Nature & Wildlife

VOICES FOR THE EARTH

Western Australia Forest Decision

The ABC news headline “Logging of WA native forests to be banned under state budget plan”, has understandably excited conservationists across the country.

The Western Australian Forest Management Plan 2024 – 2033, will see some 9,000 hectares of the state’s magnificent two-tier Karri forests protected immediately, will provide $350 million to expand WA’s softwood timber plantations, and a further $50 million to provide jobs and training for affected workers.

 The plan makes sense, not only to conserve these iconic forests into the future, and combat climate change by storing carbon, but, according to an ever-increasing body of evidence, will also reduce the threat from bushfires over the longer term. The southwest corner of the state has just experienced a disastrous bushfire season, and any move to reduce their flammability will be welcomed.

On the surface, one of the strong points of the plan is that “all timber taken from those forests after 2024 will be limited to forest management activities that improve forest health”. However, one significantly negative clause is that clearing of native forest will be allowed for “approved mining operations, such as Alcoa”.

That mining exemption has drawn condemnation from conservationists, who have ridiculed ALCOA’s proposed rehabilitation plan, rightly identifying that it will take over 200 years to re-establish a fully operational ecosystem after the mines are closed.

Nevertheless, the cessation of native forest logging in WA is welcomed, and with Victoria looking likely to follow suit, it seems the industry in NSW has seen the writing on the wall. With prime quality saw logs running out from decades of over-logging, we are now seeing a desperate rush to strip the last dollars’ worth of wood from this state’s public forests.

The Hunter Valley based Sweetman’s Renewables, with commitments to convert 30,000 tonnes of wood chips to hydrogen annually for export to Singapore, is exporting a further 60,000 tonnes to Japan for electricity generation, as well as supplying the rebooted Redbank Power Station with a further 850,000 tonnes annually.

It seems the desecration of our publicly owned forests is endless.

John Edwards

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