The Western Australian Forest Alliance will work with Bridgetown-Greenbushes Friends of the Forest to oppose prospective logging of Warrup forest, which is located in the Shire of Bridgetown-Greenbushes, in the south west of Western Australia. On Sunday morning, July 10, WAFA, hosted by the BGFF, invited me to a fact finding mission in the Warrup. President of Bridgetown-Greenbushes Friends of the Forest, and WAFA member, Richard Wittenoom said that they were on the alert to respond to planned attempts to log the Warrup, and that they were preparing to deal with proposed amendments to the Forest Management Plan that would permit, and increase, logging. Mr Wittenoom said he was very concerned about the effects of proposed intensive logging.
Mr Wittenoom said that, like almost all of the jarrah forest, Warrup was extensively logged between the 1940s and the 1960s. However this was by selection logging, with only the largest trees being felled. This left the structure of the forest canopy and understorey intact, and resulted in the present high conservation value forest. However experimental logging in 1982, and subsequent intensive logging in the 1990s has either failed or is decades from maturity, he said.
Mr Wittenoom led the party through a part of the Warrup forest known as the South Yerrmaminnup catchment. He said, 183 hectares of this catchment were logged as a "heavy selection cut in 1982 in a trial to determine the effect of logging on water runoff and salinity. After almost 30 years the tall forest is now a woodland of spindly coppices." Every member of the visiting group said there was little chance any useful timber yield arising from the regrowth, now or in the future.
West Australian Forest Alliance Convener, Rob Versluis said, “Warrup cannot be decimated any further. There are many of these regrowths that will never mature. Even though we don’t know the exact cause there are now severe diseases like canker, and a lot of coppice.” Mr Versluis said that the loss of the Warrup's forest canopies was allowing various damage from direct sunlight. He said, “The loss of canopies accelerates the drying up of the soil and that with the lower rainfalls the regrowth forest is heavily stressed.”
Manjimup based Forest Products Commission spokesperson, and forestry scientist, Peter Beatty has a different view and said, "Compared to the status of parts of the northern jarrah forest, east and south of Perth towards Dwellingup, where moisture stress has resulted in patchy tree death and vegetation decline, we are not aware of notable stress in the Warrup area. It's true that most stream systems surrounded by dense forest have not yet been recharged with usual winter water flows. Some canopy removal through harvesting would in fact provide for a period of increased through flow into stream zones from heavy rain events."
Mr Beatty said, "The biophysiology of forest cover and changes to canopy structure, and how water relations and soil are affected, are complex matters. Forest operations when carried out in line with the strict silvicultural and soil management guidelines laid down for FPC, are not deemed to have negative impact in relation to landscape moisture."
Mr Wittenoom said, “Annual Warrup rainfall has fallen from 900mm to 720mm.” Mr Wittenoom said that this was approaching the lower end of the rainfall range and therefore the Warrup should be protected from further logging. Denmark Environment Centre representative and WAFA member Alex Syme said, “The Forest Management Plan was based on rainfall classifications at the time of 1961 when the Warrup received more than 900mm and therefore they now need to update.”
Mr Beatty said, "There is no reclassification in relation to whether forest is permitted to be harvest based on rainfall trends. There has been formal comment concerning 'easter jarrah forest', a classification which DEC is custodian for, about adequacy of jarrah regeneration after harvesting however to date the key performance indicators on this measure have been met by FPC's operations."
Mr Wittenoom said that the Warrup needed to be further protected because of the discovery of Aboriginal artefacts and Aboriginal sites which were considered by archaelogical studies funded by BGFF as likely to extend through much of the Warrup Block. Four sites had now been submitted for registration under the Aboriginal Heritage Act, 1972 and further findings of artefacts occurred along most of the roads in Warrup.
Mr Beatty said that the Warrup should not be listed under Aboriginal Heritage Act, "The FPC has in fact undertaken quite thorough liaison with recognised traditional owner representatives in relation to the Warrup. Legal requirements for cultural heritage are in focus and processes being completed, which cover the protection levels required."
Forest Rescue convener and member of WAFA, Simon Peterffy was among the group, and said, “We are the militant arm of WAFA, and when the time comes we will be ready to save the Warrup, and any south west forest. We will be prepared for blockades and locking ourselves down.”
Mr Peterffy said, “The south west is Australia’s only biodiversity hotspot, with more than 5,500 species of flora, and the south west is ranked tenth in the world in terms of biological importance.”
WAFA member Donna Selby said “There is a groundswell happening again in the forest movement as we see latitude taken with the classifying of logs so that they are considered low grade and with each effort by the FPC to saw more logs.” In 2000, 25,000 people gathered for the Save the Big Forests protest in Perth which sought to protect old growth forests, and as a result the soon to be elected Gallop led Labor state government secured various legislation protecting large areas of old growth forests. In the last several months concerns have grown among WAFA and affiliated forest groups, and there is concern among the members of the BGFF, that not enough is being done to protect old growth forests, and that forests are being unnecessarily endangered because of mismanagement by the Forest Products Commission. There is concern that the Warrup forest, full of marri and jarrah, amongst other areas, will be at risk of logging and further stresses placed upon this natural environment.
WAFA member, Dr Beth Schultz, looking at a large stump, lamented, “The forest that was and never will be again.” Dr Schultz said that this forest is too thin and fragile and cannot survive any further logging.
The WA Forest Alliance’s spokesperson, Jess Beckerling, said that the Conservation Commission has proposed to amend the Forest Management Plan 2013/14 to increase the take of karri bole logs, other than first and second sawlogs by 45%. Miss Beckerling said that this category of karri had exceeded its prescription and had been over-cut during six year of the last seven years. Ms Beckerling said, “While these logs are of low value to the industry, they are of very high value as a part of the forest ecosystem. Native forests are worth far more as carbon stores and refuges for threatened animal and plant species than they are as a dwindling timber resource.”
The amendment to the plan would lift the average annual available take of the lower grade karri from 117,000cum to 170,000cum. Environment Minister Bill Marmion has said the amendment was needed because the yield of lower-grade karri was under predicted in the forest management plan. Ms Beckerling said the government should pull the Forest Products Commission into line and ensure the protection of native forests and prohibit any increase to logging.
Mr Beatty said, "Yes, the potential yield of karri other bole volume that may be harvested and sold is increased from 117,000 to 170,000 cubic meters however the actual removals of th is product to date is average around 135,000cum since 2004."
Mr Peterffy said , “The Forest Products Commission, a state government department, has lost more than $120 million since it was formed. Western Australians are paying for the destruction of our precious forests.”
Mr Beatty said, "The claim and its implication (are) not true. The FPC's core business of harvesting and regenerating south west forests and plantations does operate profitably. The Forest Products Act 2000 requires FPC to sell forest products at prices which cover all relevant costs. Government, through FPC, has invested in new plantations on farmlands in the drier areas of the state. These investments are medium to long term. Analysis of the profitability of FPC's southwest business needs to exclude expenditure on these new plantations and the overheards associated with implementing and maintaining that initiative."
Mr Marmion has said that the proposed amendments to the forest management plan did not require Parliamentary legislation however that the proposal is allowing for public comment till August 5. After public consultation the Commission will submit its final proposal to Mr Marmion. Approval rests with Mr Marmion.
State Forestry minister, Terry Redman recently launched the Manjimup Forest Industry report and at the launch said he believed the timber industry based on native forests was sustainable. Mr Wittenoon disputes this, "There can be no justification for asserting that areas of the south eastern jarrah forests cut to gap or shelterwood will provide economically millable timber in our children's lifetimes. It is almost unbelievable that forest management planners in DEC are predicting yields out as far as 200 years. The reality is that the forest industry as we know it is doomed by economics alone, much less on environmental and sustainability grounds."
Mr Wittenoom said, "The real issue is not how long the present system can last, but whether it will have succeeded in logging the last remaining areas of high conservation value forest before it is obvious that the regrowth areas cannot support the industry."
Ms Beckerling said, “Clearfelling in Crowea forest (near Pemberton) is still going on, and the forest provides refuge to a colony of mainland quokkas. The WA Forest Alliance is very concerned that in the UN’s International Year of the Forests federal leaders are focusing their attention on deforestation overseas. Rigorous scientific research demonstrates that protecting Australia’s native forests would effectively reduce our carbon emissions by 15 to 20%. This is equivalent to our entire transport sector and it is cost effective and immediately available.”
Ms Beckerling said, “WA’s unique native forests are worth far more as carbon stores, refuges for threatened species, and places we love than they are as low value products like woodchips, charlogs for Simcoa and electricity generation. There is simply no justification for continuing to destroy our native forests. The FPC is failing to make any profit from doing so and their resources should be urgently reallocated to properly supporting a sustainable farm forestry plantation sector.”
The West Australian division of the United Nations Association Australia formally supported World Environment Day, June 5, when the United Nations formally celebrated the International Year of the Forests. Acting Convener of the UNAA(WA) Environment Committee, Paul Elkington said, “WA has some very unique forest habitats and while we do not have the tropical lush green forests that gain headlines associated with deforestation, biodiversity protection and climate change, we do have very unique biodiversity. An example includes the large timber forests in our south-west that are amongst the oldest in the world. They are at risk as we have vastly decreased these areas through land clearing as the population has expanded.”
Mr Beatty said, "Every year is important for forests. This year provides momentum for some organisations and groups to champion the cause of protection and sustainable management and use of forests for the many purposes and benefits they provide, whether it be conservation, recreation, production of resources for people, amenity or landscape protection."
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change describes a sharp increase in minimum temperatures in Australia between 1910 and 2004, rising 1.2 Celsius and maximum temperatures by 0.6 Celsius. The CSIRO’s senior researcher Penny Whetton said, “If we follow a particular path of our emissions with a high emissions scenario and not much mitigation, we are extremely likely to exceed to 2.5 Celsius and possibly even four (by 2100).” She said, “Irrespective of what we do, we will be very, very unlikely to stay under one degree in the next few decades and it would be hard to stay under two.” Mr Versluis said the forests are made fragile to the elements when logging interrupts ecosystems and when canopies disappear and holes are created for direct sunlight. He said it is even more imperative that we protect our forests, which are powerful carbon stores, especially in light of global warming.
Mr Versluis said, “The Warrup, like many forests is strewn with waste, with trees that did not to be felled. Unused logs lie everywhere, as you can see. This causes further damage and disease. When we moved from axes to mechanical saws, the loggers lost some of their skills. With the axe they could hear if a tree was hollow and leave it alone however now we mechanically saw them down and find out after the event. It is senseless waste.”
Bunbury’s convener of the South West Environmental Centre and WAFA member echoed the sentiments, “We see 35 square kilometres of waste and damage.”
The United Nations Year of the Forests campaign describes that forests cover 31% of total land area, 80% of terrestrial biodiversity is within forests, 300 million people live in forests, 30% of forests are used for wood and non-wood products, in 2004 alone international trade from forest products amounted to $327 billion, and 1.6 billion people's livelihoods depend on forestry and its products. For those interested you can learn about the Warrup forest campaign at www.bgff.org.au, about the south west forests at www.waforestalliance.org.au, about the United Nations campaign at www.un.org/en/events/iyof2011, and the objectives and policies of the FPC and DEC can be found at www.fpc.wa.gov.au and www.dec.wa.gov.au
Mr Peterffy said, “We will stand with local communities between the bulldozer and imminent destruction of our precious forests. With our unique style of non violent direct action, Forest Rescue has been highly successful in saving large tracts of our south west forests. We were very successful in strategies against Verve, and we keep on improving designs on locks, and if we can keep ourselves locked up for ten hours well that’s a whole working day we’ve delayed those who would destroy the forest.”
Forest Rescue and WAFA member, Cameron Johnson said, “The Warrup is home to the numbat, and it’s a state emblem and it is likely to become extinct, even more reason to fight for the Warrup.”
Bridgetown's view on the Carbon Policy in relation to forests.
Bridgetown is the only 'heritage listed' town in West Australia's south west. West Australia's south west is one of the world's top ten terrestrial biodiversity hot spots. I asked a few people in Bridgetown about their views about the government's proposed carbon policy in reference to forests, and I also asked the opinion of WAFA's Jess Beckerling and the AFPA's Mick Stephens.
The ALP/Greens Carbon policy announcement is good for WA's forests and communities according to the Bridgetown-Greenbushes Friends of the Forest and the West Australian Forest Alliance. BGFF President, Ross Wittenoom said, "I was impressed with some of it. Some components will protect our native forests. This is important for our children and our children's children. It is important for all the animals we need to protect."
BGFF member, Jon Starling said, "The carbon tax is a double edged sword. There are winner and losers. For the environment it will be a winner as the government has put aside near one billion dollars over a period of time to be spent on adaptation methods for the environment to cope with climate change - this includes protection, creation and management of biodiverse carbon stores."
The WA Forest Alliance spokesperson Jess Beckerling said, "We welcome the measures in the federal government's carbon price package that provide incentives to protect native forests and ensure that our forests will not be used as 'biomass' to power electricity plants. The carbon price package is good news for WA's forests. It ensures that burning native forests for energy will no longer be eligible for renewable energy certificates under Commonwealth legislation."
“Without this competitive advantage, burning native forests for power is very unlikely to ever get off the ground in WA,” Ms Beckerlinge said. “Attempts by the Barnett government to prop up the ailing native forest logging industry by selling them off to energy companies have taken a serious blow with this announcement. The biodiversity fund of $948 million over the first six years will directly support projects that establish, restore, protect or manage biodiverse carbon stores. This includes funds for actions associated with the cessastion of logging in publicly owned native forests."
Mr Wittenoom is concerned that the Barnett government may not use these fully use these funds, "My concerns include that the Barnett government is inherently opposed to much of what the commonwealth propose and that they may sit on these on funds or not spend them as directly intended. How these funds are to be spent still remains vague." Mr Wittenoom described a need for the spending of these funds to have various prescribed criteria and acquittal model.
Ms Beckerling believes that the Barnett governmetn would be missing a major opportunity to sort out an industry that is costing the state money and wasting a valuable public asset if they do not chase WA's share of these funds to protect the forests and restructure the industry into farm forestry.
Ms Beckerling said, "This is a further financial incentive to the state government to protect WA's native forests, and implement long overdue industry restructure into the plantation sector. Now that the financial incentives for native forest biomass have been removed and money is there for forest protection there is only one way that this can logically be taken."
Mr Starling said, "I see benefits in the agro-farming industry due to the need to offset farming and industry emission with carbon sinks as a way of producing wood products from both plantation and farm forest trees. This has a reactive component with it as it will allow for enterprises such as biomass plants to become more attractive as more viable fuel become available and thus projects such as the biomass plant in Manjimup appear potentially feasible."
Australian Forest Products Association policy manager, Mick Stephens said, "In additon to a carbon price covering 500 businesses, the government has announced assistance for emissions intensive trade exposed (EITE) activities, a clean technology investment program and that the foresty industry will not pay a carbon price on fuel use. However, there are some major changes with implications for the forestry, wood products and paper industry. While AFPA supports the announcement of linking the carbon price mechanism with credits from the carbon farming initiative, the narrow range of eligible forestry activities under the CFI will effectively mean that commercial forestry activities will be excluded for no objective reason. Furthermore, the recent announcement further limits and discriminates against sustainable forestry activities. These include the government's intention to amend the renewable energy target regulations to exclude biomass, that is wood waste, from native forest as an eligible renewable energy source."
"It is time for WA's native forests to be protected," Ms Beckerling concluded.
CARBON SINKS - time limited.