14 November, 2008

AGE LETTER: Conservation? That's a laugh

Jeremy Fitzpatrick, Heidelberg
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

AGE LETTER: Show some leadership

Luke Chamberlain, Victorian forest campaigner, The Wilderness Society, Fitzroy
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.

AGE LETTER: Telling tall stories

Jill Redwood, co-ordinator, Environment East Gippsland, Orbost
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: Conservation, not preservation

Max Rheese, executive director, Australian Environment Foundation, Benalla
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.

ABC NEWS: VicForests defends Brown Mountain logging

ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

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."

Article source

See also: Brown Mountain old growth forest

12 November, 2008

Throw a koala on the BBQ

Roger Gotch, Scoresby
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?

AGE LETTER: Chop, chop, let's honour a promise

Tracey Callander, Preston
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.

AGE LETTER: Heedless of consequences

Dan Musil, Northcote
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: Enough of the hysteria

Mark Poynter, Victorian media spokesman, Institute of Foresters of Australia, Doncaster East
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.

HANSARD: Timber industry: East Gippsland logging


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

Supplementary question

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]