Forest groups call for halt to logging as drought and bushfire crisis builds

Ian Campbell 13 December 2019 46
The Princes Highway

The Princes Highway shows the agony and scars of the Currowan Fire. Photo: Josh Burkinshaw Images.

Forest conservation groups around NSW are calling for a moratorium on logging operations until the impacts of drought and bushfires are assessed and addressed.

Nine organisations have written to NSW Premier Gladys Berjejiklian, including the South East Region Conservation Alliance (SERCA), asking for a halt to all logging in public native forests in order to mitigate habitat losses and to help forests recover as dry times bite hard.

SERCA spokesperson Harriett Swift says wildlife is struggling in the severe drought and faces enough of a challenge to survive without logging to contend with.

“Patches of apparently dying trees are now a common sight in the region’s forests,” she says.

“On the South Coast, the Currowan bushfire has at least six logging operations nearby either underway or planned in the near future. Logging in that area could be the last straw for many forest-dwelling creatures.

“Bushfires will make any surviving wildlife more vulnerable to starvation, loss of shelter and predation by feral predators.

“Further wildfires can be expected as summer progresses into our normal fire season. In any fire coming from the west there is increased risk of ember attacks on coastal towns.

“Debris left on the forest floor following recent logging operations at Mogo, Bodalla and Corunna pose serious risks to Malua Bay to Tomakin, Potato Point to Kianga and Mystery Bay. Our letter to the Premier asks at what point will common sense prevail?

“We are gravely concerned for the survival of our forest-dwelling wildlife and any continuation of logging activities in drought-stricken and burnt forests will greatly compound the impacts on surviving fauna, jeopardising their survival.

“Areas of forest which have not been affected by fire are more valuable than ever as refugia for our stressed and starving wildlife.

“They must be retained undisturbed as source areas for recolonisation of burnt forests.”

Other signatories of the letter to the NSW Premier include the North Coast Environment Council, North East Forest Alliance, the Friends of Kalang Headwaters, South East Forest Alliance, The Great Eastern Ranges, The Colong Foundation, Nambucca Valley Conservation Association and Boral Green Share Holders.

Patches of possibly dead and dying bush

Patches of possibly dead and dying bush are being seen along the Far South Coast including the western side of Mumbulla and Doctor George Mountains, to the west of Moruya, and here at Black Range south of Bega, Photo: Ian Campbell.

Groups in Northern NSW, who have been living alongside bushfire for over a month, claim that “more than 1.7 million hectares of land has been impacted [by fire] in NE NSW alone, including more than six hundred thousand hectares of National Parks and more than three hundred thousand hectares of State Forests”.

“A third of native vegetation in NE NSW is mapped as being burned, including half of our remaining old-growth and a quarter of all rainforests.

“A third of the modelled high-quality koala habitat on public lands in north-east NSW has been burned, including some of our largest koala colonies on the Richmond lowlands, Dorrigo Plateau and around Lake Innes.

“Within the burned areas most leaves on the feed trees have been burnt, scorched or dropped, leaving surviving koalas with little to eat. It is still unknown how many koalas survived how many more will succumb to starvation, thirst or predation, or how long it will take for their trees to regenerate.”

The nine conservation groups point to an “over cut of more than 100,000 cubic metres of various classes of timber” across the north coast forestry region “which represents 6-9 months of logging so a moratorium could be put in place with no effect on Wood Supply Agreements in that region.”

Locally, SERCA spokesperson Harriett Swift says “we’re calling on the Government to stop logging these forests and instead assess what new role they might now play”.

NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean spoke this week about the need for greater action on climate change. While he didn’t deal with the issue of forestry specifically he has flagged the need for greater change and adaptation.

The Guardian reported that Mr Kean told the Smart Energy Summit that weather conditions were “exactly what the scientists have warned us would happen.”

“Longer drier periods, resulting in more drought and bushfire. If this is not a catalyst for change, then I don’t know what is.

“This is not normal and doing nothing is not a solution.

“We need to reduce our carbon emissions immediately, and we need to adapt our practices to deal with this kind of weather becoming the new normal.”

Original Article published by Ian Campbell on About Regional.

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46 Responses to Forest groups call for halt to logging as drought and bushfire crisis builds
Joslyn Van der Moolen Joslyn Van der Moolen 5:50 am 19 Dec 19

Complete the transition to plantations and recycled office and loopaper..people don't want product's that destroy the natural environment

rationalobserver rationalobserver 9:34 pm 17 Dec 19

Cary Elliot Johnson you forget that trees only store carbon. They don’t make it go away. The processes of combustion or decomposition release that carbon back into the environment.

Cary Elliot Johnson Cary Elliot Johnson 8:07 am 17 Dec 19

Anyone ever heard of this simple high school concept called photosynthesis? No trees means no photosynthesis. Trees soak up carbon, especially young trees and very large trees. Cut down or burn all the forests and have a effed up planet. Simply shutting down coal fired powdered stations and sticking solar panels on roofs is not the single way to fixing this situation. Saving the vegetation is.

Daniel McPhun Daniel McPhun 9:54 am 16 Dec 19

Just rake the forrest floor, problem solved

Russell Nankervis Russell Nankervis 6:11 pm 15 Dec 19

Why are we logging our forests anyway?! We should be using plantations

Chris Maddalena Chris Maddalena 4:24 pm 15 Dec 19

As one of our firies said; if you stand in the sun you're hotter without your hat.

Cut down all the trees and it gets hotter and the soil loses its ability to retain water. Whatever is left will struggle to grow and be dryer than a tinderbox. The microclimate will be destroyed and you get desertification on steroids.

Plant more trees - the type that trap water, create fertile soil, and don't burn easily. Agricultural technology has gotten really good. We don't need all this extra land to grow enough to get rich.

Phillip Colebrook Phillip Colebrook 3:08 pm 15 Dec 19

well said Brett.

Paul South Paul South 2:56 pm 15 Dec 19

What was the acreage of National Park burnt and still burning

Billy Watson Billy Watson 2:46 pm 15 Dec 19

I completely agree.

But let’s also not lose sight of the fact that if it were not for those parcels of forest being set aside for selective logging, they likely would have been clear felled for agriculture. Less than 5% of forestry land is ever logged in any given year, and each logged parcel is allowed to regenerate for at least 30 years between harvests. Endangered flora are never logged and also no clear felling in nsw.

So all in all, without logging there would be no Forest. Forestry land boosts biodiversity across the landscape

Billy Mush Billy Mush 2:42 pm 15 Dec 19

Or theres this?

Craig McLaren Craig McLaren 2:24 pm 15 Dec 19

Mag Our turn off 😥

Jemima Turner Jemima Turner 2:04 pm 15 Dec 19

So many people on here having no idea. Logging leaves heaps of debris ready to burn. So no, “removing trees” this way won’t prevent more fires. 🤦‍♀️

    Jemima Turner Jemima Turner 4:24 pm 15 Dec 19

    Mike when was the last time the Greens were in power? 🤭 I must have missed that one.

    Gavin Mcmullan Gavin Mcmullan 5:24 pm 15 Dec 19

    Mike Clayton The greens have never been in power 🤦🏻

    Mick Olsen Mick Olsen 5:37 pm 15 Dec 19

    Jemima Turner they don’t need to be in power when we’ve had minority governments trying to “lead”.

    Jemima Turner Jemima Turner 6:58 pm 15 Dec 19

    Gavin Mcmullan how about the defunding of the firies by those actually in power?...

    Gavin Mcmullan Gavin Mcmullan 8:10 pm 15 Dec 19

    Jemima Turner who are not the greens 😂

    But I agree. Not good

Janae Britton Janae Britton 1:38 pm 15 Dec 19

I take it they want more fires?

    Ross McConchie Ross McConchie 1:43 pm 15 Dec 19

    Janae Britton no, they want everyone to stop and re-assess what we've been doing, not just carry on like before.

    Jemima Turner Jemima Turner 2:02 pm 15 Dec 19

    Janae Britton 🤦‍♀️

    Imogen Ebsworth Imogen Ebsworth 10:26 am 16 Dec 19

    Apparently you haven't seen the destruction left by logging Janae, including a huge amount of highly flammable ex-forest.

    Cary Elliot Johnson Cary Elliot Johnson 8:02 am 17 Dec 19

    You do realise that trees are the number one carbon soak after the oceans dont you. Take away trees, you will drown in a sea of toxic air. Pretty simple really.

    Janae Britton Janae Britton 8:14 am 17 Dec 19

    Cary Elliot Johnson i do realise that. However lives are just as important. Allow fire breaks and back burning.

    Thats what the firies are trying to do to get the upper hand.

    Janae Britton Janae Britton 11:03 pm 18 Dec 19

    Darren Bryant Im of the generation (back in primary school) where it was encouraged to plant 2 trees when 1 is removed. (Also grew up with parents owning a plant nursery).

    So i am all for nature, trees etc however i believe fire breaks and back burning creating safe zones to properties should be conducted.

Hannah Zurcher Hannah Zurcher 1:07 pm 15 Dec 19

Where do all the conspiracy nutters in the comments sections of these pieces spring from? Why so many, so early, so often?

    Ross McConchie Ross McConchie 1:28 pm 15 Dec 19

    Hannah Zurcher because they're worried that "average" people will look at current events and say "hmm, maybe this is a bigger problem than we thought"

    Jesh Brand Jesh Brand 1:31 pm 15 Dec 19

    Hannah Zurcher look, everyone needs a hobby.

    Katherine Thomas Katherine Thomas 5:26 pm 15 Dec 19

    MUsT ShAre oPiniONs!!!

Brett Griffiths Brett Griffiths 1:02 pm 15 Dec 19

Ohhhh the irony! Perhaps if the the forests had been managed properly, instead of lock it up and leave it full of weeds, invasive pests and the massive build of understory rubbish, the forests wouldn’t be in distress and certainly wouldn’t have burnt so much or destructively

    Sarah Hearn Sarah Hearn 1:15 pm 15 Dec 19

    Brett Griffiths perhaps if the fire danger levels weren't so high for so long due to climate change there would be the opportunity to actually do some mitigation measures

    Mark McEwen Mark McEwen 1:25 pm 15 Dec 19

    Saz, correct !! This is documented in the dept of Environments website under changes to rural firefighting based on our existing 1.2% global warming. Land clearing and co2 emissions are the main cause of extreme fires we are now experiencing.. as temperatures increase, so will the ferocity of these fires.

    Ross McConchie Ross McConchie 1:33 pm 15 Dec 19

    Brett Griffiths perhaps if you actually investigated the policies of the Greens, and listened to the scientific community, you'd realize that the "tree-hugging, run naked through the forest, technology is evil, hippie" only exists in the minds and media of right-wing conspiracies.

    Brett Griffiths Brett Griffiths 1:47 pm 15 Dec 19

    Ross McConchie hmmm I never mentioned the Greens, however since you brought it up.....the Greens changed their policy, to finally include cool burns and hazard reduction burns, at 2.30am, the night after 4 innocent people burnt to death! Strange how their policy changed after deaths had occurred! Strange....😳😬😡

    Mark McEwen Mark McEwen 2:06 pm 15 Dec 19

    Brett, the greens can’t implement policy because they’re not in power.. so in any case mute point 🤷‍♂️

    Annie Mills Annie Mills 2:10 pm 15 Dec 19

    Brett Griffiths you do realise that ‘updating’ could just as easily be fixing a spelling error? Besides which, all policies require approval of the party before being publicly announced.

    Here is a 2018 statement

    Annie Mills Annie Mills 2:11 pm 15 Dec 19

    Brett Griffiths how do you know that is what was included in their policy?

    Mark McEwen Mark McEwen 2:12 pm 15 Dec 19

    Brett, important you show links not images.. because the link I have below says the greens has not supported a ban on back burning.

    Brett Griffiths Brett Griffiths 2:18 pm 15 Dec 19

    Annie Mills nothing in it about a minimum of 5% cool burns/hazard reduction burns per annum requirement, as stated by the Victorian Coroner after 173 Victorians burnt to death! Only mention of oversite (control) by greens prior to any burns!

    Annie Mills Annie Mills 2:29 pm 15 Dec 19

    Brett Griffiths and what do the policies of other parties say? Interesting that you condemn the Greens for revising their policy to be in line with recommendations from a coronial inquiry when the NSW government has steadily reduced numbers of rangers and fire services personnel.

    John Brinsmead John Brinsmead 4:11 pm 15 Dec 19

    Brett Griffiths or maybe the unprecedented drought and nlps recent funding cuts to bush fire management could have something to do with it.

    John Brinsmead John Brinsmead 4:13 pm 15 Dec 19

    Brett Griffiths here's a link to the wayback machine that covers previous versions of the Greens bush fire mitigation policy*/

    this should help you demonstrate what's changed on their page (and the link for the page)

    your welcome.

    Natalie Porter Natalie Porter 6:49 am 16 Dec 19

    We had multiple back burns happen in our area. They did have more planned but they didn't get as many safe burn days as they had hoped. Over 400 houses and 3 lives were lost in our area. Unless the greens can magically make the wind stop and while keeping the temperature low then it really has nothing to do with them.

rationalobserver rationalobserver 11:42 am 15 Dec 19

These guys just never give up do they? Surely these fires prove the folly of declaring large areas of forest as “no go” zones which make them unmanageable, and fires unstoppable. The whole premise of conservation is redundant and futile when the current approach repeatedly leads to large areas of scorched earth with zero remaining conservation value.
Now is the time for a conversation about downsizing our national park estate, reducing the NPWS budget and diverting those funds into fire management.

    triangularsquare triangularsquare 2:21 pm 15 Dec 19

    Guys like you never give up either it seems. How about we tackle the real problems? There has been a balance for 10’s of thousands of years in this part of the world and it has worked pretty well. What is changing now? The climate. Extra CO2 in the atmosphere feeding the fuel load at an increasing rate. Hotter days leading to better conditions for ignition. More violent and unpredictable storms lighting fires. Then we have less days for back burning and less opportunity to share firefighting equipment with the Northern Hemisphere. But sure…log the national parks…cannot have fire in a desert.

    rationalobserver rationalobserver 5:59 pm 15 Dec 19

    Settle. No one is talking about deserts, nor was I advocating logging national parks for that matter. National parks were first established for recreation (read the act proclaiming the royal national park in NSW) but have since been hijacked by the environmental movement and repurposed for “conservation”. Any construct or regime which results in hot fires and the total destruction of all living organisms caught in their path is totally useless for conservation. Our inability to contain these fires inside the national parks also place surrounding areas at risk. National Parks are simply not fit for purpose. If climate change is exacerbating that situation as you claim, then logic suggests that is even more reason to abandon our current approach to national parks. Make them smaller and more focussed on areas of high conservation value, then fund them adequately so as to manage the fire risk they represent, for all concerned.

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