Forest Witness: New destructive logging in the Russell Valley

On the 15th of October, conservationists visited an area of forest in the Huon Valley where recent logging operations have commenced.  The large scale clearfell logging of 40 hectares, using a cable logger on a steep slope, is occurring inside the proposed 572 000ha reserve.  The operation is providing logs for Ta Ann, logs for the export peeler market, and sawlogs. As this is a clearfelling operation woodchip logs are also being cut although there is no market for woodchips sourced from Tasmania’s southern forests. Despite the lack of market for the woodchip logs, the large scale decimation of native forest continues.

This steep forested slope is identified as in need for protection as part of the West Wellington region.  This native forest area is also identified by Forestry Tasmania as logging coupe RU032B.

The logging of this area highlights that the Intergovernmental Agreement is failing on forest protection. A moratorium on logging of the proposed reserves was promised by Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke as far back as December 2010, yet this logging commenced in September 2012.

Cable logging in Russell Valley Photo: Jenny Weber

Forestry Tasmania, the failed, loss-making government business enterprise now being propped up by Tasmania’s taxpayers is leading the assault on these forests. Ta Ann’s wood requirements are driving this logging incursion, according to independent reports. Forestry Tasmania was paid $12.5million to facilitate the IGA, and not to supply wood or allow wood production within the proposed new forest reserves, subject to clause 26 of the IGA.[i]

How have all the promises been reduced to this logging destruction?

  • On the 14 December 2010, Federal Environment Minister Burke and then Premier David Bartlett announced their support for the Statement of Principles and committed to place a moratorium on logging within the 572,000 ha of proposed new forest reserves within three months.[ii]
  • Three months later, the lack of any progress to deliver an effective moratorium led Minister Bryan Green to instruct Forestry Tasmania in writing to implement the moratorium.[iii]
  • By August 2011, when the Federal and State governments signed the Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA), Forestry Tasmania was still logging inside the proposed new forest reserves.
  • The IGA committed to place 430,000 ha of forests under immediate protection while a verification process was undertaken, and to reschedule other logging coupes out of the broader 572,000 hectares of proposed reserves.[iv] In cases where a mill’s wood supply could not be provided through rescheduling, the IGA included a clear provision to pay compensation to the affected mill. However the work of the independent schedulers engaged to appraise and make recommendations on Forestry Tasmania’s scheduling of logging operations was significantly limited by the failure by Forestry Tasmania to undertake the necessary pre-planning and rescheduling after earlier government direction to reschedule logging out of the proposed new forest reserves.[v]
  • On 13 January 2012, Minister Burke, Minister Green and Forestry Tasmania signed a Conservation Agreement that allowed Forestry Tasmania to largely continue its planned logging of 1,900 ha within the new forest reserves during the first half of 2012. This means the Conservation Agreement protected only those forests that Forestry Tasmania had not included in logging plans. In other words, it provided temporary protection for forests that were not going to be logged and allows business as usual logging of contentious areas.[vi]

Now, in the second half of 2012, the Conservation Agreement has expired and logging continues inside the crucial 572,000 hectares.  Tasmania is still losing the very forests proposed for protection two years ago, and the promises of Government Ministers for these forests to be protected have gone stale.

Negotiations over forest protection are to resume any day, but meanwhile Forestry Tasmania has drawn up more logging plans inside the proposed reserves as well as commencing logging places such as this logging coupe RU032B. For two years now the forests have continued to fall whilst meetings to discuss forest protection have not delivered.

[i] Australian Conservation Foundation, The Wilderness Society and Environment Tasmania. Forestry Tasmania’s ongoing logging in proposed new forest reserves. 9 February 2012.

[ii] Ibid

[iii] Ibid

[iv] Ibid

[v] Ibid

[vi] Ibid

By TaAnn

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