22 December, 2011

Mill energy plan a step closer

Shauna Black
The Islander,  22 Dec, 2011

WA-Based timber company RuralAus has cleared the first major hurdle in its bid to build a biomass energy plant at its timber mill operations near Parndana.

The company has completed a feasibility study into the project, which aims to generate five to 10 megawatts of power from mill waste, using 2MW for its own operations and making the rest available to other island users.

RuralAus chief executive officer John Ipsen said the feasibility study, completed with a State Government grant, had shown the project should proceed to the next stage and “what we shouldn’t be doing, what technology we shouldn’t use”.

RuralAus will now employ a project manager to get a “bankable project” by the end of this financial year, with completion of the plant in mid to late-2013. It has been encouraged to seek further government grants to support the project to its next level.

“I’m confident the project will happen. There are too many relevant milestones achieved already. We have our own resources, the mill, the government is aware of the island’s energy situation and we have the support of governments,” Mr Ipsen said.

“We just need to get in there and tick all the boxes.”

He said RuralAus was ready to work on the cable and infrastructure issues with stakeholders.

“We see this project as complementing other initiatives, such as Island Energy. We are keen to work with other government and community groups in a whole-of-island approach.”

Meanwhile, RuralAus has interim planning approval to operate the mill at Parndana on a trial basis one day a week.

“We’ve already employed 8 people and we hope to increase that to 30,” Mr Ipsen said.

British firm blacklists Tasmanian timber

Conor Duffy, Environment Reporter 
ABC AM by December 22, 2011

PHOTO: The UK company says it only wants to buy timber produced in a responsible manner. (ABC News)

The Prime Minister's peace deal was supposed to end decades of conflict in Tasmania's forests but protests are continuing.

Now, a London company is boycotting timber products from the island state.

Last month it emerged timber from Tasmanian forests was being used on London Olympic building sites.

The purchaser of the timber products says it will no longer buy the Tasmanian timber from Ta Ann products due to lobbying by activists.

That has infuriated the company, industry and the State Government.

Tim Birch from Markets for Change was among the environmentalists who flew to London.

"Our investigations working with environmental groups in Tasmania clearly has shown that Ta Ann continue to source products coming from these vital forests, and so we went to London to visit a number of companies to inform them of exactly what was happening."

While the Prime Minister's peace deal does say there should be no logging in these forests, the areas are still being assessed to determine if they are actually high conservation value.
Forestry Tasmania says that under the deal it is allowed to keep logging in these areas to supply Ta Ann.
Nevertheless Ian Attwood, the managing director of International Plywood which bought Ta Ann's timber for the Olympics says his company is now boycotting Ta Ann's products.

"The reason we've stopped or we've suspended purchasing from Ta Ann is mainly because of the controversy around the logging in Tasmanian forestry," he said.

"The NGO's will have to be happy with any changes that they can make to enable the product to be purchased by us again."

Mr Attwood says he was concerned by what he heard from two activist groups: Markets for Change and the Huon Valley Environment Centre.

"We're not there to, you know, to savage the forests. We're here to try and buy product in a responsible manner."

That is hotly contested by Forestry Tasmania, Ta Ann and the Tasmanian Government.

The company's products are certified as sustainable under the international PEFC scheme.

David Ridley from Ta Ann is overseas, however his manager Greg Hickey says the company's practices have been misrepresented.

"It is concerning that they're going and targeting our customers, mainly because of the certification that we have which points to our environmental credentials."

"Our real concern is that if our customers don't buy from us then they're going to buy from potentially illegally-logged sources."

Ken Jeffreys from Forestry Tasmania has attacked the green groups for targeting Ta Ann's customers.

"We're talking about a situation here that is reminiscent of the 1930s, where if you didn't pay protection your shop was burnt the next day."

"Now the same is occurring today. The activists go these companies, they say unless you do what we want, we're going to blackball your products."

AM also has a letter Tasmania's Deputy Premier Bryan Green wrote to International Plywood urging them to continue buying timber from Ta Ann.

Mr Attwood says he found the arguments of the activists more persuasive.
Clearly the battles of the past are far from over despite the forest peace deal.

MEDIA RELEASE: Ta Ann Tasmanian Native Forest Veneer Rejected By UK Market

Markets for Change, 22 December 2011

International Plywood, a major UK importer of plywood from Ta Ann’s Tasmania operations has told the Australian ENGO Markets for Change that they will not be purchasing any more timber from Ta Ann while the controversy around ongoing logging of Tasmania’s High Conservation Value (HCV) and old growth forests continues.

“Markets for Change is encouraged that the international market is so concerned about the ongoing destruction of Tasmania’s high conservation value forests that International Plywood from the UK has taken the decision to no longer buy Ta Ann Tasmania’s plywood product. It is significant that even though Ta Ann had PEFC (1) certification for this product the market has still rejected it as it is sourced from such valuable forests,” said Tim Birch CEO of Markets for Change.

Markets for Change (MFC) recently released detailed research tracking Ta Ann veneer timber from Tasmania’s high conservation forests through Malaysia to London and a sports hall to be used in training by Team USA during the 2012 London Olympics. (2)

Detailed analysis by Market for Change’s partner NGO in Tasmania (Huon Valley Environment Centre) has clearly shown that Ta Ann Tasmania’s operations continue to receive wood products coming from high conservation value forests in Tasmania. These forests have already been earmarked for protection by the Inter Governmental Agreement (IGA) in Tasmania, yet they continue to be logged. (3)

“This decision by International Plywood sends a clear message to Ta Ann that their association with the destruction of Tasmania’s high conservation value forests is bad for business. Ta Ann can no longer claim that their veneer product is sourced from plantations and sustainable regrowth forests. They must take immediate steps to remove identified high conservation forests from their supply chain,” said Will Mooney from Huon Valley Environment Centre.

Following the release of this research Markets for Change contacted a number of UK companies involved in the supply of Ta Ann Tasmania veneer plywood to the UK market. International Plywood UK were surprised when evidence was provided by MFC and Huon Valley Environment Centre showing Ta Ann Tasmania were sourcing wood products from high conservation value forests as they were under the clear impression that they were purchasing wood products from Ta Ann that came from plantations. Even a recent letter from the Deputy Premier of Tasmania, Brian Green to International Plywood UK urging them to continue buying from Ta Ann Tasmania did not persuade the company to continue purchasing veneer plywood from Ta Ann Tasmania.

Markets for Change will continue its campaign, nationally and internationally, to urge the market to reject wood products coming from High Conservation Value forests and instead trade in wood products sourced from ecologically responsible plantations.

Markets for Change is committed to supporting an Australian forest industry based on well managed FSC certified plantation products. Such a plantation based timber industry will ensure long term secure jobs for workers and the protection of native forests.

1.    The Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) has been widely criticised by international environment groups as it is not an indicator of acceptable environmental standards and does not safeguard high conservation value from ongoing logging.

2. http://www.marketsforchange.org/2012-olympics-timber/

3. http://www.scribd.com/doc/72216112/Ta-Ann-Final-Report-2011-Web

Mill energy plan a step closer

The Islander, 22 Dec, 2011

WA-Based timber company RuralAus has cleared the first major hurdle in its bid to build a biomass energy plant at its timber mill operations near Parndana.

The company has completed a feasibility study into the project, which aims to generate five to 10 megawatts of power from mill waste, using 2MW for its own operations and making the rest available to other island users.

RuralAus chief executive officer John Ipsen said the feasibility study, completed with a State Government grant, had shown the project should proceed to the next stage and “what we shouldn’t be doing, what technology we shouldn’t use”.

RuralAus will now employ a project manager to get a “bankable project” by the end of this financial year, with completion of the plant in mid to late-2013. It has been encouraged to seek further government grants to support the project to its next level.

“I’m confident the project will happen. There are too many relevant milestones achieved already. We have our own resources, the mill, the government is aware of the island’s energy situation and we have the support of governments,” Mr Ipsen said.

“We just need to get in there and tick all the boxes.”

He said RuralAus was ready to work on the cable and infrastructure issues with stakeholders.

“We see this project as complementing other initiatives, such as Island Energy. We are keen to work with other government and community groups in a whole-of-island approach.”

Meanwhile, RuralAus has interim planning approval to operate the mill at Parndana on a trial basis one day a week.

“We’ve already employed 8 people and we hope to increase that to 30,” Mr Ipsen said.

21 December, 2011

Loggers are clearing bushland at rising rate

Ben Cubby
Sydney Morning Herald, December 21, 2011

Soaring numbers ... an area equivalent to 138,400 football fields was cleared in NSW's bushland last year. Photo: Pat Scala

THE amount of bushland being cleared by logging in NSW soared last year to the highest level since state-wide records began in 1988.

An area equivalent to 138,400 football fields was cleared for crops, forestry or infrastructure, says a government report.

The Office of Environment and Heritage said the rise in logging was probably cancelled out by regrowth, leading to no net loss of trees, though its most recent survey took place in 2008, before the land clearing spike. It said the reasons for the logging increase were unclear.

"[The] most likely factors relate to market demand and favourable climatic conditions and [they] can be expected to fluctuate over time," a department spokesman said. "It is also possible that recent changes in forestry methods are more readily detectable by satellite monitoring."

Environment groups said the annual vegetation report was evidence that logging companies were operating in an unrestrained manner.

Bushfires remain the biggest destroyer of forests in the state, leading to a net loss of 48,300 hectares in 2010, the report said.

But logging activities now come a close second, accounting for the removal of 42,700 hectares of trees in 2010. This is up from 31,000 hectares the previous year, and an average of about 21,000 hectares a year since 1988.

About 21,200 hectares of bushland was cleared in 2010 to make new areas for crops and grazing, while 5300 hectares were cut down to make way for roads, factories and housing.

"The NSW government is currently conducting a review of native vegetation controls," said the chief executive of the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, Pepe Clarke. "They should take this report as a warning - what is required are stronger land- clearing laws that do more to protect the environment, not weaker ones."

The Wilderness Society said the government had "failed in its promises to restrain land clearing, resulting in rapid and accelerating degradation of wildlife habitat and water catchments."

The most recent State of the Environment report found that there had been no net loss of "woody cover" across NSW between 2003 and 2008.

"This is because, although clearing has occurred over that period, there has also been an equivalent amount of regrowth including government sponsored environmental and forestry planting programs conducted by private landholders and state forests, within crown forests areas," the department said.

"Notwithstanding no net loss over the whole state, some regions have experienced net declines in woody cover."

The report uses the international definition of "woody cover", which includes land at least 20 per cent covered by the crowns of trees higher than 2 metres, a description which would include relatively open country.

The introduction of a satellite monitoring system for land clearing last year appears to have increased the level of prosecution for illegal land clearing on private property. On crown lands, the number of prosecutions has increased threefold, from a low base, since 2007.

In 2010, the government received 471 reports of suspected illegal land clearing.

20 December, 2011

MEDIA RELEASE Rainforest case - logging ban extended to January 2012

Jill Redwood, Environment East Gippsland

The East Gippsland rainforest case will be adjourned today, with the temporary halt to logging extended until late January.

"This is a good outcome", said Jill Redwood from Environment East Gippsland. "Our lawyers have filed some very impressive court documents to show that the forests are within the boundaries of a National Rainforest Site of Significance."

"We look foreword to going to court in January, to seek permanent protection for the forests."

"It is just incredible that in this day and age, that a small local environment group has to take on a government agency to prevent the illegal logging of a National Rainforest Site of Significance. Most of the developed world knows the value of forests and rainforest, but the Baillieu government doesn't."

For comment: Jill Redwood - 03 5154 0145

17 December, 2011

Parker moves to amend NSW logging laws

NSW political reporter Mark Tobin
ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), Updated December 17, 2011 

New South Wales Environment Minister Robyn Parker is moving to amend laws which will allow Forests NSW to harm the endangered population of the yellow-bellied glider on the state's far south.

The documents show Ms Parker is planning changes to the Threatened Species Conservation Act which "authorises harm to the endangered population of the yellow-bellied glider of the Bago Plateau".

Opposition environment spokesman Luke Foley says it is disgraceful.

"Robyn Parker said logging protects koalas, she is now moving to allow logging of habitat of endangered yellow-bellied glider," Mr Foley said.

"The yellow-bellied glider is facing the very real risk of extinction and the NSW Environment Minister is doing everything she can to wipe out this endangered Australian marsupial."

In 2008 the NSW Scientific Committee warned the yellow-bellied glider is "facing a very high risk of extinction…in the near future".

Ms Parker has dismissed the concerns.

"An amendment has been made to reflect updated information about the habitat preferences of the yellow-bellied glider," she said in a statement.

“This amendment restricts Forests NSW logging to areas of low quality yellow-bellied glider habitat on the Bago Plateau.

"Logging in areas of medium and high quality habitat is prohibited until a scientifically rigorous population management plan has been signed off by the EPA.”

16 December, 2011

MEDIA RELEASE: SEFE Pellet factory invalid

South East Forest Rescue, 16/12/2011

In an unprecedented court case South East Forest Rescue took an action against South East Fibre Exports (SEFE) and Bega Valley Shire Council in the NSW Land and Environment Court two weeks ago for building a factory that makes wood pellets from native forest trees.  SEFE is a joint venture between Nippon Paper Industries Co Ltd and Itochu Corporation.  SEFE operates the woodchip mill near Eden and is a major exporter of woodchips which come from forests from Nowra out to Tumut down to East Gippsland in Victoria.  Wood pellets are commonly used to fuel wood-fired power plants.

Bega Valley Shire Council granted the development consent in June, despite much opposition from the community, despite the factory being much bigger than the application originally stated and despite being advised by SEFR that if the council consented they would be in breach of the law.  SEFR also advised SEFE on the day of consent not to begin building the pellet factory as SEFR would be taking legal action.

The court case began on 2 September.  The decision handed down on Friday stated that the pellet factory, which has already been built despite being warned not to proceed, has been invalidated.

It was found that Council did not consider the public submissions, the principles of ecologically sustainable development and the zoning of the land.  The Court’s decision reveals an arrogant approach by BVSC which has now been revealed as unlawful. This means that South East Fibre Exports must not operate the factory or process wood for it.  Any action SEFE take from here will be deemed unlawful.

“This case is important in that it is the first time in thirteen years that the public has been able to bring an action in a NSW court against the woodchipping industry,” said Ms Lisa Stone, spokesperson of South East Forest Rescue.  “It’s an amazing win and a great decision.”

The public are tired of the woodchipping industry being a law unto themselves.  Further the local government and the State government have been co-opted into this corruption of due process.  This case shows that any decision maker must take the public wishes and the principles of ESD into account.

Burning native forests for electricity or using them for wood pellets is one of the greatest threats to the forests of the world.  The Commonwealth government has announced that forestry will have to start accounting for its greenhouse gas emissions but that wont happen until at least 2015.

“The time for waiting is over, the time has come to follow New Zealand’s lead, honour Australia’s international obligations and end native forest logging altogether,” said Ms Stone.  “The protection of our native forests is of urgent national and international importance in these times of global climate crisis.  It’s time to prove that political will is not extinct and put an end to native forest logging, for us and our children's future.”

For more information contact Lisa Stone on 0428 640 271

15 December, 2011

Logging stoush heads to court

Adam Morton
The Age, December 15, 2011

VicForests have been accused of logging a protected site of significance for rainforests. Photo: Rob Homer

VICTORIA'S newly empowered state-owned timber agency is facing a legal writ over claims it is illegally logging protected stands of rainforest in the state's far east.

Conservation group Environment East Gippsland has filed a writ in the Supreme Court accusing VicForests of logging a protected site of significance for rainforests. VicForests is contesting the claim, and has given the court an undertaking it will not log the disputed area before a hearing on Tuesday.

The writ comes a day after the Baillieu government released a plan that significantly expanded VicForests' authority.

In a short hearing yesterday, Environment East Gippsland submitted government maps showing the area was protected as a site of national importance.

VicForests told the court it accepted that the maps were from a government website, but said they were out of date. It said a review of the boundaries had moved the border of the protected area. The Department of Sustainability and Environment backed VicForests' statement. ''The northern boundary of the site has not been updated in the biodiversity interactive maps available on the [department] website. This is being corrected,'' spokeswoman Brigid Ennis said.

Environment East Gippsland secretary Liz Ingham said the explanation was ''suspiciously convenient''.

A spokeswoman for Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh said the court would determine whether the action against VicForests was warranted. ''It is unfortunate that in the court of public opinion VicForests is rarely granted the presumption of innocence,'' spokeswoman Stephanie Ryan said.

The latest court challenge to the timber industry follows days of protests holding up workers in the disputed area. Environment East Gippsland last year won an indefinite injunction over logging about 100 hectares of native forest at Brown Mountain, near Orbost, after its campaigners showed that it was home to endangered species.

Mr Walsh this week released a timber industry plan designed to guarantee a long-term future for the native forest industry, including boosting the length of timber contracts from five to 20 years. VicForests was given sole responsibility for calculating how much timber can be sustainably harvested. It will be monitored and audited by the Department of Sustainability and Environment.

LETTER: Reality bites - dirty power plants and more logging

Nick Jans, Marysville
The Age, Letter, 15/12/2011

JUST as we were deriving some meagre encouragement from the Durban talks, along come our governments to bring us back to reality (''Dirty power plant rules abandoned'' and ''Timber gets long-term commitment'', The Age, 14/12).

LETTER: A confidence boost

Gary Demby, Toolangi
The Age, Letter, 15/12/2011

PROVIDING longer-term contracts to customers of VicForests will surely help build business confidence in much of Victoria. For decades state governments have reduced the amount of forest available to the industry. Sometimes this was for ecological reasons based on good science. Sometimes it was for political reasons. This plan, from what I can tell, will not increase the amount of forest available to the industry. What it will do is provide a clear and effective regulatory framework for forest management and wood supply. We also have to recognise that the forest and wood products industry is largely a manufacturing industry, exposed to the high Australian dollar and cheap imports. As the seventh most forested nation in the world, it is a joke we have a $1.9 billion trade deficit in wood and paper products. Hopefully this policy helps fix this.

JUST as we were deriving some meagre encouragement from the Durban talks, along come our governments to bring us back to reality (''Dirty power plant rules abandoned'' and ''Timber gets long-term commitment'', The Age, 14/12).
Nick Jans, Marysville

LETTER: Path of destruction

Kath Angus, East Brunswick
The Age, Letter, 15/12/2011

BRAVO, Baillieu. You have surpassed even my wildest expectations with your disregard for our ecosystems and the species endemic to them with your new forestry plan. Not only does it prove your unwavering dedication to the destruction of Victoria's native forests, it shows you have no desire to move towards a sustainable future. Not even Victoria's faunal emblem will have a place in Victoria. I will, however, compliment you on coming through with your transparency. With VicForests taking ''sole responsibility for calculating the amount of timber that can be sustainably harvested'', corporate control of our government could not be clearer.

LETTER: Propping up jobs

Dean Wotherspoon, Northcote
The Age, Letter, 15/12/2011

THE latest timber industry plan basically turns the native timber industry into an expensive social security system to help prop up jobs in a handful of National Party seats. It appears that the limited environmental controls over logging and protection of biodiversity are to be wound back, and that Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh is even considering allowing some types of logging (thinning operations) into national parks. Given the non-compliance with environmental regulations these thinning operations have recorded in recent years, it is unbelievable that any competent minister would extend such operations in national parks. This policy is further evidence of the government's anti-environment stance.

LETTER: Environmental policy a betrayal of Liberal legacy

Damian Magner, Montmorency
The Age, Letter, 15/12/2011

SAFEGUARDS for the protection of Victoria's natural environment have been in decline since the Baillieu government was elected and now the destruction is set to get worse (''Timber gets long-term commitment'', The Age, 14/12). It is clear the National Party is driving environmental policy in this government. Poor old Environment Minister Ryan Smith has been put in a box while the National Party runs riot. Some of the best conservation gains in Victoria were as a result of the vision and leadership of the Hamer Liberal government in the 1970s. Ted Baillieu is trashing his mentor's legacy because he is dependent on the National Party to hold government.

14 December, 2011

LETTER: Government should get out of logging business

Peter Campbell
Letter to the editor (not yet published), 14 December 2011

Local conservationists have yet again had to take court action and use blockades to stop VicForests, the Victorian Government's logging business, from logging protected rainforest in East Gippsland.

VicForests have form. They were found guilty of breaking the law relating the protection of endangered species in Brown Mountain's forest in the Supreme Court in August 2010.  Over a year later, despite a court order, they are yet to pay the court costs awarded against them to Environment East Gippsland.

In July this year, VicForests started logging forest near Sylvia Creek that is home to Leadbeaters Possum. They were stopped by another court order following legal action initiated by local environment group MyEnvironment.  This court case, scheduled to be heard early next year, is again about VicForests ignoring the laws concerned with protecting endangered species.

The Baillieu government's response to VicForest's illegal and unethical practices is to reward them with 20 year contracts for logging our remaining native forests, indemnify their contracts, allow them to determine the amount of forest they can log and allow them to log forests in reserves, parks and water catchments.

The Baillieu government has also flagged changing the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act so that a bureaucrat can exempt VicForests from complying with it, thereby allowing them to log forests that are and should be protected.

The native forest logging industry is in terminal decline. Regional Forests Agreements have failed. The global market for woodchips, the major "product" that comes from out native forests, has collapsed.  Despite accelerating logging, jobs continue to decline.  The industry is largely automated now.

The wholesale conversion of native forests into plantations by continued logging and burning is simply not sustainable, as scientists such as Professor David Lindenmeyer have stated.

There is enough plantation resource available in Victoria right now to supply our timber and pulp needs.  The Victorian government should get out of the logging business, get rid of VicForests, and support our sustainable plantation-based timber and wood products industries.

Our native forests should be protected for the carbon they store, their biodiversity, their function as water catchments and because they are wonderful places to visit.

Un-sustainability confirmed at last

Sarah Rees, Director, MyEnvironment Inc.
Letter to the editor (not yet published), 15/12/2011

The sustainability report has finally been done on VicForests operations in Minister Peter Walsh's timber 'ACTION' plan. The whole lot is unsustainable - if  it was 'sustainable' then we wouldn't need to log parks, reserves and special protection zones.

Every logging operation is now in breach of our international treaty with the UN Convention on Biodiversity, the Montreal process and Heads of Commonwealth Agreement. Thank you Minister, we have been waiting for this finding! Now we have proof directly from those in charge.

MEDIA RELEASE: Supreme Court orders stop to logging East Gippsland rainforest

Environment East Gippsland presented the Court with official Victorian Government maps to show that the disputed area is a protected National Rainforest Site of Significance.  VicForests submitted that the maps were wrong, and that the government department was scrambling to move the boundaries on the official maps before Court resumes next Tuesday 20 December 2011.

"It's a huge win for the forests today", said EEG secretary Liz Ingham who attended the court. "The Court stopped the logging in the nick of time, to prevent a rainforest reserve being logged."

"VicForests blamed the government, saying the rainforest reserve maps were wrong. This is a suspiciously convenient excuse", she said.

"For a very long time, the government has presented the public with rainforest reserve maps. They didn't alter the reserve boundaries when VicForests moved in to log the reserve.  They only decided to move the reserve boundaries after our non-profit community environment group took VicForests to court. How convenient.  VicForests is a state-owned enterprise with Premier's brother in law on the Board."

"Up here on the ground, those blockading this area hung on for their lives in the forest waiting for the result. They are absolute forest heroes", said Ms Redwood.

The case returns to Court on Tuesday 20 December at 10.30am, at which time the Court will address a further halt to logging.

For comment: Jill Redwood - 5154 0145 / Liz Ingham 0409 333 595

Timber gets long-term commitment

Adam Morton and Tom Arup
The Age, December 14, 2011

THE government has moved to guarantee the long-term future of Victoria's timber industry, ending decades of protection of native forests from logging.

A new timber industry plan substantially boosts the power of VicForests, the government-owned commercial timber agency that the previous Labor government planned to abolish.

VicForests will take over sole responsibility for calculating the amount of timber that can be sustainably harvested, and will determine when and where logging takes place.

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Forestry companies will be offered native timber contracts lasting 20 years, up from the current maximum of five - a step to encourage investment in new mills and equipment.

The government will also indemnify VicForests against the cost if a contract is broken due to changes in policy, potentially leaving the state with the legal bill should a future government want to reduce native timber logging.

Other proposed changes include allowing ''ecological thinning'' of forests in reserves, parks and water catchments, and a review of timber legislation.

Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh said there were no plans for the amount of native forest harvested to increase, and that ecological thinning would be restricted to existing logging areas. He said Victoria's native forest timber was a ''magnificent and renewable resource'' with the potential to support a vibrant long-term industry.

''There is absolutely nothing sinister in this,'' he said. ''It is about, in the areas that were going to be logged, giving certainty to the industry and making sure forests are managed appropriately.''

The plan fulfils a Coalition election commitment. It comes two months after the release of proposed regulation changes that would give the head of the Department of Sustainability and Environment the power to grant loggers an exemption from endangered species laws.

Mr Walsh said yesterday that it was no secret VicForests had problems in the past, but it had undergone substantial change.

He said the Department of Sustainability and Environment would continue to watch VicForests' work.

Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner Lindsay Hesketh said there was a conflict between giving VicForests greater power and protecting the environment. ''It appears this is the same thing that happened with Forestry Tasmania and led to the disaster Tasmania has become,'' he said.

Wilderness Society campaigner Luke Chamberlain said the plan to lock in compensation payments if a future government changed policy was ''agricultural socialism from the Soviet era''.

Opposition agriculture spokesman John Lenders said the plan failed to balance the need to protect the environment and secure jobs.

AM - Victorian government unveils new timber industry plan

ABC Radio, 14/12/2011 

TONY EASTLEY: A leading ecologist has described the Victorian Government's new plan for the timber industry as 'medieval'. And conservationists say it opens a way for logging in national parks.

However, the plan to open up parks and reserves to logging and extend the length of logging contracts has delighted the timber industry, which says it brings much needed security and certainty.

Simon Lauder reports.

SIMON LAUDER: Australian National University ecologist David Lindenmayer has spent 28 years studying Victorian forests.

Professor Lindenmayer says they've been over exploited for decades and the Victorian Government's new Timber Industry Action Plan could be their death knell.

DAVID LINDENMAYER: We're going to see the extinction of Leadbetter's Possum probably within 30 years. We're going to see forests made more fire prone. We're going to see major complications with Melbourne's water supply.

SIMON LAUDER: At the moment the state government's forestry arm, VicForests, can only give companies access to timber for five years.

Victoria's agriculture minister, Peter Walsh, says that doesn't give the timber industry enough certainty to invest in the future and the government plans to extend native timber contracts to 20 years.

PETER WALSH: We do have a sustainable timber industry here in Victoria. It creates significant employment, particularly in country Victoria. And we are, as a government, are committed to that being a well managed and sustainable industry into the future.

SIMON LAUDER: VicForests and the Victorian Association of Forest Industries say the government's plan helps secure the long-term future of the industry.

The government says it will consider compensating the industry if contracts can't be fulfilled in the future.

Forests campaigner with the Wilderness Society, Luke Chamberlain, says that has implications for taxpayers.

LUKE CHAMBERLAIN: In five years time when they realise, 'Oh, there's no wood there' because it's burnt or it's been logged before, the public is going to have to bail them out, and that is part of this package. And it makes absolutely no sense if this government thinks they are good economic managers.

SIMON LAUDER: The State government's plan includes ecological thinning in reserves, parks and water catchments.

Mr Chamberlain says that opens the door to logging in state parks, protection zones and even national parks.

LUKE CHAMBERLAIN: That more of our forests are going to be opened up to be logged is... (laughs) is just of great concern to us and great concern to Victorians.

SIMON LAUDER: The Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh says the state government won't allow logging in national parks.

PETER WALSH: This is about those areas that have already been set aside for timber production into the future being managed better so you increase the value of timber that is being produced.

SIMON LAUDER: What are the "parks" that are referred to in the plan?

PETER WALSH: Well, it is not national parks.

SIMON LAUDER: What is it then?

PETER WALSH: Well, it is those areas that have already been set aside in the public estate for timber harvesting into the future.

SIMON LAUDER: Could it mean national parks in the future?

PETER WALSH: It does not mean national parks. And those people who are trying to imply that it does are just making mischief.

TONY EASTLEY: Victoria's Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh speaking to AM's Simon Lauder.

MEDIA RELEASE Legal injunction to stop Victorian rainforest logging

Environment East Gippland
Wednesday 14th December 2011

VicForests is again being sued in the Supreme Court over what an environment group believes is illegal logging of a very significant protected rainforest area. Environment East Gippsland, which successfully sued VicForests last year, is lodging papers for an urgent injunction this morning in the Melbourne Supreme Court to stop the logging.

 “This is the third case of what we believe is illegal logging that VicForests will have to answer for”, said Jill Redwood, coordinator of the group. “The public thinks this type of lawless destruction of protected primary forest and rainforest only occurs overseas”.

“VicForests is still refusing to pay our legal costs of around a million dollars from last year, despite this being a clear court order. If they think this is preventing us taking further legal action, it’s not working. The public is so outraged about their criminal destruction, they have already donated enough for us to get this next legal action rolling.”

“In a proper democracy it should not be up to the public to enforce the law over an uncontrollable government entity. We should not be forced to ask the courts to ensure VicForests abides by the law. We are a developed country. We give millions to other countries to help them stop illegal logging of their rainforests. But in Victoria we are seeing the same happen with full support of the Baillieu government. Exploiting industries seem to be writing the government’s laws and policies now”.

This stand of forest was blockaded for 5 days last week and was broken up by police on Monday.
“It doesn’t take long for a determined crew of logging contractors to cut down the tall trees and smash down a forest of tree ferns”, said Jill Redwood “We hope this injunction will be successful”.

For comment  - Jill Redwood: 5154 0145,  Liz Ingham (in court for EEG): 0409 333 595

12 December, 2011

MEDIA RELEASE: Police move in to evict protest at unlawful logging coupe

Monday 12 December 2011

Police this morning moved in to evict conservationists who have been halting the unlawful logging of a Rainforest Site of Significance at Errinundra Road in East Gippsland for the last five days.

"This logging operation is in violation of state laws to protect all National Rainforest Sites of Significance. Despite this, and correspondence from lawyers requesting they withdraw from the site, Vicforests have
instead elected for police to begin dismantling the protest this morning," said spokesperson, Lauren Caulfield.

Police have now arrived on site with staff from Vicforests and the Department of Sustainability and Environment. A dozen conservationists remain in the area, with two tree platforms cabled 25 metres above
four machines. Arrests are expected.

"This unlawful logging operation, and the eviction of members of the public who are attempting to halt it, is happening under the watch of the Baillieu Government. We are calling on them to reign in logging agency Vicforests, and to force them to abide by the law," said David Caldwell, at Errinundra Road.

Local community group Environment East Gippsland is now preparing for an urgent legal injunction should logging operations proceed.

This logging coupe falls within the National Site of Significance for Rainforest along the Errinundra Road. In November 2006, the Victorian Government announced that certain areas of old growth forest in East
Gippsland would be permanently excluded from logging. This included all Sites of National Significance for Rainforest.

For further information: Lauren Caulfield 0408 748 939

05 December, 2011

MEDIA RELEASE: Conservationists Halt Logging Across Victoria

GECO and Central Highlands Action Group,  5 December 2011

Conservationists are taking action across Victoria today to expose and hold accountable the Baillieu government and Vicforests for the ongoing destruction of threatened species habitats.

Conservationists in East Gippsland and in the Central highlands have halted logging operations this morning.

In Toolangi, Central highlands, the group has seized four logging machines which are attached to a tree sit, 50 metres up in the tree canopy. In East Gipplsand local community members are occupying a logging coupe in their water catchment, near Bonang, in known Long Footed Potoroo Habitat.

“Vicforests is responsible for logging in areas where endangered species have been recorded. The East Gippsland Long Footed Potoroo and the Central highlands Leadbeaters possum are in major decline. These areas are the last strong holds for those species and must be protected immediately,” said spokesperson for East Gippsland, David Caldwell.

“VicForests continue to force the Leadbeaters possum, towards the edge of extinction. This is one of Victorias most threatened species who’s very existence depends on these Mountain Ash forests of the Central Highlands.” Luke Pavia, spokes person for Central Highlands.

“The Ballieu Government has proposed to exempt such logging operations from adhering to the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act . This will weaken the already inadequate protection laws that are supposed to ensure survival of our most vulnerable species.” David Caldwell.

There is general disappointment within the wider community about unnecessary secrecy surrounding the protection of threatened species in Victorian State Forest. Vicforests refuse to make public, the results of their pre-logging, flora and fauna surveys, and have not been able to prove that adequate habitat exists in surrounding areas. They are obliged under the FFGA to do so. If these measures have not been complied with then logging operations being conducted are in breach of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act and are thus unlawful.

Conservationists in the coupes want to be assured that these measures have been complied with before any logging proceeds.

30 November, 2011

Litany of unlawful rainforest breaches: VicForests’ logging operations must be halted

Media Release, Wednesday November 30, 2011

Yet more unlawful rainforest logging breaches in forest in East Gippsland have been surveyed and reported by independent conservationists.

“The latest survey results clearly show VicForests continues to violate regulations meant to protect Victoria’s rainforests”, said spokesperson for the group, Amelia Young.

“It is unlawful to log rainforest in Victoria, yet this week numerous instances of rainforest logging have again been reported to the authorities.”

A fortnight ago conservationists reported rainforest had been logged along Survey Road. The Department of Sustainability and Environment undertook to investigate the claims. Conservationists are now awaiting public release of their findings.

“While investigations into rainforest logging breaches are being carried out, VicForests’ logging operations should be halted; this data clearly shows that logging coupes are not being marked out lawfully and as a result we are losing magnificent rainforest to the woodchipper.”

This week conservationists lodged three more reports with the Department of Sustainability and Environment, detailing logging of ecological rainforest buffers north of Orbost.

Breaches reported this week include logging of Warm Temperate Rainforest along Old Bonang Hwy in the Curlip forest block. Rainforest species including Jungle Grape and Lilly Pilly and the bird Bassian Thrush were recorded at that site.

“Mount Buck Rainforest Site of State Significance along Major Creek has also been logged. Rainforest Sites of Significance are listed because they have outstanding values. Once logged, they are lost forever.”

Further west, along Cherry Tree Track, yet more logging of rainforest has been detected, clearly inside the 40 metre buffer required to protect rainforest in Victoria from logging operations.

“We need to ensure VicForests’ practice of shamelessly logging rainforest is stopped”, concluded Ms Young. “Why are VicForests still being given access to our forest estate when it’s been shown that they are repeatedly logging rainforests? This situation is unacceptable.”

For further information Amelia Young 0404 074 577    

23 November, 2011

DSE to probe rainforest logging claims

Gus Goswell
ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), November 23, 2011

Anti-logging protesters have succeeded in stopping logging in a remote part of far East Gippsland.

The Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) has agreed to investigate the protesters' claim that rainforest is threatened by logging on the Errinundra Plateau, north of Orbost.

It is illegal to log rainforest in Victoria.

Protesters have been disrupting operations in the forest coupe over the past fortnight.

Police went to the remote site yesterday to dismantle a tree platform built by the campaigners.

Officers had travelled to to the same coupe last week to demolish another tree platform.

The protesters have also been cabling logging machinery together.

The State Government owned timber company VicForests says four days of logging operations have had to be abandoned over the past fortnight because of the protests.

VicForests says no logging will take place in the contested section of the forest coupe while the DSE investigates the protesters' claims.

22 November, 2011

Continued Unlawful Logging of Rainforest shows native forest logging industry still not policed, as promised

Amelia Young
Media Release, Tuesday 22 November, 2011

For the second day this week, and for the second week in a row, controversial logging operations on Survey Road in far East Gippsland have been stopped by conservationists on site.

Five logging machines have again been cabled off to a tree-sit occupied by protestors and suspended forty metres in the canopy in the logging coupe situated on the edge of the Errinundra National Park.

Last Thursday conservationists handed survey findings showing that rainforest had been logged within the coupe to the relevant authority, the Department of Sustainability and Environment, requesting that the logging be immediately stopped and that a proper investigation be undertaken.

Logging of rainforest is unlawful in Victoria, under both the Code of Forest Practice and the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.

Yesterday conservationists resumed protest activity at the site as VicForests’ contentious logging operations in the coupe have not yet been halted by either the responsible Minister, nor by the relevant authority.

“Before last year’s state election, the current Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh stated that under a Coalition government, the native forest logging industry would be properly policed”, said spokesperson for the conservationists, Amelia Young.

“That in 2011, and under his watch, rainforest is still being logged in Victoria is a disgrace.”

Logging within or adjacent to rainforest causes changes to the rainforest microclimate, making it drier. Indeed, the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act Action Statement notes that cool temperate rainforest is ‘in a demonstrable state of decline likely to result in extinction.’

“This isn’t the first time VicForests’ logging contractors have been caught logging rainforest in East Gippsland”, said Ms Young. “In 2009 rainforest was positively identified in a coupe adjacent to this one, along the same gully system. In that instance, the Department confirmed the facts, concluding that logging activities had caused major environmental impact.

“These repeated rainforest logging infractions make mockery of claims that logging in Victoria is lawful and is among world’s best practice”, concluded Ms Young.

For further comment: Amelia Young 0404 074 577


21 November, 2011

Rainforest logging breach: Protestors on site at Survey Road

Amelia Young
Media Release, Monday 21 November, 2011 

This morning conservationists have again halted logging in rainforest on Survey Road in far East Gippsland. Five logging machines have been cabled off to a treesit in the forest canopy. 

"As if it wasn't enough that VicForests had sent their logging contractors into a coupe containing precious old-growth forest; conservationists have now verified that rainforest has been logged on site as well", said spokesperson Amelia Young.

Logging of rainforest in Victoria is in breach of regulations governing logging operations, including the Code of Forest Practice and the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.

"State government regulation requires that stands of rainforest be protected from some of the impacts of logging by a buffer of at least forty metres. On site in this logging coupe on Survey Road there are various locations where logging has occurred within what should be a forty metre buffer.

The conservationists  allegations have been presented to the relevant authority.

"We would like the Department of Sustainability and Environment to properly investigate these issues, immediately halt logging operations and ensure adequate rainforest buffers are implemented and adhered to."

Rainforests are an especially vulnerable ecological community and are listed as threatened under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act. 

"Increased exposure to light and wind causes major drying out of this sensitive ecological community that, due to decades of logging and land clearing, is already reduced to covering less than one per cent of the state. This isn't the first time VicForestsf logging contractors have been caught logging rainforest in East Gippsland", said Ms Young. 

"In 2009 rainforest was positively identified in a coupe adjacent to this one, along the same gully system. In that instance, the Department confirmed the facts, concluding that logging activities had caused major environmental impact. These repeated rainforest logging breaches make mockery of claims that logging in Victoria is lawful and is among world's best practice", concluded Ms Young.

For further comment: Amelia Young 0404 074 577


09 November, 2011

Activists outraged at use of protected Tassie timber

Conor Duffy
ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), November 09, 2011

Environmental groups say the use of Tasmanian timber on a London Olympics building site is evidence the Federal Government's forest peace deal is failing.

Activist group Markets for Change tracked the wood to an Olympics training site to be used by Team USA.

Markets for Change spokeswoman Louise Morris says the timber is from highly valued conversation forests earmarked for protection under the inter-governmental forest peace deal.

"It really does shed some harsh light on the current IGA [intergovernmental agreement] process," she said.

Ta Ann Tasmania, the Malaysian-owned company that manufactured the veneer, says the London product was sold two years ago and came from regrowth forest.

The company's director David Ridley says he is thrilled the Tasmanian eucalypt is being used at such a high-profile event.

"I'm rapt that some of the world's best athletes can make use of a fantastic timber product," he said.

Forestry Tasmania says the amount of timber supplied from high conservation value forests is less than half a per cent of the 430,000 hectares locked up under the deal.

08 November, 2011

Log grade an issue

Trevor Brown, Heyfield
The Age (letter), 8 November 2011

MANY letters (4/11) were published in response to the article ''New law in pipeline to aid loggers'', The Age, 3/11). No more forest will be available to the industry; changes to the code will only alter how the forest is managed.

Also, the industry cannot just transition to plantations and stop harvesting native forests. Appearance-grade sawlogs are not available in significant commercial quantities from plantations. Without access to these sawlogs, many businesses would close. Australians would either buy products made from other materials with higher carbon footprints, or import more timber from countries with weaker environmental regulations.

07 November, 2011

Premier backs new mill

ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), November 07, 2011

The Tasmanian Premier has confirmed she will back a new woodchip mill in the state's south.

Lara Giddings says her government will consider financially backing the construction of a new mill, if Triabunna does not open.

She did not rule out the possibility of exporting woodchips from Hobart's waterfront.

"I could not rule out that you'd never, ever, ever have a ship come to Hobart that didn't end up taking woodchips away."

But Ms Giddings wants Triabunna re-opened and has called on the managers and owners to advertise for tenders.

Manager Alec Marr says that can not happen because they can not secure a vital wharf lease from the state-owned Tasports.

The Premier says that is rubbish.

"What it shows to me is that they have no intention of opening this up."

The Government has also suggested the owners could sell back the mill to the industry.

Ms Giddings says Triabunna Investments should start advertising for tenders to operate the mill.

"We need an alternative export facility in the south of the state and if you can't have Triabunna Investments open their gates because they refuse to open their gates we have to look to alternatives."

"But the other solution, of course, is for Triabunna Investments to step out of this and perhaps look at selling back to industry," the Premier said.

At the weekend, Mr Marr asked the Premier to stop making public statements because it was undermining the process.

Greens Leader Nick McKim says the party would not support a single taxpayers dollar going into the construction of a new mill.

The forest industry has called for an end to the stalemate over mill's re-opening.

Barry Chipman from Timber Communities Australia says the stand-off is creating uncertainty in the industry.

"We really do need to get over this problem and again get Triabunna open again," he said.

"If that fails an export facility out of Hobart or again, let's turn that resource into bioenergy and use it locally in our local power grid."

04 November, 2011

Scars will tell the story

Sue Roberts, Lower Plenty
The Age (letter), November 4, 2011

THE scars will tell the story - of betrayal and loss, of creatures crunched by bulldozers and numbers in their last stand for survival.

Ted Baillieu's hit list

Lynn Frankes, Kew
The Age (letter), November 4, 2011

WHAT else that I hold dear is on Ted Baillieu's hit list? Wind farms, carbon targets and now diminished protection for endangered species and old-growth forests via a sneaky back door.

Back to their roots

Samuel Moore, Hawthorn
The Age (letter), November 4, 2011

THE Baillieu government is stuck in the old-school mode of thinking that says environmental preservation and economic growth are incompatible. Logging native forests has continually lost the state money, so all this proposal is doing is attempting to make VicForests a little less unprofitable than it already is. Relying entirely on plantations, as Gunns is now doing in Tasmania, is the economically rational thing to do and the environmentally obvious approach. If the Liberal government truly lived up to its economic ideology, and didn't let the Nationals run the show, it would stop subsidising an increasingly unprofitable, government-driven native forest industry, and let the competitive advantages of plantations be realised by private industry.

Morally challenged

Andrew Parsons, Ringwood East
The Age (letter), November 4, 2011

WHEN I was a kid facing defeat in a contest on home territory, it was considered unacceptable and morally wrong to simply change the rules to get your own way. Now we see the Baillieu government doing exactly that in response to the landmark ruling in 2010 when the Supreme Court banned VicForests from logging old-growth forests at Brown Mountain in East Gippsland. Environmental laws are designed to protect threatened species and it is not often nature scores a win. But now, by attempting to water down the law and prop up the destructive logging industry, the government is guilty of the unacceptable and immoral behaviour of changing the rules when the outcome is unpalatable. Shame.

A lawless act

Michael Bond, Richmond
The Age (letter), November 4, 2011

IT IS outrageous that the Baillieu government plans to protect the logging industry at the expense of endangered species. Old-growth forests are some of our best carbon sinks, and for the sake of a minority of dwindling logging jobs they will be lost forever, with the wildlife they contain. Massive subsidies keep this industry alive - money that could be better spent. This assault on native forests is environmental terrorism at its finest and appears to be a case of "if you can't beat the law, change it". An outrageous use of Parliament.

A loss now and for eternity

Dave Archer, Frankston
The Age (letter), November 4, 2011

IT IS with much sadness, and not a little anger, that I read of Ted Baillieu's proposal to sacrifice our endangered wildlife and magnificent old-growth forest for some woodchips that we can produce in plantations (''New law in pipeline to aid loggers'', The Age, 3/11). Does Mr Baillieu not care about his grandchildren? None of us will ever see a Tassie tiger again but the long-footed potoroo and other threatened species are still hanging on, just, for future generations to view in the wild and not stuffed in some glass display case, which is where the Premier is proposing to drive them. We need to give these endangered animals and irreplaceable forests a voice. Yes, we need wood products, but we don't need to source them from areas where endangered species live.

Let's not be the generation that oversaw the demise of so much more of our native wildlife, to temporarily sustain an industry in its death throes. These creatures need more protection. Please take a deep breath, Mr Baillieu, think again and do the right thing.

Unethical at best

Sarah Rees, MyEnvironment, Healesville
The Age (letter), November 4, 2011

THE Department of Sudden Extinctions (DSE) has been handed the pen of god to cull threatened species to continue woodchipping native forests. Why? After Black Saturday, the forests were stripped of their capacity to operate duly as a woodchip source and maintain catchment health, but don't let that get in the way of growth. Empowering the DSE to selectively cull threatened species is unethical at best. As for our state's faunal emblem, let's hope Melbourne Zoo can reserve a room for the last Leadbeater's possum - they don't take up much space.

03 November, 2011

New state law in the pipeline to aid loggers

Tom Arup
The Age, November 3, 2011

LOGGERS can seek exemptions from state environment laws protecting endangered species under proposed changes quietly released by the state government.

The proposed amendments to the code for timber production - outlined in a document posted on a government website - hands power to the Secretary of the Department of Sustainability and Environment.

The secretary would be able to exempt a logging project from the requirements of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act, which protects the state's endangered and threatened species.

The government has so far released nothing on the proposed changes, but a spokeswoman said last night that there would be sufficient time for public comments on the proposed changes, due February.

The proposed changes follow a landmark ruling in the Supreme Court last year banning VicForests from logging old-growth forest at Brown Mountain in East Gippsland, after an endangered long-footed potoroo was filmed in an area to be felled.

The change will mean proponents of a new logging coupe can make applications to the secretary for exemption.

The secretary will consider, among other things, the numbers required to maintain a viable population of a listed species in the area to be logged, and the amount of habitat near the proposed coupe already protected in national parks.

"Variations to the Code of Practice for Timber Production 2007 are proposed to improve the certainty of timber supply to Victoria's native forest timber industry," the document, dated October 26, states.

"The objective of the variations is to achieve a better balance between the protection of threatened species and sustainable timber production from public native forests."

Wilderness Society campaigner Luke Chamberlain said this was "a sneaky move" by the government to exempt logging from endangered species legislation, and would "betray Victoria's unique wildlife to the chainsaws".

"It puts us on a par with governance of logging practices in Indonesia," he said. "This is world's worst practice of lawless logging."

The Age first revealed in August potential changes to the way endangered species are looked after in Victoria.

At the time, the spokeswoman for Environment Minister Ryan Smith said the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act was currently not under review.

The government reserved the right to review legislation to ensure that it was current, and fit for the purpose, she said.

Yesterday, the spokeswoman said the changes were to the timber code, which fit under the Conservation, Forests and Lands Act, which was not a legislative instrument.

That was contradicted at the time by parliamentary secretary for forestry, Gary Blackwood, who said the government intended to "revisit or review" the way the law applied to the management of threatened species.

Timber code chance could result in more native forest logging in Victoria

Kath Sullivan 
ABC rural news, Thursday, 03/11/2011

The Victorian Government is proposing changes to Timber Production Code of Practice that could result in increased logging in native forests.

The changes give the final say on logging in protected areas to the secretary of the Department of Sustainability and Environment.

Under the changes, the secretary could over-ride the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act protections and allow logging in previously protected areas.

Parliamentary secretary for Forestry, Gary Blackwood, says the changes would also lead to comprehensive studies of endangered species in native forests.

"It's about allowing us to use that 10 per cent of public native forest estate that we have available for timber production," he said.

"It's about allowing us to use that in a more common sense and practical manner and it's about perhaps providing the opportunity to take a bit of pressure off that production forest because of the threat of a threatened species being found in that area."

Green groups are opposing the changes, saying they'll be detrimental to the protection of endangered species.

28 September, 2011

More to logs than jobs

Prue Acton
ABC Environment, 28 SEP 2011

Logging the forests of south east Australia releases three per cent of our carbon dioxide emissions, and destroys precious biodiversity. Yet this activity is subsidised by our governments.

FORTY YEARS AGO, the NSW Government agreed to supply 5,000 tons of waste from saw logs to the newly established export woodchip mill at Eden. A Japanese and an Australian company, Harris Daishowa, then jointly owned the mill.

By 2008, the Eden chip mill had become South East Fibre Exports and was wholly owned by Nippon Paper and Itochu, exporting around 200 times the original quantity, one million tonnes of woodchips.

Make no mistake, these days woodchips are not waste from saw logging, woodchips are the main game. From logging operations that are close to clear felling in many compartments, 80 per cent of all logs along the Far South Coast of NSW are woodchipped, and 90 per cent of logs taken from the Eden region.

Forty years of heavy industrial logging has taken its toll on the forests, their water catchments, their wildlife and soils. Threatened and endangered species numbers have dropped alarmingly. Even once common species like the koala are in danger of imminent regional extinction.

Logging has changed the character of the southeast forests - from wet to dry schlerophyll, with dangerously wildfire-prone regrowth. And climate change will exacerbate the dangers. Under the NSW Forestry Act, the State government is charged with protecting the character of forests. But in the face of plummeting yields it is condoning short logging rotations, even though we know that it takes 180 years to restore water and carbon levels and more than 400 years to restore forests to their former glory - if the complex interrelationships of species from higher order, koalas, greater gliders, powerful owls, down to soil microbes can ever be recovered.

In recent years consumer preferences for plantation chips and the global financial crisis have reduced demand for Australian native forest chips from the Japanese paper-makers by around 30 per cent.

This should be good news for our native forests. However the industry now seeks a new income stream supplying native forests for electricity generation, in Australia and abroad. South East Fibre Exports currently has an application before the NSW Government to build a wood-fired power station, and its wood pellet plant approved by local government is close to completion. Both projects will use mainly native forest inputs.

As part of its Clean Energy Futures package, the Commonwealth ruled out native forest biomass as a renewable energy fuel that was eligible to earn Renewable Energy Credits. However this welcome decision does not necessarily reduce the threat to our southeast forests.

The chipmill says it intends to go ahead with constructing the power plant once it is approved, regardless of losing the economic benefit of earning RECs.

Moreover there is nothing to stop the Eden chipmill exporting chips or pellets for electricity generation overseas.

The group to which I belong, South East Region Conservation Alliance represents around 12 groups and is affiliated with Environment East Gippsland. It is also a founding member of Australian Forests and Climate Alliance. SERCA led the way in alerting the public and campaigning against burning native forest wood for electricity. SERCA applauds the Federal Government for ruling out eligibility to earn RECs, the inclusion of native forests in the Carbon Farming Initiative and the Biodiversity Fund. However none of these initiatives will force the much needed restructuring of the industry in this region.

The Eden chipmill claims its exports are now back to pre-GFC levels. Currently Forests NSW is seeking to recruit more logging contractors on long term contracts, including from Victoria as numbers there are cut by 30 per cent; already we have seen a crew from Tasmania relocated in SE NSW, despite its having received a $830,000 payout for exiting the industry in Tasmania.

It looks as if both Forests NSW and the Eden chipmill intend to intensify their logging/ chipping/pelletising.

The forests of southeast Australia are now acknowledged to be the most carbon dense in the world. Their value as carbon and water stores is vastly greater than the value of the logs produced.

Who is winning here? Not the environment, and not the taxpayer. Last year NSW Forests lost $15 million from its native forest sector, and across the border Vic Forests made a small profit only because of a grant for its bushfire recovery services. Taxpayers are effectively subsidising the industry and workers' jobs.

The logging industry provides 214 direct jobs in SE NSW and 138 in East Gippsland, including logging crews, truck drivers and chip mill workers - a minute proportion of jobs in the southeast region.

Logging for the Eden chip mill alone produces the equivalent of around three per cent of Australia's annual greenhouse gas emissions - similar in extent to the emissions from the brown coal fired Hazelwood power station in Victoria, that the Commonwealth considers to be unacceptably high.

Natural forests are resilient, diverse - evolutionary masterpieces - it is time we changed from mining eco systems such as forests to valuing them in the 21st Century for climate, water, wildlife and beauty.

Prue Acton is an Australian fashion designer who has received an OBE for her work. She has a passion for the forests of south east NSW. To celebrate 2011 UN International Year of the Forests, SERCA has put together a travelling photographic exhibition: Natural Forests - Australia's wilderness coast. It opens in Cyclone Gallery, 399 Clarendon Street, South Melbourne, 6-28 October before moving to Gallery Bodalla, NSW, 5 November to 5 December 2011.

Biomass misses boat

Justin Tutty, Darwin, NT
The Age, 28 Sep 2011

TED Baillieu needn't trouble himself over possible conflicts of interest when considering Gary Squires's latest proposal for Victoria's native forests (''Tree lopper turns up as biomass spruiker'', BusinessDay, 27/9).
Biomass power generation is only viable within a national emissions trading regime, and it has become clear that native forest won't meet the criteria set out in the Clean Energy Future package now before Parliament.
Mr Squires has run his dash, and then some. The age of converting high-value habitat to high-volume commodity is over.

26 September, 2011

Kmart envelopes fail rainforest test

Paddy Manning
The Age, September 26, 2011

LABORATORY testing of Kmart's Indonesian-made Office One home-brand envelopes shows they contain 19 per cent mixed tropical hardwood fibre sourced from rainforest.

The analysis, commissioned from an American lab by environment group Markets for Change, comes amid an increasingly bitter debate about Indonesian forest practices, which has seen Australian retailers, including IGA and Officeworks, stop supplies from manufacturers of paper products including giants Asia Pacific Resources International Ltd and Asia Pulp and Paper.

Kmart's Office One copy paper is made in China but its home-brand envelopes are made in Indonesia, although the manufacturer is not identified on the packaging.

A Kmart spokesperson yesterday was surprised at the findings and said the company would ''take the matter extremely seriously and begin an immediate investigation''. On Friday the secretary-general of Indonesia's Forestry Ministry, Hadi Daryanto, addressed a conference in Sydney organised to counter environmental campaigns against forest industries.

19 September, 2011

Toolangi forest logging halted until 2012

Emily Webb
Lilydale & Yarra Valley Leader, 19 September 2011

A HALT on logging in a Toolangi forest has been extended until February, 2012.

The Supreme Court today extended the injunction to stop logging in Sylvia Creek forest near Toolangi after VicForests agreed to the moratorium.

Healesville-based conservation group My Environment Inc has challenged the legality of VicForests logging operation on the grounds that the area is habitat for the endangered Leadbeater’s possum.

The full court hearing is now scheduled for February 6, 2012.

17 September, 2011

Like a voice in the wilderness

The Canberra Times, 17 Sep, 2011

'Life on earth is inconceivable without trees,'' the great Russian playwright Anton Chekov wrote in a letter to a friend in the late 1880s. ''Forests create climate, climate influences peoples' character, and so on and so forth. There can be neither civilisation nor happiness if forests crash down under the axe.''
And in the first act of Uncle Vanya, there's an environmental monologue, in which the country doctor Mikhail Astrov passionately rails against the destruction of Russia's forests for firewood.

''Why destroy the forests? The woods of Russia are trembling under the blows of the axe. Millions of trees have perished. The homes of the wild animals and birds have been desolated; the rivers are shrinking, and many beautiful landscapes are gone forever ... Who but a stupid barbarian could burn so much beauty in his stove?''

Only last month, the Sydney Theatre Company performed a revival of Uncle Vanya at the Kennedy Centre in Washington DC, with Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh in the lead roles, and Hugo Weaving playing Astrov. The New York Times gave it a glowing review, describing the production as ''deeply, outrageously funny [and] also heartbreaking enough to make you want to dive straight into a bottomless vodka bottle''.

What's also heartbreaking enough to warrant a plunge into a bottomless bottle of booze, is that Chekov wrote his ''save the forests'' monologue in 1897, maybe even earlier. More than century later - 114 years in fact - there is no equivalent eco-outburst in contemporary theatre. And in Australia, despite logging of old-growth forests being one of our most politically contentious issues, there are no Astrov inspired eco-monologues in any of our popular contemporary plays. Lots of social drama, but nothing to make a federal environment, or forestry minister squirm uncomfortably in their theatre seats. That's if they're inclined to go to the theatre.

Australia's forests have provoked more than their fair share of political drama, and protests over their destruction pre-dates demonstrations with people dressed in fluffy koala suits. It began in the very early days of colonial settlement. Australian National University cultural historian and environmental lawyer Tim Bonyhady traces this concern in The Colonial Earth, shattering the myth that ''the invaders wreaked havoc on their new environment both gratuitously and as an inevitable part of the process of settlement''. Bonyhady shows our earliest forestry conservation battles date, not from the Daintree blockade of the 1980s, but the 1790s, when colonial magistrate Richard Atkins suggested Australia's weather was changing ''in consequence of the country opening so fast'' by land clearing for pasture and settlements. By 1804, several environmental protection and planning laws were in place, including what was ''probably the world's first prohibition of cruelty to animals'' writes Bonyhady.

Australia's forests had their colonial champions, including the artist John Glover who described Tasmania's eucalypt forests as ''a painter's delight''. Within a month of becoming Governor of NSW in 1795, John Hunter banned the felling of native cedar trees on public land along the Hunter river.

''Australia perhaps more than anywhere else began with a form of colonialism alive to the importance of environmental protection and planning,'' writes Bonyhady.

''Some species of eucalypt also acquired global significance ... The Victorian mountain ash was acclaimed as a 'wonder of the world' after the government botanist Ferdinand von Mueller announced in 1866 that it was probably the tallest tree on earth, eclipsing the giant sequoias of California.''

Earlier this week, ANU forest ecologist Professor David Lindenmayer published a scientific paper that paints a shockingly bleak future of those old-growth mountain ash forests. Less than 1.1 per cent remain, destroyed by ''the interacting effects of wildfire [and] logging'' creating a previously undocumented ecological condition called ''a landscape trap''.

Lindenmayer describes it as ''a positive feedback loop'' between the frequency and severity of bushfires and the reduced age of trees in the mountain ash forests.

''These old growth forests are being wiped out, and up to 40 per cent of old trees are dying,'' he says.

''They're being replaced by young, fire-prone trees. that means a huge shift in the forest ecosystem. Young trees don't have nesting hollows, they don't have as extensive bark streamers which are essential foraging micro-habitats for wildlife ...

''We're seeing a whole lot of changes in vegetation structure that are likely to lead to irreversible losses of suitable habitat for around 40 species of animals that are dependent on big, old-growth trees with nesting hollows.''

Lindenmayer has called for an urgent review of all of Australia's joint federal and state regional forestry agreements in the light of these findings. But both federal Forestry Minister Senator Joe Ludwig and Environment Minister Tony Burke have defended the 20 year agreements between the Federal Government, NSW, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia.

''These agreements are already regularly reviewed,'' a spokeswoman for Ludwig said.

Burke said an assessment last year by the former Bureau of Resources Sciences found that 73 per cent of all old-growth forests in areas covered by the agreements were in protected areas.

''The effective management of these forests is important, so any published research that can support improved management is welcome,'' he said.

Lindenmayer co-authored his recent research paper with three of the world's most distinguished ecologists - Professor Gene Likens, Professor Richard Hobbs and Emeritus Professor Charles Krebs. Likens pioneered the study of acid rain and its impacts on ecosystems, and was awarded a a US National Medal of Science for science leadership. Krebs, from the University of British Columbia, is the author of several influential ecology textbooks (one standard work, widely used for ecology courses at universities throughout the world, is simply referred to as ''Krebs'') and an expert on cool climate forest ecosystems.

Hobbs, from the University of Western Australia, is an Australian Research Council Laureate, and of the world's top experts on restoration ecology.

In the world of environmental science, these are four names that resonate loudly, and the paper - Lindenmayer is the lead author - published this week in the United States in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is already creating more than a ripple of interest. But not, it seems, among Australia's politicians. Lindenmayer has not met Burke or Ludwig, and no one from the Federal Government has contacted him following news reports of his findings. And despite being one of Australia's most published and awarded scientists (more than 20 books, a Harvard University forest ecology fellowship) he has never been asked to brief a federal minister on forestry conservation or related biodiversity issues. He has also not been asked to brief the Coalition or the Greens.

''There is a general disrespect for science these days among politicians. The Government will pick up the phone to talk to lobbyists before they will - if ever - talk to a scientist,'' he says.

''As a result we have an atrocious forest management policy, and as a result if that we will see extinctions within 20 to 30 years.''

Lindenmayer says he's been told by federal contacts that Burke has ruled out any changes to the regional forestry agreements although, as Environment Minister, he has the capacity to request a review.

''I've been told the RFAs are right off the table,'' Lindenmayer says.

''That's crazy because we have had massive changes in recent years, not least the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria. We need to revisit those agreements, and do it immediately.''

The agreement for Victoria's southern highlands was drafted in 1997, and states in its biodiversity technical report that ''effects of timber harvesting and wildfire on water harvesting is not well understood'' and biodiversity data ''is incomplete''. It notes populations of 13 wildlife species - including Leadbeater's possum and squirrel gliders - have declined, and the status of a further 15 species ''is unknown''.

But a 2010 independent review of the agreement made no new recommendations regarding ecologically sustainable forest management, but did recommend giving ''priority to monitoring of sustainability indicators to enable comprehensive reporting in the next State of the Forests report due in 2013. The next five-year review of the agreement is due by June 2014.

Lindenmayer says this is ''way too late, and far too bureaucratic to be in any way meaningful''.

''How can you not review a forestry agreement after a massive loss of resources caused by one of Australia's worst bushfires? How can you not review the agreement when you discover you've already lost 99 per cent of old-growth mountain forests? It's insane.''

The Australian Forest Products Association has unexpectedly backed Lindenmayer's call for a review of the agreement. The association's policy manger Mick Stephens says there is a need for ''new discussions'', in order to give certainty - or adequate compensation, in some cases - to sectors of the forestry industry.

''We don't always agree with David Lindenmayer, but in this case, we would support him in calling for a review of the regional forest agreements. We have been advocating a review for some time, including comprehensive re-assessment of wood supplies,'' Stephens says.

''We also want to see monitoring and performance of all forest land tenures to ensure environmental and biodiversity management objectives are being met. That's a necessity.''

But Australian Greens forests spokeswoman Senator Lee Rhiannon wants the agreements scrapped. She said the Greens had already written to Ludwig ''pressing for a review of regional forest agreements and we will continue this call in the Senate''.

Rhiannon described Lindenmayer's research paper as painting ''a devastating picture of a landscape that is irreversibly changing from healthy old growth forests to young fire-prone forests without hollows and microclimates for habitat''. She has accused the Gillard Government of ''sleepwalking into an environmental disaster'', with a forests policy that is failing to protect biodiversity, water catchments and local communities.

Lindenmayer has thrown down a challenge for Burke to visit the old-growth mountain ash forests in Victoria's southern highlands. In recent weeks, he has taken some of the world's top forest ecologist on a tour of the research sites where he has worked for more than 20 years on one of Australia's longest-running environmental studies.

''They have been emotionally and physically sickened by what they saw,'' he says.

''These are some of the world's leading authorities - from Seattle, Japan, Vancouver - and they have all asked me how the hell something like this could happen. How could Australia allow this?''

He says University of Washington ecologist Professor Jerry Franklin - was ''rendered speechless by the scale of devastation'' and angrily demanded ''why science had failed these forests. Franklin, who has advised the White House on forest conservation, is also writing a paper on the devastation of Australia's old-growth mountain ash forests. So, memo to federal ministers, this is about to go global.

Lindenmayer says the ''landscape trap'' described in this week's scientific paper is ''historically unprecedented''. It is a landscape that is in ''start contrast'' to the mountain ash forest landscape recorded last century, both in historical accounts and photographs. He explains that data analysis in the two years following the February 2009 Black Saturday bushfires show ''young forest burns at higher severity than mature forest'' and is more fire prone. Therefore, it increases the risk of bushfire, and also ecological functions such as carbon storage, water production and wildlife habitat.

''The irony in all of this is that we're going to get a carbon tax, and yet the Government is not willing to do anything to protect one of the most important carbon storages in the world, that's worth tens of billions of dollars,'' he says.

''These old growth mountain ash forests are the world's most carbon-dense forest. There's a lot of talk about the need to stop logging tropical forests in developing countries, but why not have a forests policy that starts by recognising the carbon benefits to be gained from protecting our own native forests.''

Any chance of getting Andrew Upton and Cate Blanchett, co-directors of the Sydney Theatre Company, to rework an Australian version of Uncle Vanya? David Lindenmayer could surely offer them a few ideas about an updating Astrov's forestry speech.

Rosslyn Beeby is Science and Environment reporter.

Tackle deforestation

Doug Ralph, Castlemaine
The Age (letter), 17 September 2011

THE introduction of a carbon tax may help reduce emissions in the long term but the other important cause of global warming is being ignored. Deforestation through land clearing and loss of biodiversity are a major contributor to climate change.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature states that loss of biodiversity - the variety of animals, plants, their habitats and their genes - on which so much of human life depends is one of the world's most pressing crises.

It is estimated that the extinction rate of species is between 1000 and 10,000 times higher than it would naturally be. The main drivers are caused by converting natural areas to farming and urban development, introducing invasive alien species, polluting or over-exploiting resources such as water and soils, and harvesting wild plants and animals at unsustainable levels.

Many scientists agree that restoring natural ecosystems could cool the earth and offset our present carbon emissions in the short term. Let's get our priorities right.

16 September, 2011

Conservation, recreation and carbon values of the Australian natural forest resource are worth more than its log value

"I will go out on a limb here and suggest that the conservation, recreation and carbon values of the Australian natural forest resource are worth more than its log value on net present value terms. Sustainable forest management projects should be evaluated with full incorporation of the resultant loss of non wood values; the formula should not be based merely on a technical estimate of maintaining log volume increment over the stand".

Australian Jim Douglas, who has spent the last eight years as the World Bank's Forests Adviser in Washington, writing a guest editorial in the latest "Australian Forestry" magazine.

15 September, 2011

Species at risk 'need old growth forests'

Anna Salleh
ABC, Thursday, 15 September 2011

When it comes to protecting tropical species that are at risk from extinction there's no substitute for old growth forests, a new study has found.

The findings fly in the face of suggestions that loss of biodiversity can be tamed by the regrowth of forests in tropical areas.

Ecologist Professor William Laurance, of James Cook University in Cairns, and colleagues report their findings today in the journal Nature.

"This notion that we don't have to worry about the future of biodiversity in the tropics because there is forest regenerating in some areas is a very misleading argument," says Laurance.

"Most forms of forest degradation have an overwhelmingly detrimental effect on tropical biodiversity."

Old growth forests are those that have been undisturbed for centuries and contain enormous trees that in some cases are 1000 years old.

Laurance says about half of the world's old growth forest has been completely cleared, and much of the remaining forest is damaged.

"What we're witnessing in our lifetimes is a really massive transformation of the tropics," he says.

"An important question has been what the impacts are going to be on biodiversity."

Comparing habitats
Laurance and colleagues analysed 138 published studies that compared the abundance of species in old growth forests with that in other habitats, including areas given over to agriculture, regenerating forests, and selectively logged forests.

"When you compare these different types of habitat you find that the old growth forests are definitely the most important for sustaining biodiversity," says Laurance.

He says the findings feed into a recent debate about the importance of disturbed tropical forests in sustaining biodiversity.

Some biologists argue regenerating forests can sustain biodiversity. While this is true, says Laurance, they are no substitute for old growth forests.

He says old growth forests have 10 to 30 times more species of trees than other forests and have specialised habitats such as hollow trees.

Laurance and colleagues found that when it came to the species that are at greatest risk of extinction, old growth forests were the most important habitats.

"You tend to find the extinction-prone species almost exclusively in old growth rainforest," he says.

Laurance says a forest would need to be left undisturbed for around 300 years to qualify as old growth.

He says in the Brazilian Amazon, where an area the size of France has been cleared, a third of that is regrowth forest that is on average just six to seven years old.

Second best option
Laurance emphasises that while old growth forest is the most important habitat for at risk species, selectively logged forest may provide a second-best option.

In fact, Laurance and team found the least dramatic difference in species abundance between old growth and selectively logged forests, where only certain trees are cut out but much of the original habitat remains.

"That's important because it shows selectively logged forests should also be preserved as important habitat," says Laurance.

He says that Indonesia has 30,000 million hectares of selectively logged forests and most has been designated to be cleared on the basis it doesn't have any conservation value.

But, says Laurance, most of these forests are in areas where old growth has been completely removed and they represent the best hope for preserving biodiversity.

"To just write that stuff as being valueless is very bad policy."