play havoc with the young, the old and respiratory disease sufferers.
Shockingly, the prescribed burns are also of dubious scientific merit — in a lot of cases they dry out otherwise moist forests making the bushfire risk greater. This was confirmed in the studies following the massive fires in 2003. Further, they are contributing significantly to Victoria's already huge greenhouse gas emissions.
08 April, 2008
The Age, letter, April 8, 2007
The article "State of stress" (The Age, 7/4) highlights some glaring hypocrisies in the Victorian Government. It states that mountain ash forests in Victoria, and their inhabitants, including the Leadbeater's possum, are at high risk from climate change.
Yet the State Government continues to allow logging in these forests in the central highlands and East Gippsland. Not only does this damage the habitat of many endangered and at-risk species, but it releases large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, further contributing to the climate change that threatens these ecosystems. Research from the Australian National University has shown that logging reduces carbon stores in these forests by 40% to 60%.
How can the Government propose to be acting on climate change when it still allows logging of these forests?
07 April, 2008
Herald Sun April 07, 2008
Some of Victoria's most endangered species may be beyond salvation - and the State Government has suggested it may not continue to try to protect them.
About 1000 of the state's plant and animal species are at risk of extinction as key habitat areas continue to decline.
A damning report released yesterday reveals some endangered animals will be wiped out unless the Government invests more money and resources in saving them.
But the same report says: "Fundamental decisions need to be made about the level of resources that can be invested in this area and whether we want to continue to aim to protect all species."
More than half of Victoria's native vegetation has been cleared since European settlement, while 80 per cent of private land has been cleared.
Remaining habitats are fragmented and only isolated patches of vital and once vast ecosystems remain intact.
The report, entitled Land and Biodiversity at a Time of Climate Change, recommends pursuing private investment to restore crucial habitats.
Environment Minister Gavin Jennings denied the threatened species would not be protected, saying that assessment processes needed to be reviewed.
"The green paper explores potential opportunities for landholders to access new markets in carbon and biodiversity," Mr Jennings said.
"A lot of corporations are seeing investment opportunities in land management.
"There will continue to be significant support from the State and I hope from the Commonwealth as well."
The green paper will form part of the Government's climate change white paper to be released next year.
Other actions considered in the paper include:
USING public-private partnerships to manage public land.
IDENTIFYING and protecting priority habitats in the marine environment.
ENCOURAGING plantings in key areas for both biodiversity improvements and carbon sequestration.
CREATING north-south and east-west habitat corridors connecting national parks.
Environment groups welcomed the report as a major step in protecting Victoria's environment but said it needed to be followed up with major funding.
Victoria Naturally alliance project leader Carrie Deutsch said the Government needed to set clear targets backed with resources.
"We would like to see at least a tenfold boost in funding and that's specific funding to protect and restore habitat for our threatened species.
"The science is telling us that Victoria is the most damaged state in Australia and according to the CSIRO about one third of native plants and close to half our native animals are threatened with extinction.
"We need to reconnect our core national parks and reconnect large scale networks of habitat corridors across the state in order to give species room to move as the climate changes."
26 March, 2008
Two 30 metre high tree platforms remain in place and are preventing logging from commencing.
The logging coupes are in the headwaters of the Bonang River and one of them borders the Errinundra National Park.
Both of the coupes are in a controversial area of iconic old growth forest, that has been the subject of protest actions for many years. Both include habitat for the endangered Spot Tailed Quoll and Long Footed Potoroo.
Conservationists on an ecology camp over the weekend surveyed one of the logging coupes and believe to have found rainforest, which is to be checked later this week by government scientists.
Emily Black or Lauren Caulfield
Trunk Phone (in the logging coupe) 03 9416 2129, wait for tone then dial 8384620
or 03 51540174
07 March, 2008
The Age, March 7, 2008
Australia and Papua New Guinea have laid the groundwork for carbon trading between the two neighbours, even before either country has developed a domestic emissions trading scheme.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd signed the Papua New Guinea-Australia Forest Carbon Partnership with his counterpart Sir Michael Somare in Port Moresby yesterday.
The partnership aims to help save PNG rainforests by enabling the sale of carbon credits through future national, regional and global emissions trading schemes.
After signing the partnership, Mr Rudd said it would encourage PNG to "do its bit for the world" by avoiding deforestation.
"It's far better we start heading in that direction together rather than heading in different directions," he said.
The two countries will consult each other on greenhouse strategies and Australia will help PNG measure and monitor the carbon locked away in its forests. They will also help each other enter international trading schemes.
Australia will provide its neighbour with technical assistance such as satellite monitoring. The deal holds out the possibility that other countries will join the partnership.
"I think Australia, ourselves and Indonesia are like a triangle on this particular issue of carbon emissions and in relation to forests," Sir Michael said.
Australia's principal adviser on greenhouse emissions, Ross Garnaut, has called for Australia to enter a regional carbon trading agreement with its two northern neighbours. Professor Garnaut has suggested Australia could make radical but relatively painless cuts to its emissions by giving domestic polluters such as electricity generators the ability to buy off-setting carbon credits from forestry projects in neighbouring countries.
This would work in much the same way that stopping domestic land clearing has helped Australia stay on track to meet its Kyoto targets.
It would have the advantage of giving PNG land holders an alternative source of income to logging.
PNG has one of the world's four great rainforests, covering an estimated 29 million hectares.
Mr Rudd also unveiled a blueprint for relations between Australia and Pacific Island countries. The Port Moresby Declaration promising increased aid and practical co-operation from Australia.
While largely lacking in concrete measures, the declaration was warmly welcomed by Sir Michael, who had a sometimes strained relationship with the Howard government. "The relationship was more or less deteriorated for a while," Sir Michael told journalists. "That's all water under the bridge. We are talking of a new beginning."
02 March, 2008
North Lake Tahoe Bonanza, March 2, 2008
Makes no apologies for timber policies.
WASHINGTON (AP) - He overhauled federal forest policy to cut more trees - and became a lightning rod for environmentalists who say he is intent on logging every tree in his reach.
After nearly seven years in office, Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey still has a long to-do list. Near the top: Persuade a federal judge to keep him out of jail.
Rey, a former timber industry lobbyist who has directed U.S. forest policy since 2001, also wants to set up state rules making it easier to build roads in remote national forests and to restore overgrown, unhealthy forests by clearing them of small trees and debris that can stoke wildfires. And he wants to streamline cumbersome regulations that can paralyze actions on public lands.
But a Montana judge, accusing Rey of deliberately skirting the law so the Forest Service can keep fighting wildfires with a flame retardant that kills fish, has threatened to put him behind bars.
Judge Donald Molloy says the Forest Service violated federal law when it failed to go through a public process to analyze the potential harm from using ammonium phosphate, a fertilizer that kills fish, as the primary ingredient for retardant dropped on wildfires.
For Rey, who faces a court date today, the prospect of jail time is daunting.
"It is something we take seriously," he said. "We are doing everything we can to comply with the judge's order."
But it's just one more obstacle as he attempts to rid federal policies of pesky paperwork and endless litigation that slows forest managers from cutting down trees.
Rey's signature accomplishment - passage of the 2003 Healthy Forests Restoration Act - quickened approval of projects to thin overgrown forests so they can be completed within months rather than years.
The law, the first major change in forest management in a quarter-century, has helped restore healthy forests after decades of neglect and mismanagement, supporters say.
"We are now treating four times as many acres as we did when this administration came into office," Rey said in an interview, "and those treatments are showing the desired effect."
Devastating wildfires in California last fall on about 800 square miles killed 10 people and burned about 2,200 homes - half the number of homes destroyed in similar fires in 2003, Rey said.
Rey's critics say talk of "treatment" and "thinning" is code for Rey's real goal: cutting more trees in service of his former timber industry cronies.
26 February, 2008
Letter, The Age, 26/2/2008
A 50-50 CHANCE of exceeding two degrees and triggering catastrophic and irreversible global warming is completely unacceptable.
We do not have time for partial solutions; we must get it right first time. We need an immediate end to "business as usual".
The desalination plant, the east-west freeway link, the pulp mill and the destruction of native forests should be referred back to Garnaut for urgent review.
20 February, 2008
Created: 26 Oct 2006 | Last updated: 20 Feb 2008
Latest campaign successes:
- The promise of protection of world class stands of old growth forests including Goolengook, and key rainforest and threatened wildlife habitat to existing National Parks in East Gippsland. In total this will add almost 36,000 hectares of forest to the reserve system to be protected under the National Parks Act
- The creation of a Great Victorian Alpine National Park by adding 5,000 hectares to the Errinundra National Park, thus linking the Errinundra, Snowy and Alpine National Parks
- The creation of a Cobboboonee National Park, with 27,000 ha under the National Parks Act, near Portland in the state’s far west, to protect the habitat of the Spotted-tailed Quoll, Southern Brown Bandicoot, Long Nosed Potoroo and Powerful Owl
- A commitment to create new Redgum National Parks if recommended by the Victorian Environment Assessment Council. This should realise the protection of approximately 60,000 hectares of Redgum forests along the Murray and its tributaries
While this is a great result, there is much work to be done to ensure the Brumby government sticks to their promises. Furthermore, large areas of Victoria’s old growth forests and all of our water catchments available for logging were not protected, and it is here that the campaign now turns.
The State Government has committed to undertake further research into the impact that logging has on water supply, given that five of Melbourne’s catchments, supplying over half of our water, are remarkably still available for logging. With a decade of research already done, clearly showing that logging reduces water supplies by up to 50 per cent, we believe the case is irrefutable. Nevertheless we will undertake a campaign around this process to pressure government to end logging in our catchments.
The overwhelming environmental challenge facing us is climate change, and forest protection is a critical part of any climate change action plan. Globally, about 25 per cent of dangerous carbon emissions are caused by land clearing and logging, and last year’s logging in Victoria’s native forests released as much carbon into the atmosphere as a staggering 2.3 million cars for a year. Protecting forests buffers us from dangerous climate change and linking protected forest areas builds resilience into our ecosystems and helps avoid an extinction crisis for our native animals.
For more information, please contact:
Victorian Campaign Coordinator
Mobile: 0414 754 023
19 February, 2008
The Mercury, February 19, 2008
IT IS time to stop logging Tasmania's old forests, an international forest management convention in Hobart was told yesterday.
And the convention was warned that global pressure could force an end to logging in old-growth and regrowth forest as the world comes to grip with global warming and carbon trading.
Australian National University resources and environment professor David Lindenmayer said commercial harvest of old-growth forests could no longer be justified.
Prof Lindenmayer wanted industry compensation.
"In the context of Australia, there is not a need for old-growth forest logging any more," he said. "But there needs to be structural adjustment for industry and no perverse outcomes, as has happened in Tasmania before."
The four-day conference, attended by more than 250 delegates from 20 countries, was warned climate change and carbon trading could bring massive pressure on logging.
University of Tasmania forestry professor David Bowman predicted carbon trading would throw accepted forest management and harvesting systems into chaos.
Prof Bowman cautioned governments entering long-term timber contracts at fixed prices, such as the 30-year deal signed between Forestry Tasmania and Gunns Ltd for the Tamar Valley pulp mill.
"We're in a strange twilight zone where we don't know the rules. It's going to be a really difficult time for Tasmania," Prof Bowman said. "Many people are going to feel disempowered because decisions are going to be taken out of the hands of the people and the politicians and made by the market."
The Federal Government is set to introduce a national carbon-trading system that will put an economic value on carbon production, emission, use and storage.
Trees are the biggest users of carbon, potentially mitigating against climate change.
But debate is raging about how the industry will be affected by a carbon-trading system that values growing trees for the carbon stored, but penalises it when the trees are cut down and when waste is burned.
Professor Bowman feared Tasmania was not prepared for global pressure to end logging in Tasmanian forests, including managed regrowth areas.
"Regrowth forests are an important means of reducing atmospheric carbon. There is a distinct possibility that the logging of regrowth forests will lose its current social licence," Prof Bowman said.
"We are facing a change of unfathomable proportions. Climate change and the carbon economy is going to affect every action we take."
Prof Bowman predicted radical forest management solutions would be needed to cope with adverse impacts of climate change on plantations and standing forests, especially if logging is reduced."
Star News Group, 19th February 2008
Police were forced to intervene on Tuesday last week as timber industry supporters clashed with MP Tammy Lobato at Yarra Junction.
And the Gembrook MP said the incident has left her questioning whether it is safe for her to continue her mobile offices.
Sixteen women led by Timber Communities Australia National coordinator Kirsten Gentle confronted Ms Lobato as she arrived at the Upper Yarra Community House for a scheduled meeting with constituents.
As Ms Lobato attempted to leave to go to Warburton, the women barred her way, holding a chain around her car and refusing her demand that Ms Gentle move away from the driver’s door.
As Ms Gentle spoke on her mobile to the Premier’s Department, Ms Lobato called for police assistance.
Two Yarra Junction police officers escorted the MP to her car.
Ms Gentle later told the Mail she had made a statement to police after Ms Lobato grabbed her arm in an attempt to move her away from the car.
The protestors, representing timber families and communities accused Ms Lobato of reneging on her pledge of support of the timber industry.
The protest was sparked by the MP’s recent call on her government to stop logging in Melbourne’s water catchments until a report currently underway into the practice was completed.
“It’s hard to believe that an ALP member can come out against their own party’s policy and against an industry she has claimed to support since gaining power in 2002,” Ms Gentle said.
Ms Gentle accused Ms Lobato of lying to timber workers about her support and said she was ignoring both the science of logging in the catchments and timber workers’ legal right to carry out logging there.
“The women today wanted to ensure Ms Lobato understood she had lost their confidence and trust in her as a local member and for her to experience first hand the frustration of not being able to work due to protesters locking on to personal equipment,” Ms Gentle said.
Ms Lobato, however, said she had made it very clear that her concerns relate to the logging within the Armstrong Creek catchment and not about the logging industry in general.
“The protestors know that for the past five years I have always been available and keen to support them,” she said. “I have tried to explain my position to the protestors but they won’t listen,” Ms Lobato said.
She said timber workers had refused to meet with her when an invitation was extended last week, and again on Tuesday.
Ms Gentle, however, said the time suggested by Ms Lobato for the first meeting was not suitable for the protestors and said no meeting had been offered on the Tuesday.
Ms Lobato said the protest could cause her to reconsider how she meets with residents in the future.
“When my constituents who want to meet with me in their own townships are subjected to verbal abuse, I obviously need to consider whether my commitment to being accessible by conducting mobile offices is posing unacceptable risks,” she said.
She said she had met with around 20 people and groups on the day and was sad that opportunity may not continue. “For protestors to chain my car was unfair to those residents in Warburton who had taken the time to make an appointment to see me,” she said.
“I do not like to let people down.”
Many of the placards questioned Ms Lobato’s allegiance to the Labor Party and her willingness to represent her logging industry constituents.
“Instead of coming out and condemning illegal forest protestors Ms Lobato decided to attack our family and our industry instead adding fuel to the fire for radical zealots who think they are representing the community when they illegally stop our business from working,” said protestor Nicki Green who claimed her family had been victimised by anti-logging protestors. In the face of slogans such as “Wanted, New ALP Candidate for Gembrook Pre-Selection” and “Tammy Lobato betraying her party and betraying the workers”, Ms Lobato defended her choice to speak out.
“My job as an MP is not to be a mere mouthpiece for party policy but to be an effective representative and stand up for what I believe in,” she said.
“That is what I am doing in this policy area and I have been inundated with messages of support.”
Police said no charges would be laid.
15 February, 2008
The Australian, February 15, 2008
Forestry and more efficient use of energy, rather than gas or renewables, can spearhead deep cuts in Australia's greenhouse emissions by 2020, according to research by heavyweight business consultants McKinseys.
The report, to be released today by the global A-list consultants, backs environmentalists' claims that Australia can afford to cut its greenhouse emissions by nearly 40 per cent over the next 12 years.
Major energy users dismissed the claim as "literally fantastic".
The report claims deep emission cuts of 30 per cent by 2020 based on 1990 levels could be achieved at a cost of about $3billion a year, or up to $65 per tonne of greenhouse emissions. Australia is currently 9 per cent above its 1990 emissions.
The report claims the first quarter of the 40 per cent emissions cuts could come by improving the efficiency of energy use in factories, offices and households through insulation and retrofitting of electric motors and airconditioning systems, which would deliver huge savings in power bills.
A further 31 per cent would come from avoiding further land-clearing and deforestation, coupled with rapid, widespread tree-planting programs to provide one of the cheapest ways for Australia to offset its greenhouse emissions.
The McKinsey modelling predicts there will be some new geothermal and wind energy generation by 2020, but by comparison very little switching from coal to gas-generated electricity.
Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt yesterday predicted the Rudd Government would abandon its mandatory renewable energy target to include all low-emission options by the 2009 budget.
The self-commissioned report, An Australian cost curve for greenhouse gas reduction, follows similar McKinsey analyses in the US, Britain and Germany.
The report's author, Stephan Gorner, said that compared with most other developed economies, Australia was in a unique position to develop large-scale forest sinks as a relatively cheap way to quickly deliver large cuts in net emissions.
He said that without forestry and the big gains available byreplacing coal with zero-emissions energy, Australia would find it much more difficult to achieve the deep targets proposed. "We are not daydreaming and thinking about breakthrough technologies," Mr Gorner said. "Everything here is live and operating."
Climate Institute policy director Erwin Jackson said energy efficiency was still the bridesmaid of greenhouse policy and that the McKinsey research highlighted the need for urgent government action to drive savings across theeconomy.
Australian Industry Greenhouse Network chief Michael Hitchens doubted such cuts were possible and warned that the report dangerously omitted many of the broader costs arising from this scale of emissions cut.
"If we need an emissions price of $60 a tonne, as they suggest, then that will cost far more than $290 per household," Mr Hitchens said. "This means something like 16c (more for) each litre of petrol, a 30 per cent increase in household power bills and maybe the doubling of gas prices."
11 February, 2008
February 11, 2008, The Age
He is a quiet one, is Richard Appleton, but you would not want to mistake that for an absence of passion.
In the diabolical tumult that is the climate change debate, he has a clarity of vision and calm resolve that could be a model for those of us who want to help the environment but don't know how.
Mr Appleton is a steward of the earth. We all are, he says, just temporary caretakers of the planet. He reckons that what we do now and tomorrow will determine our legacy.
In this philosophical stance he is far from alone, but Mr Appleton long ago decided to act on his beliefs.
And so we come to a good news story about what can happen when people set an example, form sympathetic alliances, dirty their hands and substitute altruism for ego.
Mr Appleton has a little remnant cool-temperate rainforest on his property at Balook, in that misty part of the Strzelecki Ranges where even in summer a persistent drizzle can feel like a sponge bath.
The rainforest has nowhere to run, he says. This is its final refuge. But the fact that it has survived at all is reason for hope. It could have disappeared during the wholesale (and many now say mad) clearing of Gippsland's Great Forest, which began in the 1870s, when settlers decided ancient stands of glorious mountain ash should make way for crops and cattle.
Richard Appleton's parents bought the 40-hectare Balook property in 1953. They cleared a few patches to grow potatoes and ride horses.
But when the Forests Commission came knocking, Mr Appleton's mother refused to sell. The area was beginning to recover from the 1944 bushfires. When Mr Appleton acquired the property in 1997, he sat down to plan not just its preservation, but a replanting scheme. He wanted to recreate the biodiversity that would have existed 200 years ago, when the tree canopy protected a dense understorey, and animals and birds had a symbiotic relationship that contributed to their survival. An environment, that is, that did not need human tampering.
Today, Mr Appleton's property is a little native oasis flanked by the Tarra Bulga National Park and the Merrimans Creek headwaters.
The leeches cling like limpet mines as you gingerly pick your way through gullies where Mr Appleton has loosened the formidable grip of blackberry infestation, allowing native shrubs and ferns to reclaim their rightful place.
He is putting in sassafras, beech and, of course, eucalypts — but it's a hell of a task. He turned to Trust For Nature for help. Like many Victorian landowners developing an eco-consciousness, Mr Appleton signed a covenant, protecting the land from opportunistic development.
Since 1972, the trust, a not-for-profit organisation, has been in the vanguard of innovative moves to protect Victoria's native habitat through covenants, land purchases and management programs.
In 2006, the trust put Mr Appleton in touch with Brendan Condon, of Australian Ecosystems. He is director of an offshoot organisation, Climate Positive, which is dealing with historical carbon debt.
It is not enough to be carbon neutral, Mr Condon says — we can suck it out of the atmosphere and lock it down.
Science is making inroads, all we need is the will to act positively. He dubs it "carbon catching".
On Friday, we went with Mr Condon and Trust For Nature's executive director, Mike Gooey, on a visit to Balook.
Also on board was the trust's West Gippsland conservation officer, John Hick.
Our little expedition was joined at Mr Appleton's home by GippsLandcare representative Gaby Mitchell, then we walked.
Mr Hick described one magnificent specimen of mountain ash as stately, exactly the word you had to settle on.
Mr Appleton took us to the paddocks where, with help from Climate Positive volunteers, thousands of eucalypts, wattles and acacias have been planted. There will be another planting in July.
Richard Appleton has a vision. He knows he won't be around to see the mature results.
Nor will any of us who don't know what to do except use energy-efficient light globes and ride a bike to the supermarket. But it is a vision that incorporates hope for a future with oxygen, and last Friday's expeditioners agreed that hope is as good a place as any to start.
09 February, 2008
Herald Sun. February 09, 2008
Never before have so many women wielded as much clout over big-ticket government and business policies as they will this year.
Curiously, many of those seeking to influence the policymakers began their careers in the forestry industry.
Others have been handpicked for their telegenic qualities and their ability to project a certain image in front of the television cameras.
Federal Parliament's resumption this week will focus attention on how business and politics intertwine - and on the pivotal role some women will play in a number of important debates this year.
Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard is expected to introduce her long-awaited workplace relations legislation while, across from her, deputy Opposition leader Julie Bishop will argue the Coalition's position.
Ms Bishop like her counterpart has responsibility for workplace relations.
In revising the WorkChoices laws, Ms Gillard would have consulted the most senior leaders vouching for workers, employers and all that lies in between.
The most powerful of them are women, too: note Barbara Bennett, director of the Workplace Authority, plus Australian Council of Trade Unions president Sharan Burrow and her opposites Heather Ridout, the chief executive of the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group), and Katie Lahey, her counterpart at the Business Council of Australia.
The other major employer lobby group, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), has an interim head, Peter Anderson, following Peter Hendy's recent recruitment by Opposition leader Brendan Nelson.
When BusinessDaily spoke to Mr Anderson, he said he had not made up his mind about whether to apply for the permanent position.
Asked if he believed ACCI might end up with a woman at the helm he answered: "I would be very pleased if there were a lot of women applying for the job."
He noted the increasing number of female politicians could encourage even more women to lead industry groups.
"There is no doubt that a conversation between a woman MP and a business woman would be different to a conversation between two men. Some women have a different manner . . . they bring a different language, a different tone."
THIS observation was played out on Wednesday when the Climate Change and Water Minister, Senator Penny Wong, delivered her first public speech since returning from the Bali talks to an Ai Group audience.
The irony of Senator Wong opting to make this debut with ACCI's rival could not have been lost on the chamber.
Its former chief, Mr Hendy, had often boasted about his role in scripting the Howard Government's WorkChoices laws.
The senator was not subtle on Wednesday: "It is not a coincidence that this first address is with the Ai Group . . . Heather has been an outstanding advocate for industry."
An effusive Ms Ridout had introduced her guest speaker with an equal emphasis on the good relations they had enjoyed in the past.
Relationships and consensus appear to be central to the way female figureheads of male-dominated organisations project themselves.
Yet many of them have connections or experience in an industry that traditionally oozed with conflict - forestry.
A raft of former pro-logging lobbyists have emerged to represent transport, cement, mining and energy groups - and it is no accident that they are all carbon intensive industries.
Mr Anderson agreed: "There do seem to be many women leading peak energy bodies and if there is any area where negotiating skills require an ability to compromise, it would be energy . . . otherwise, in the climate change debate there is going to be no agreement."
Hatched from the forestry incubator are three former Timber Communities Australia executives - Jill Lewis, who last month was headhunted by the NSW Trucking Association; Robyn Bain, now chief of the Cement Industry Federation and Dominique La Fontaine, who heads the Clean Energy Council, which includes gas, electricity and wind companies on its board.
A fourth ex-forestry industry lobbyist, Belinda Robinson, who used to lead plantation products council A3P, is chief executive of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association.
Gas industry promoter Cheryl Cartwright, chief of the Australian Pipeline Industry Association, was a former adviser to one-time Forestry Minister Warren Truss, who now leads the federal National Party.
In fact, most of these women have worked within the National Party at some stage and all of them have also rubbed elbows with Forestry Union strongman Michael O'Connor.
Ironically, the two most powerful women in the Rudd cabinet also have links to Mr O'Connor.
Ms Gillard was once his girlfriend, still cites him as a trusted adviser and has subsequently spoken against former Labor leader Mark Latham's restrictive logging policy.
Working closely with Ms Gillard as Employment Participation Minister is Mr O'Connor's brother, Brendan.
Also part of their team is Senator Wong, who will represent their portfolios in the Upper House.
Once a prominent member of Mr O'Connor's timber workers division of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), Senator Wong went on to advise the former Carr Government of NSW on logging issues.
Mr O'Connor conceded to BusinessDaily that he had had working relationships with all of these women to varying degrees.
However, he declined to be quoted on whether the anti-conservation position the former timber lobbyists had taken in the past would help to shape the carbon emission policies of the future.
Forestry expert and Australian National University academic Judith Ajani believes the parallels between the timber and energy resources sectors are many and explains why lobbyists can move comfortably between the two.
"Logging native forests for woodchips is a mining industry," says the author of The Forest Wars.
"These are both commodity industries, characterised by cost competitiveness and highly conflictual because they both involve the environment.
"If you've worked in forestry, you understand what makes other resource industries tick," she said.
Dr Ajani believes the high proportion of women representing the interests of resource companies is a strategy to keep the public's mind open.
"These are highly public industries, with high public concern and the women advocates are the frontline defence in the battle to justify a licence to operate."
Former forester turned cement promoter Ms Bain argues that it "makes sense that women have become the face of industry" as global warming moved on to the corporate agenda.
"The environment debate brought women to the fore when it was more of a social and emotional issue," said Ms Bain.
"When the environment became part of an economic debate, we moved with it and got ahead of the guys.
"We had a natural advantage . . . and we are not afraid of an emotional argument. Forestry certainly teaches you the art of negotiating."
She adds that if an advocate can survive forestry, they can survive anything.
"Cement is a walk in the park, it's easy compared to forestry's blockades."
The peak body for timber companies, the National Association of Forest Industries, continues to have a woman at the helm in Catherine Murphy, a former adviser to Opposition leader Brendan Nelson.
One time Queensland forestry lobbyist Dr Guy Pearse said it was no coincidence that pro-logging groups had women chief executives.
After decades of conflict over felling in the Tasmanian old growth forests to create woodchip exports, the timber industry wanted to distance itself from the aggressive tactics of forestry workers frustrated by blockading environmentalists, Dr Pearse said.
"They wanted to reinvent their image and make their leadership look as different to the flannel-shirted loggers as they could in the public's eye. It's called a telegenic appointment," said the author of High and Dry.
Trish Caswell, who has lobbied on both sides of the timber industry fence, firstly as the head of the Australian Conservation Foundation and later at the Victorian Association of Forest Industries, said other industry groups went on to borrow the ploy of appointing female figureheads.
"There was a conscious effort to get women into those leading roles at the beginning of the decade," she said.
Organisations traditionally seen as dirty, tough and male-dominated in particular wanted to soften their image in the media, she said.
They have included the NSW Minerals Council, which recruited Dr Nikki Williams, and the Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association, with Margaret Donnan at the helm.
Even renewable energy groups not tarnished with a polluting reputation have chosen to go with the "telegenic" option when appointing chief executives.
The Australian Geothermal Energy Association, for example, is headed by Susan Jeanes, and Environment Business Australia's chief is Fiona Wain.
But Ms Caswell is under no illusion that being the boss of a peak body is a sign that women are successfully taking their place in big business.
"While the role of an association has become more important, being the chief executive of one is not a mainstream power position in itself. You are not in the seat of power."
Business academic Vivek Chaudhri believes appointing leaders by virtue of their gender is counterproductive.
"There is a perception in some sections of the business community and in academia that in some circumstances, this swing has damaged opportunities for competent women," said the Monash University associate professor.
"If a woman higher up was not the best candidate for the position and she is looked at in not the best light, the consequences can be more damaging than just the wounded male response.
Original article link
02 February, 2008
Heraldsun (article), February 02, 2008
More than 20 billion litres of water is being lost in Melbourne's catchments every year because of logging.
Angry residents who want logging in a catchment near Healesville stopped have made the claim, which has been backed by a senior CSIRO scientist.
The Sustainability and Environment Department's decision to allow logging in the Armstrong Creek catchment has outraged locals and the Yarra Ranges Shire Council.
Logging began before Christmas and is expected to be completed by April.
Healesville businesswoman Sarah Rees said loggers wanted prized mountain ash.
"Mountain ash are among the largest trees in the world and they need the most water to grow," she said. "As they grow, they can suck up to 50 per cent of any runoff."
Research estimated logging slashed flows to the Thomson Dam by almost 20 billion litres a year, she said.
"That's almost the capacity of the Maroondah Reservoir. If logging continues across the catchments,
60 billion litres will be lost annually from Melbourne's water supply by 2050."
CSIRO senior scientist Richard Benyon said logging would reduce flows into Melbourne's catchments.
A loss of 20 billion litres a year was "not an unrealistic figure", he said.
"While it's only a small percentage of the amount of water Melbourne uses each year, all water is precious in a time of drought," he said.
Dr Benyon, who has completed a study into how bushfires affect water flows, said bushfires and logging had the same impact on runoff.
"After bushfires or logging, new growth sucks up water for several decades as it grows," he said.
DSE director of public land policy Nina Cullen said claims that 20 billion litres a year was being lost because of logging were wrong.
"Stream flows from the forested catchments are actually increasing, regardless of timber harvesting, because the vast majority of forests in the catchments are naturally ageing following the 1939 bushfires," she said.
Melbourne had 157,00ha of catchments and no more than 340ha was logged in any one year, she said.
Timber Communities Australia spokesman Scott Gentle said the amount logged each year was a fraction of the total catchment.
"Logging creates jobs and is a sustainable industry," he said. "There's real balance in what we do."
Yarra Ranges Shire councillor Samantha Dunn said the council opposed logging in catchment areas and had "overwhelming support" from residents.
The case that only a small part of catchments was logged was "ridiculous", she said.
". . . the phrase, 'it's only a little bit' adds up when it's repeated all the time."
30 January, 2008
January 30, 2008, The Age
Australians could buy a stake in the protection of endangered tropical forests under a groundbreaking scheme being devised by former Australian of the Year Tim Flannery.
Professor Flannery outlined his proposal yesterday in a private meeting with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's hand-picked climate change adviser, Professor Ross Garnaut.
Professor Flannery — Australia's most prominent environmental campaigner — wants to set up an internet-based carbon market with a pilot scheme to be run in Papua New Guinea.
In a paper prepared for Professor Garnaut, Professor Flannery says 20% of global carbon emissions come from the wholesale destruction of tropical forests, so preservation must be part of any effective response to climate change.
His scheme envisages that households and businesses would be able to secure the protection of forests and the replanting of trees through an auction scheme.
Buyers would identify vulnerable forest lands online, using internet technology like Google Earth, and then make bids to secure its protection through a site like e-Bay.
If the bid is accepted by the village, the funds would be held in trust by a non-government organisation until the agreed protection of biodiversity or carbon sequestration has been delivered.
"The purpose of this paper is to outline a practical way to establish a pilot scheme in PNG, which has the potential to guide the development of a tropical forest carbon market worldwide," Professor Flannery says in his paper to the Garnaut Climate Change Review.
Industry and environmentalists are now jockeying in an effort to influence the outcome of Professor Garnaut's review, which will deliver its interim report in June. The review is examining the impact of climate change on the Australian economy and will recommend policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Before yesterday's meeting with Professor Garnaut, Professor Flannery had outlined his forests proposal to federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett and PNG Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare during a meeting late last year.
He told The Age yesterday that he believed his proposal could help deal with some of the problems associated with reforestation schemes in the developing world because it recognised that villagers, not governments, were owners of the forest land.
The scheme would recognise "Mabo-like" principles of land ownership, he said. Sir Michael had expressed interest in PNG, which has clan-based land tenure, being the location for a pilot scheme. "The key thing is you have to buy from the owner," Professor Flannery said.
Households and businesses would buy biodiversity protection in the first instance, followed by carbon sequestration.
Heavy polluters are already seeking access to schemes to help offset their carbon dioxide emissions. Forests are natural carbon dioxide "sinks", which can be used to offset greenhouse emissions.
"My view is you would buy that right for one year," he said. Regular re-auctioning would be an important means of safeguarding progress and keeping villages accountable under the scheme.
Professor Flannery says the scheme would require participation by at least 50 villages. Governments would need to put appropriate regulations in place.
Significant funding would also be required for technology upgrades for remote villages. In a document prepared for Professor Garnaut, Professor Flannery identifies the previous government's $200 million global forests initiative as a source of support.