18 September, 2010

Reclaiming the old rhetoric on Oregon's forests

David Moskowitz
Oregonlive, September 17, 2010, 7:00 AM

Ben Shelton's tired rallying cry for the wood products industry to take back "what is ours" fails to acknowledge what has transpired in the industry and on the forest landscape since the 1980s.

The forest industry and forest communities barely survived Oregon's recession in the 1980s, while rampant over-harvesting of federal forests was institutionalized through congressional riders. The subsequent realization that only about 5 percent of federally managed old-growth remained, and that less than 1 percent of old-growth remained on state forests was startling to people across the country. This led to a sea change in public opinion about the value of old-growth forests from what precious little remained. Scientific understanding about the affects of timber harvest on watershed health came of age at the same time. These two forces were joined by the Clinton-era Northwest Forest Plan, which finally did what Teddy Roosevelt had tried to do – and what The Oregonian predicted in 1907 – protect the nation's forest from ultimate annihilation.

At the same time, the timber industry was undergoing major changes through corporate mergers and acquisitions, a changing tax structure that led to corporate restructuring, mill closures and mill "make-overs" for the switch from the nearly extinct big logs to today's even-aged 40- and 50-year-old logs. Ben Shelton pines for the days of yore that were actually more like Hollywood-created facades of prosperity propped up by unsustainable logging levels and favorable corporate tax structures. The days of the locally headquartered and vertically integrated timber industry around which entire communities relied are over and they "ain't coming back."

No single factor is to blame for these changes, and no single factor will solve forest health issues, rural community stability and the need for cross-boundary management decisions (something former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has championed). The future that Shelton desires will not be delivered by sounding a battle cry. Oregon's forests can, will and do provide multiple benefits and values to communities and individuals across Oregon and the nation in the form of clean water, carbon storage, recreational opportunity, native plants, a place for solace, a hedge against the uncertain effects of climate change and, yes, even wood products. All of these forest resources – whether from federal, state or private forestland – can be produced by collaborative management, by understanding and using the best available scientific information and by complying with existing environmental regulations. And if all of these products from "our" forests (in the broadest national sense) are properly valued, they will produce benefits for "our" communities (in the Oregon sense).

This can, and is happening without the meaningless hue and cry to "reclaim our forests and manage what is ours." That's what happened in the early 1990s when citizens across the nation demanded that the forest service stop over-harvesting a national treasure – Oregon's old-growth forests.

David A. Moskowitz of Northeast Portland is director of development for WaterWatch of Oregon.


16 September, 2010

Trees die, life stays

Chris Owens, Lysterfield South
The Age (letter), 16 November 2010

MAX Rheese's assertion (Letters, 14/9) that species could be pushed to the edge of extinction by current logging policies is ''drawing a long bow'', noting Leadbeater's possum was discovered in regrowth forest burnt in the 1939 bushfires.

Abundant research exists on this possum that reveals it requires hollows for shelter and nesting and, while the 1939 bushfire may have killed the trees, the stumps remained with their hollows to provide a habitat for this and associated hollow-dependent fauna.

Hollows have been proven to take between 100 and 200 years to develop. Current logging practice revolves around clearfell of coups that are logged on 30-to-40-years rotations and therefore hollow-dependent fauna are essentially permanently excluded from these areas.

After 150 years of logging, the remaining old growth and high-conservation-value forests are the last of the last where species such as Leadbeater's possum, sooty owl and spot-tailed quoll cling to existence. Given that this logging of a public asset occurs at a loss to the taxpayer and against the wishes of 80 per cent of the population and sufficient plantation resources exist, why do we not follow the precautionary principle and protect these areas?

15 September, 2010

Brown Mountain - final court orders

Jill Redwood, Coordinator Environment East Gippsland Inc
Media Release 15 September 2010

Environment East Gippsland has welcomed the final orders in the Brown Mountain landmark trial handed down in the Supreme Court on the 14th September.

“VicForests must pay 90% of our costs, as well as all their own costs, for this very long and expensive trial.

"DSE will need to undertake a series of surveys for two species of frogs and the spot tailed quoll in the coupes, there must be a review of protection areas for Sooty and Powerful owls and special conservation zones must be created for two species of gliders and the potoroo.

The Court has ordered that EEG receive copies of all these surveys and conservation measures once they are completed.  Only once all this is done to the satisfaction of DSE, can VicForests even contemplate logging in the coupes. It remains to be seen if all this is undertaken in good faith by DSE, whether any areas will remain available for logging.

“In a victory for an open and transparent conservation process quite unlike what has occurred in the past, the Court has ordered that all these surveys, maps of new protection zones and conservation measures be notified to EEG.

That way we and the public of Victoria  we can see whether his Honour’s orders have been carried out.”

“It really is a very strong judgment for us.  We have been vindicated in taking on the big boys of logging.”

“If we had not risked everything in defence of our forests, VicForests would have logged Brown Mountain’s old growth forests by now.  The logging would have been illegal, and it would have killed a range of protected wildlife that they denied was there.”

Jill Redwood
Environment East Gippsland Inc
(6800 Bonang Rd Goongerah)
Locked Bag 3
ORBOST Vic 3888

Ph (03) 5154 0145

14 September, 2010

Hardly a danger

Max Rheese, Victorian Lands Alliance, Benalla
The Age (letter), 14 September 2010 

Sarah Rees and Jill Redwood (Letters, 11/9) ignore that native timber harvesting occurs on less than one tenth of 1 per cent of public forest in Victoria by claiming this contributes to the decline of species such as Leadbeater's possum. Get real.

Asserting any species is in danger from such a minuscule activity, thinly dispersed over thousands of square kilometres of bush, is really drawing a long bow, particularly when the once-thought-extinct Leadbeater's possum was rediscovered in 1966 in regrowth forest from the 1939 fires.

The small area of timber harvesting occurring in Victoria does not result in any net loss of forest, as all areas harvested are required to be regenerated. Rees and Redwood cannot see the forest for the trees as the ultimate determinant of forest structure in Australia is bushfire, not timber harvesting.

Industry shortfall

Gordon Bradbury, forester, Hobart
The Age (letter), 14 September 2010

The Victorian native-forest-based industry may like to think it is a sawlog-driven industry (The Age, 12/9), but VicForests' own reports show that this is not accurate.

VicForests is clearly reluctant to show this, as the relevant numbers are spread around many reports. The 2009 Annual Report (page 40) shows that for the past two years pulpwood sales have comprised 58 per cent of total revenue, while the 2009 Sustainability Report (page 24) shows for the same period pulpwood comprised 70 per cent of total wood volume sold.

This tells us two things: the average price paid by the forest industry for native forest sawlogs is little more than the price paid for pulpwood (based on prices, there is little difference in quality between hardwood sawlog and hardwood pulpwood); and without pulpwood harvesting, VicForests and the hardwood sawlog forest industry would not exist.

Based on these figures, the Victorian hardwood sawmilling industry doesn't seem to have a very commercial, profitable future without continuing government support and subsidy.

13 September, 2010

Gunns announcement turns activists to Eden

ABC Online, Monday 13 September 2010

Mumbulla State Forest logging site, north of Eden. (News Online: Thomas Oriti)

Environmentalists say a recent announcement by the Tasmanian company Gunns shows the days are numbered for a chipmill in South East New South Wales.

The timber giant says the forest industry has lost the debate on native logging, and the company plans to become a solely plantation-based business.

The anti-logging group Chip Busters says environmental activists will now shift their focus to other operations, starting with South East Fibre Exports at Eden.

The group's spokesman, Noel Plumb, says local MPs should assist the transition to plantations.

"It's critical that our local MPs step up here, and demand a share of the $20m currently available for industry restructuring," he said.

"Because there will be contractors who will now realise that the writing is on the wall."

Mr Plumb says the operation at Twofold Bay will be hit next.

"Native forest logging and woodchipping is not sustainable, and the future is in a plantation-based industry," he said.

"The pressure and the focus on woodchipping around the country will now move to other operations such as the Eden woodchip mill."


12 September, 2010

Victoria no longer in Gunns' sights

Melissa Fyfe
The Age (article), September 12, 2010

Timber giant Gunns, a major player in Victoria's $3billion native forest industry, has confirmed it will move out of logging operations in state-owned forests.

Gunns chief executive officer Greg L'Estrange - responsible for 40 per cent of Victoria's native forest industry - told The Sunday Age that while moving out of Tasmania's native forests was the priority, the principle also applied long-term to Victoria.

The Victorian Greens have seized on the move and called on the Brumby Government to immediately end native forest logging and transfer the industry into plantations. The party will be campaigning on the issue in the lead-up to November's state poll. ''It should have stopped ages ago,'' said Greens candidate for Melbourne Brian Walters. ''There's no reason it can't stop immediately.''

But the Victorian Association of Forest Industries vowed to fight the Greens on native forest logging, making the issue a key battleground in the lead-up to November. Executive director Philip Dalidakis conceded that the Gunns decision had ''the potential to establish a precedent in the public mind''.

But he said the company was pursuing its own corporate strategy, which had little to do with a broader industry strategy, appropriate government policy or responsible forest management.

Shutting down Victoria's native forest logging would increase imports of timber products harvested under irresponsible environmental regimes, he said. ''This is environmental hypocrisy at its worst. The Greens have argued against native forestry and recently against plantation development, which makes me wonder which magic potion will appear to produce the wood and paper products consumers demand,'' said Mr Dalidakis.

The Sunday Age understands the Brumby Government is keen to bolster its environmental credentials before the state election by announcing a small reduction in native forest logging. Party strategists are believed to be currently looking at some of the controversial logging operations in Melbourne's water catchments.

Both Labor and the Coalition back Victoria's native forest industry, which is managed, on behalf of the taxpayer, by VicForests and provides one third of the state's timber. Government spokeswoman Emma Tyner said yesterday that any bans on the industry would mean unsustainable options such as ''steel, aluminium or illegal timber from overseas'' and that was ''unacceptable''.

Opposition environment spokeswoman Mary Wooldridge said the Coalition supported a vibrant logging industry. She said the party believed it was not possible for native forest logging operations to move entirely into plantations because there were simply not enough plantations to support the industry.

In the past few years, Tasmanian-based Gunns has built up its stake in Victoria's logging industry, with large sawmilling assets at Heyfield and Alexandra. Mr L'Estrange said it was difficult in Victoria to transfer to plantations because the plantation trees are mostly in the state's south-west, far from its sawmills.

Nevertheless, the company had taken on a broad policy of removing itself from native forests. ''There are no immediate plans for Victoria, but what we are saying is that we are progressively moving out of native forest logging. The first thing on the agenda, however, is to deal with what is happening in Tasmania,'' he said.

Mr L'Estrange stressed that no decision had been taken on Gunns' Victorian assets, and the broader fate of native forest logging would remain in the hands of the community and the government. Mr L'Estrange shocked the Australian logging industry last week when he announced that ''native forest is not part of our future''.

The new-look Gunns, following the departure of controversial leader John Gay, is keen to reduce the conflict around its operations in Tasmania to satisfy overseas investors and customers and to ensure its controversial pulp mill goes ahead.

The environment movement have long argued that woodchips for paper - and not the high-quality sawlog products - drive the Victorian industry. The industry says that while woodchips make up 65 per cent of products from the state's forests, sawlogs drive the industry and woodchips are largely a by-product.

Plantations in Victoria are growing every year, but the industry says there are not enough sawlog plantations - as opposed to woodchip plantations for paper production - to allow the move out of native forests into plantations. According to the government's timber strategy, about 730,000 hectares in eastern Victoria, or 9 per cent of the public native forests estate, is available for timber production.

There are 229,000 hectares of hardwood plantations in Victoria for short-rotation, high-quality woodchips and 222,000 hectares of plantation for sawlogs and woodchips.


External links

11 September, 2010

Loggers' assault a 'rampage'

Andrew Darby
The Age, September 11, 2010

THREE forest workers have been convicted of a violent assault that marked a low point in Tasmania's old growth logging dispute.

The assault on blockaders in the contentious Upper Florentine Valley made global internet viewing when it was captured by a hidden camera. A Hobart magistrate yesterday described the assault, using a sledgehammer and steel-capped boots, as akin to a rampage.

Peter Barker, counsel for logging contractor Rodney Howells, 51, said Howells ''lost it'' when he found a disabled car blockading the road into a Florentine Valley logging coupe, with two protesters inside.

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A video of the incident, shot from a concealed position by another protester, was described by magistrate Olivia McTaggart as confronting in its violence.

Howells beat the car with a sledgehammer, smashing its windows, as he demanded the protesters inside get out of his way. When Nishant Datt, 22, and Miranda Gibson, 27, got out of the car Jeremy Eizell, 36, grabbed Datt and threw him to the ground, and Terrence Pearce, 34, kicked him to the head. Both men worked for Howells.

Ms McTaggart said the protest was carefully staged to stop workers proceeding with their legitimate activities, and she accepted that Howells was very remorseful.

But she said they were not entitled to deliver their remedy, which was a frightening experience for the protesters. Convictions were recorded on assault charges for all three, and each was ordered to carry out 70 hours of community service.

The court heard that Howells was the victim of an unsolved 2002 sabotage, when five of his machines, worth up to $3 million, were wrecked and burnt in a logging coupe.

Mr Barker said Howells and his work crew had been repeatedly prevented by environmentalists from carrying out their job under contract to timber company Gunns before the October 21, 2008, assault.

''He and other contractors have become pawns in a dispute between environmentalists and the timber industry,'' he said.

A spokeswoman for the protest group, Still Wild Still Threatened, Ula Majewski, said it was time to move on from the case.

''This was really symptomatic of the conflict that has dogged Tasmanian forests for decades,'' Ms Majewski said. ''We are now on the threshold of agreement on a sustainable industry that preserves our truly beautiful wild forests.''

The court decision came just a day after Gunns's chief executive, Greg L'Estrange, declared loggers had lost the public battle for the right to log native forests.

''We will find joint solutions to age-old conflicts and move beyond [to] a real, sustainable forest industry,'' Mr L'Estrange told a trade conference in Melbourne.


Time of reckoning

Jill Redwood, co-ordinator, Environment East Gippsland Inc, Goongerah
The Age (Letter), 11 September 2010

WHY have governments fought so hard against public opinion on logging and woodchipping native forests? Gunns has finally succumbed to the moral argument and the demands of the market, but will Mr Brumby also move into the security of plantations and into the 21st century? He will look terribly backward if his government resists.

To continue to support forest destruction at a time of extreme climate conditions and carbon constraint is backward.

In the Supreme Court last month, logging was shown to be a threat to Victoria's endangered wildlife. It has also been shown to dry out water catchments, require subsidies, be unpopular and account for 20 per cent of our annual greenhouse pollution. Now that the logging union and Gunns are happy to move out of native forests, will our Labor government stop supporting the conflict and do what 80 per cent of the voters want - get out of native forests.

No hollows and no food left for wildlife

Sarah Rees, MyEnvironment Inc, Healesville
The Age (Letter), 11 September 2010

AS SPECIES reach extinction point in the fire-affected forests of the Central Highlands, 80 kilometres from Melbourne, timber giant Gunns has conceded it's finally over (''Timber giant concedes defeat in decades-old logging war'', The Age, 10/9).

Gunns will rebuild its brand with new ventures in plantations but for the species whose future they robbed, surviving in post-fire, salvage-logged landscapes, the trajectory is not so positive. No hollows, no homes, no food.

The logging has scraped the last of the Leadbeater's possum's fragmented habitat into piles of poor sawlog and pulp logs that has, with gross subsidy, won a profit for the state's loggers, VicForests.

Well done, Gunns, for exiting, but now the real work begins for John Brumby, as it has been under his policy that Victoria's faunal emblem, the Leadbeater's possum, has been committed to likely extinction.

10 September, 2010

Gunns exits native forests, they should now be protected in Tasmania, NSW and Victoria

Peter Campbell
Letter submitted to The Age, 10 September 2010

Gunns has exited from logging native forests in Tasmania, and have stated that "native forest is not part of our future" and that they are moving to a plantation-based business.

Gunns acknowledged that the vast majority of Australians want their native forests protected.

However, Tasmanian native forests, and native forests in Victoria and New South Wales, are not protected from logging as a result of this.

The Victorian Labor government promised in 2006 to "immediately protect remaining significant stands of old growth forest currently available for timber harvesting" but they have not yet done so.

The 40,000 hectares of "forest" they did commit to protect included low quality regrowth forest and even some cow paddocks.  They did not protect other designated old growth forests such as Brown Mountain.

Following legal action by Environment East Gippsland, the Victorian Supreme Court ruled that Brown Mountain forest must be protected due to the presence of endangered species and the requirements of the law, and found the Victorian Government and Vicforests to be at fault.

It is now up to state and federal governments to recognised the will of the people and ensure that remaining native forests are protected and that the logging and woodchip industries fully transition to plantation resources.

The very significant benefits in protecting our remaining native forests include preserving their biodiversity, safeguarding the carbon they store and the water they produce, and providing an excellent resource for local and international eco-tourism.


Timber giant concedes defeat in decades-old logging war

Paddy Manning and Andrew Darby
The Age (article), September 10, 2010

TIMBER giant Gunns has broken ranks with Tasmania's forest industry and confirmed it will pull out of native forest logging altogether.

In a massive win for the environmental movement, Gunns revealed it would quit the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania, which was arguing for a continuation of native forest logging in the state.

Gunns chief executive Greg L'Estrange told The Age the company's future lay in plantation hardwoods and softwoods and processing of forest products.

"Native forest is not part of our future," he said. "We see that the conflict largely has to end. Our employees and the communities we operate in have been collateral damage to this process. We want to move our business to a plantation-based business."

Mr L'Estrange said Gunns wanted a constructive outcome to the forestry negotiations and the company would take in ideas from "all parties". "A lot of good ideas can come from the people we used to throw rocks and brickbats at," he said.

The announcement was made at a conference in Melbourne yesterday, where Mr L'Estrange effectively conceded defeat in the decades-old war over Tasmania's native forests.

"The vast support of the Australian population is with the environmental non-government organisations," he said.

Gunns and Tasmania's environment movement have been long-time foes, culminating in a bitter five-year lawsuit brought by the company against 20 conservationists, including Greens leader Bob Brown. The case was finally settled early this year.

Mr L'Estrange has been repositioning Gunns since taking over from predecessor John Gay. Mr Gay was ousted earlier this year after he lost investor confidence when he sold $2 million worth of Gunns shares just weeks before unveiling a 98 per cent drop in profit in the six months to December 2009. Mr Gay has since resigned from the company's board and has also ceased his involvement with Gunns's controversial $2 billion Bell Bay pulp mill.

To finance the proposed mill, Gunns needs to attract foreign investment and has partnered with Swedish forest company Sodra, which is insisting the mill meet world's best practice environmental standards and rely on plantation timber. The mill, which requires federal approval, is still opposed in Tasmania on environmental grounds.

Australian Greens deputy leader Christine Milne said Gunns should receive compensation if it pulled out of wood supply deals with state agency Forestry Tasmania. "If Gunns pulls out there is potential to save a huge amount of forest," she said. "We want that forest protected, not on-sold."

Senator Milne said Gunns's move left Forestry Tasmania and the rest of the native forest logging industry "far behind".


09 September, 2010

Gunns breaks silence on FIAT split

9 September 2010, ABC online

The head of timber giant Gunns Limited has spoken publicly about why the company is severing its ties with the state's most influential forest industry lobby group.

It has been revealed Gunns is quitting the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania.

The company's departure undermines the association's finances and powerbase, as forestry peace talks continue with environmentalists.

Gunns chief executive Greg L'Estrange was asked about the spilt at a forest industry conference in Melbourne today.

"It's one of those things you normally do quietly and have those conversations with the industry," he said.

"As you would have heard today we have a certain path that we are taking our organisation on and we've made those decisions taking all of those things into account."

Mr L'Estrange says the forest industry has lost the public debate on logging.

He has called for an end to the so-called war between the industry and environmentalists.

He said there had been a decline in the public demand for wood products and he reiterated Gunns' intention to become a plantation only business, urging others to follow suit.

He told the conference that most Australians now support the environmental lobby.

"The vast support of the Australian population is with the environmental non-government organisations," he said.

"This commands them to work with them to create a future without this conflict that moves them from being in opposition for our products and processes, to being supportive.

"This may well mean transitioning to plantation but move we must.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/09/09/3007304.htm

04 September, 2010

Where the wild things are

Anna Krien 
The Age (article),  September 4, 2010

I'M AT the National Park Hotel on the road to Maydena, the last town before the Florentine and Styx valleys. It is dark when I walk in and order a beer at the bar. Ignoring the hush, I try to act as if I always walk into pubs full of men in the middle of nowhere. Perched on a barstool, I flick nonchalantly through the paper - but as I scan the front page, I realise my timing is unfortunate.

"Isn't that the river I just drove over?" I asked the barman, holding up the front page. It shows a photo of an Asian girl alongside a picture of the Tyenna River. The barman jerks his head.

"Yes, but it wasn't any of us."

A voice behind me chips in. "Definitely not us. That's a stupid place to put a body. I mean, there's hundreds of mine shafts around here."

I turn around, but there are too many eyes looking at me expectantly and I can't figure out who spoke. I nod slowly and read through the article. Police have arrested two Hobart men after discovering the girl early this morning, her body weighed down by rocks in the shallows.

"Are you a greenie?" another voice calls out, startling me. I spin around quickly this time and catch the speaker, a young man wearing an orange high-visibility top and blue pants; he falls back behind his mates as if to share around responsibility for his question. A couple of girls have walked in to buy a six-pack of sweetened mixers and they pause to look at me. I shrug.

"I dunno. Are you?"

His mates semi-shriek and fall over themselves, while he puffs himself up.

"No way!"

I tell them I'm a writer and that I've been staying at the Florentine blockade up the road. The men recoil.

"They stink, don't you reckon?" says a fella in a hi-vis fleece jumper. "They smell disgusting." I don't answer. "Go on, admit it, they stink. If one were sitting right there, would you sit next to them?"I say I would and the men scream with horror.

"No way! Go on, admit it. They smell," another pitches in.

"Well, yeah," I begin tentatively, "they've got their own …" But before I can finish, they're clapping and cheering.

"She admits it! She thinks they stink!"

I start to laugh, giving in. "OK, some can smell a bit gross, but I reckon Lynx deodorant and most women's perfume stinks as well."

Some of the men nod sagely. Others are giddy with joy that they've made me say it.

I look around. It's an OK pub. Stickers are plastered all over the walls, the usual "I love beer, shooting and f---ing"jokes ("Credit is like sex - some get it, some don't," I spy above the door). It's perhaps a little too antiquated, cashing in on the "Oh, aren't we oddballs, us Tasmanians"theme for the tourists. But at least it makes an effort to charm, unlike the other pubs I've seen on the island, renovated with rows of pokie machines and shrieking metal chairs. I look up at the dinner menu on a blackboard. I want to order a vegetable pattie but worry it will condemn me to "greenie-yuppie" status. Asking for a salad roll can be fraught with danger down here. When I asked for one at a cafe in New Norfolk, the woman behind the counter looked at me with suspicion and asked, "You want ham, chicken or beef with that?"

I order fish and chips, silently apologising to my stomach. I hate meals that are all yellow.

When my meal arrives, a parmigiana is plonked down in front of the man beside me. He introduces himself as John, and tells me he is a tree-faller, a subcontractor in a harvesting team in the Styx Valley. Fallers are among the few who still touch the trees before they fall. If a tree is too difficult to cut with the jerky outstretched arm of a machine, the faller steps in with a hand-held chainsaw and with a series of cuts can make it fall away from the crew. "You can tell the fallers," one activist told me earlier. "They're the skinny ones. The rest are fat from sitting in machines all day." John isn't skinny, but he isn't fat either.

"We're also the 'sawlog chasers'," he explains; they trim the tops, branches and butts off felled trees and separate any sawlogs from the stem - the straight, wide logs suitable for boards rather than pulping.

A big man with blond hair, John is in his early 30s. He was a shearer before he got into falling, but his current occupation runs in the family. "My grandpa did it, my father too, but he got out after Gunns took control of everything. Said it was too much of a monopoly."

John stayed in the game. His family lives in Buckland on the east coast, a few hours' drive across the island from the Styx Valley. He commutes to work, living at this pub during the week and at home on weekends. "I'm trying to get the boss to give me a portion of his fuel subsidy," he tells me. "But it's not looking good."

John is a thoughtful presence amid the fluoro rowdiness. As we chat, there are times I think he hasn't heard me he is quiet for so long. I ask him about the activists.

"It's the weirdest thing," he says slowly, two beers between us. "You come to work and there they are. One dressed as an eagle, another looking like she wants to tear your eyes out, and then they try to talk to us as if this is normal."

John is part of a small "bush crew", contracted by Forestry Tasmania to fell a coupe and haul the timber to a mill. "[The protesters] tell you to call the police and FT, so you have to drive back in to phone reception, and then the boss tells us to go back - and then they want to talk to you all mate-like. Offering us cups of tea and bullshit like that. I mean, f--- , we're here to work, not to have a chat."

He shakes his head and says again, "It's the weirdest thing. You see them barefoot on top of a machine or tree, and there's a frost and they're dancing round, singing - they're f---ing crazy."

For many of the activists at the Florentine blockade, it's woodchips they have the biggest problem with, the turning of whole hectares of forest into mulch. I am told repeatedly that sawlogs account for only a small portion of the industry's output. They are cynical about the industry's claims that sawlogs are their top priority.

When I put this to John, he looks genuinely confused.

"It's the cream of the crop. I'd have to be stupid to send a sawlog to the chipper. What's left over goes to woodchips."

I tell John what the activists at the Florentine told me: 80 to 90 per cent of the forest felled there will go to the chipper.

"Yeah, but sawlogs are the prime cut," he insists.

LIKE a carcass in an abattoir, the forest is divvied into cuts. But unlike a cow that couldn't live without its T-bone, perhaps a forest could be left standing and just its prime cuts removed? John considers this for a while before answering cautiously.

"In regrowth forest, selective logging would be possible, but in old-growth it would be way too dangerous. You'd have to clear-fell." John already has the most dangerous job in the industry, and the most under-represented. When I ask him who in all the forestry brouhaha speaks for him, he again goes quiet, as if fishing in some dark place for an answer.

"Not Ferdie Kroon [CEO of the Forest Contractors Association], that bastard loves himself. And Barry Chipman, he's a wanker. I mean, who is Chipman? He is quoted in every bloody news item but I've never

seen him [Chipman is the Tasmanian spokesman for Timber Communities Australia, an industry group]." John laughs out loud. "And now Brant Webb is

running for election. What a goose."

Webb became famous when he and another miner were trapped in the Beaconsfield mine for two weeks. Their survival story made headlines around the world; they even appeared on Oprah.

As we talk, advertisements play on the television above the bar. There's one promoting Forestry Tasmania, another publicising a "Walk Against Warming" to be held in the Upper Florentine. A tourist on a nearby barstool overhears our conversation and starts to talk to the man behind the bar about the logging of old-growth forests.

"We used to go into the pub and say we were loggers," John tells me. "Now we keep quiet if we don't know the place. It's intimidating. I wanted to go see Johnny Diesel play in Hobart last month, but he was at the Republic Bar and I just thought I'd stand out like a sore thumb."

Around us, there's a hum in the room, fuelled by talk of timber. A younger logger leans between us to listen. Boyish, he gains confidence as more men gather. Pulling out a mobile phone, he shows me videos of working in the forest - skidders going back and forth, timber being dragged to a landing, trees falling over.

John eyes him and says with a dry smile, "When have you got time to do this, Mitch? Shouldn't you be working?"

Mitch laughs and shows another clip to a man standing near us.

"Oh, I reckon she would have already seen that one, mate," the man says knowingly. Curious, I lean over. It's the video of the car being smashed with Nish and Miranda inside it. Mitch must have downloaded it on to his phone. I wonder how many times he's watched it. He giggles as he replays it for me. I look at the faces around me, wondering who might be one of the blurry bodies in the video.

I ask John what he does when protesters come into a coupe he's working in.

"I try to keep out of it. Just don't say anything. But there was this one time we'd started logging a coupe in the Styx, 10F, and this woman she came out of nowhere and was going crazy at us. She was sobbing, a thirty-something-year-old woman, sobbing over a few trees. I was pretty rude to her, I could have dealt with that better."

Again I ask John about clear-felling. "It's the safest way in the old forests," he says. But what about all the potential sawlogs that go to the chipper before they've grown? Isn't that your future yield? John is quiet.

But then Leon, the pub owner, appears behind the bar. Leon is a retired logger himself, and John snaps up his head. "It would be OK if you guys didn't cut everything in the '70s."

A small round man with white hair and glasses, Leon barks back: "That's not true - we did a good job around Triabunna. All the wood was rotten, so we cleared it and reseeded."

John shakes his head accusingly. "That's bullshit. There was good wood in there."

"No, it was all rotten, John, I'm telling you."

"Good wood and you guys cut it all for the chipper. So now we're two generations behind."

I'm not sure what I've started. The man sitting on the other side of me winks and says in my ear, "Who needs an activist?"

Further down the bar, another man puts his beer down and says loudly, "I recommend that everyone shut their mouths and not say another word to this woman."

There's a silence. I lean forward to look at him properly. He's wearing a fluorescent orange jacket, and has closely cropped hair and a pointy face that almost fits into his beer glass. "She'll take it all back to the Greens, to Bob Brown. Or you'll be on A Current Affair next week."

I protest. "C'mon, mate - I've got standards. Today Tonight, at least."

The man beside me says, "Lay off, Turk, she's OK." But the others are quietly looking me over more closely.

"So, whose side are you on?" asks John, leaning back, his blue eyes on me.

This is an extract from Anna Krien's Into the Woods: The Battle for Tasmania's Forests, published by Black Inc

Source: http://www.theage.com.au/environment/conservation/where-the-wild-things-are-20100903-14uhd.html