Image for The Burning of Mt. Dismal – FEA’s finale?

In November 2008, work began in what was largely a clear fell harvest, one of many that have been established on Mt Dismal.

The 600 acre coupe, (NE596) is situated within the Launceston municipality north of Dilston, a 15 minute drive from Rocherlea and only a few kilometres from the Tamar River.

Native forest was removed, on what is private land, for an FEA plantation ‘conversion’.

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To date, the plantation in this coupe is yet to be established. 

A letter dated 23rd March 2010 from Area Forester Russell McDougall of FEA was sent to neighbouring properties advising that an imminent burn was to occur, subject to weather conditions.

The reason for the burn was, according to the letter; “to remove logging debris and establish suitable conditions for planting new trees’’.

Just prior to midday on Wednesday 14th April 2010, Mt Dismal began to burn. The burn may have been initiated by a neighbouring landowner or by FEA, the origin is unclear but given the letter’s contents, the likelihood lies as an FEA burn. Coincidently or perhaps by design, a Gunns Ltd burn started on the other side of the mountain at approximately the same time.

Later in the day, by mid afternoon the announcement was made that FEA had collapsed. The following Thursday morning, the burn was out. Gunns burn continued.

It would appear that FEA plantation operations are in limbo and the mountain has had a reprieve, but what happens now? A plantation in this coupe would have been unlikely to have received FSC accreditation and would have been largely dependant on the FEA sawmill or a proposed pulp mill in the Tamar.

The future of the FEA sawmill, (EcoAsh/BassPine) at Bell Bay is hanging in the balance and the Gunns pulp mill is looking all the more unlikely. 

So what is the future for the Dismal ranges and its myriad of plantations?  With foreign markets increasingly demanding FSC certified woodchip, the question remains as to what will happen to plantations and their maintenance across the state that do not comply and are unwanted in today’s market? 

The question the forest industry must now be asking is; what value do plantations hold for now and for the future and how does that equate to jobs? How does the industry compete with cheaper labour and shorter growing rotations overseas?

It is perhaps, too simplistic to just remove E. nitens plantations immediately, although if proven guilty as the source of water poisoning in our catchments this may justifiably be what will happen.

As with other imported pests such as carp and cane toads, the challenge may be to look at a gradual plantation reduction whilst exploring an acceptable alternative use for the trees that are standing.

Whatever the outcome, it must be acceptable by the community in consultation with the industry.

Perhaps the new jobs, the real employment opportunities, will be in rehabilitating coupes once they are harvested, to mixed species ‘working forests’.

There is an opportunity for a ‘new dawn’ in the forest industry, a change in direction to ensure its survival.

It will require open minds and a total overhaul on how things are currently done.

PS: Re Shane’s comment, HERE, #35

‘Also, people still seem to be assuming that the burns are for plantation development.  This is not the case at all and I am surprised that it has been raised.  They are regen or fuel reduction burns undertaken for optimisation of native forest growth.  I know it take us back to the old argument, but years of research by many outfits have concluded that this is the best way to regenerate wet native forests’.

Posted by Shane Weatherall on 22/04/10 at 03:17 PM

The letter from FEA disputes Shane’s claims:

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And, Angelika Allen Quality Air Tasmania

Result of forestry veto of air quality and years of Government inaction:

Burnie levels peak @ over 700/25 before 8 am with 4x excedence level of PM 10 and almost 7x of PM 2.5 on 22/4/10 (See Environment data in attachment)  No one in the population area of Burnie was given prior warning of fumigation nor offered relocation by polluters or Government despite widespread knowledge that smoke is harmful to health and exasperates respiratory and heart conditions.
Non forestry health veto air regulator and enforcer is immediately required and a ban on all high and low intensity logging rubbish burn offs.

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