*Pic: This expanse of HCV forests near the Pieman River could be targeted in the Liberal’s new future logging plan ...
Forestry Tasmania (FT) has repeatedly claimed it is world-leading expert in native forest management, yet conservationists and any credible scientist knows that nothing is further from the truth. Here is the folly of the modern-day Forester’s thinking …
Most Foresters who find their way into the industry within Tasmania have generally been funnelled through the factory doors of the Australian National University/ Master of Forestry – 2 year Unit course ...
Within the ANU walls of entrenched forestry dogma, emerging Foresters are seemingly indoctrinated with the myopic mantra that everything they are lectured on is based on environmental sustainability, sound ecological management, and economic viability. Though it is also highly likely that studying the conservation of intact ecosystems is way outside the scope of the ANU curriculum.
Forester Peter Wohlleben clearly describes this reality in his book – The Hidden Life of Trees.
“As a Forester I knew about as much as the hidden life of trees as a butcher knows about the emotional life of animals. The modern forestry industry produces lumber. That is to say, it fells trees and then plants new seedlings. If you read the professional literature, you quickly get the impression that the well-being of the forest is only of interest insofar as it is necessary for optimizing the industry. That is enough for what Foresters do day to day, and eventually it distorts the way they look at trees”
Insofar as the ecological definition goes, sustainability is the ability of biological systems to remain diverse and productive indefinitely, which should encompass ongoing ecological processes associated with that.
Selective logging of native forests is the indisputable example of a sustainable process, whereas uniform clear-cut and monoculture regeneration as practiced by FT is designed purely for a commercial outcome that fails to provide any semblance of a well-structured mature forest.
Naively FT espouses that a 90 year rotation cycle of the eucalypt clearfell and burn process will sustain ecology, albeit monoculture transformation. This exploitative extractive process converts a diverse and harmonic ecosystem into a juvenile native forest production zone that’s designed to be commercially harvested ASAP.
FT’s archaic clearfell and burn practices are claimed to mimic nature and simulate natural wildfire activity upon a landscape. Given the massive onsite disturbances to the landscape from FT’s stone-age ethics, then this would have to be the greatest forest industry driven deception promoted over the last half-century.
FT’s practice consistently denudes a landscape, dramatically disturbs the soil structure, invariably silts the streams, and often breaches its own forest practice codes regarding riparian streamside protection. Subsequently they then annihilate all biomass through intense burning, then reseed or plant a monoculture uniform forest. This is insular and reprehensible by any definition of ecological sustainability, and is a far cry from its claim of “World’s Best Practice”
Over the past few decades taxpayers have surrendered more than a $billion into the Tasmanian Forest Industry. This phenomenal gravy train continues to bleed tens of $millions annually to support an essentially insolvent management corporation, which employs a very small percentage of the state’s population on high wages and over proportioned superannuation benefits.
Taxpayer subsidies are rampant to this industry, rorting is prolific, and debt is ever increasing even since the demise of Gunns Ltd. Every tree that is felled in Tasmania comes as a financial loss to the public purse, so the solution for the Liberal party in Tasmania is to simply cut more trees despite not having any secure market.
The dearth of Forestry research into ecological values
Since the inception of the clear-cut practices of forestry almost all coupes are surveyed from aerial mapping to evaluate the forest types and their timber volumes. Very little on-ground environmental evaluations are being conducted, and in some cases rare forest communities have not been discovered.
In Tasmania this was exposed back in the Helsham enquiry 1987/88, yet little has changed since then beyond a few policies such as Karst forest management, and Tall Tree register protection.
The fact that some singular trees are taller than average is no basis for ecological management, whereas a collective tall forest is a ecological unit. Such a policy of protecting individual giants was introduced by FT only through political pressure to placate opposition. In the case of the El Grande tree in the Florentine Valley it was still destroyed through gross mismanagement anyway!
Disregarding the interconnectedness of a forest society
To most commercially-orientated Foresters (in my view) – knowledge is in the visible … and therefore all forest related biota below the ground, with the exception of soil structure and drainage, is considered to be insignificant. Such a naïve perception beggars belief that the terrestrial to arboreal perspective is the primary structure to forest ecology.
Irrefutable scientific studies (conducted experiments by Foresters outside ANU) have affirmed that the interconnection and interaction of trees that sustain the ongoing development of forest through the underground is extensive, complex and symbiotic. Furthermore within and beyond the tree-root compositions, the role of Mycorrhizal networks and Mycelium fungi is well recognized in the 21st century as the essential link to underground forest communication and subterranean structure.
Trees and plants use an Internet of mycelium fungi – Scientists call it the “The Wood Wide Web”
The incomprehension of spiritual connection, and forest integrity
While forests continue to be valued as only a commercial commodity by an exploitative industry then the understanding of what makes a forest function is well beyond the comprehension of the ANU brainwashed scholar.
The universal values of primitive forests are an imperative to the survival of all living things on the planet. Humans are highly dependent upon the natural resources that forests provide on an extensive global level. Food, shelter, clean water and building resources have sustained the human race for countless generations. Many of the problems associated with environmental changes, ecosystem collapses, and failed civilisations can be related back to the diminishing of forest communities.
The recognition of Citizens Science
Given the lack of scientific studies on proposed forestry coupes, a new wave of public assessment is discovering valuable information that provides substantial evidence that many proposed coupes have HCV.
The citizen science program collects data on threatened species and ecological values that are protected by law but threatened by logging. This may ultimately protect some environments through the withdrawal of forestry operations.
In Tasmania this methodology is only in its infancy, whereas in Victoria many designated forest extraction areas have been abandoned from operations due to the conservation values discovered on-site by citizen assessments. This attests that forest management agencies are inept or disinterested in the evaluation of flora and faunal studies pertaining to each proposed coupe, and are willing to flout the law through ignorance.
Forest Stewardship Certification is beyond FT’s reach
The Forest Stewardship Council’s objectives and criteria have sound merit:
FT’s attempts to attain FSC certification are ultimately doomed while it continues to log or propose to log high conservation valued forests (HCV), particularly when it comes to not ensuring the protection of threatened and endangered species and the ongoing sustainability of their habitats.
The TFA was the best workable model to progress towards FT’s ultimate quest for FSC. Despite major Forestry enterprises claiming that logging of HCV forests will create conflict with their product marketing, the Liberals decision to abandon the TFA and advocate the remaining HCV unprotected forests into future wood production zones has paved the way for FT’s failure to receive FSC certification.
Merely changing the Forestry management’s title to Sustainable Timber Tasmania will not ensure any remedial action, as the FSC’s assessments are not about past practices but future intentional practice of forest management.
Tasmanian communities are tired of the forestry conflict, and FT has clearly demonstrated why it is failing to gain a social license. The Lapoinya forest, whilst not considered a notable HCV area, proved that community engagement and recognition is imperative to the resolution of Forestry conflicts. The recently logged Lapoinya coupe also exposed the industry’s poor research and failure to identify endangered species in a coupe prior to logging.
More conservation conflict is already brewing for FT regarding the logging of threatened and endangered species habitat designated in the current 3-year harvest management plan.
Sustainable Timber Tasmania will invariably adopt the same methodology of logging native forest.
So where are the evolutionary changes for Tas Forestry in the foreseeable future?
*Ted Mead has been campaigning for the preservation of Tasmania’s wilderness for over 35 years. Although it has become a lifetime commitment, he fully comprehends that having our natural areas protected from Bulldozers, Chainsaws and dam builders is only the first step. Defending our wild places from inappropriate and exploitative development seems to be the neo-paradigm of the foreseeable future!