Sue Neales, Chief reporter
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."