Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Native forest policy, WA style: Jack Bradshaw

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Jack Bradshaw

Having killed off the native forest timber industry by edict, the WA government is now taking the next step to cement its hypocrisy in legislation. Reece Whitby, the Minister for the Environment has recently introduced an amendment to the Conservation and Land Management Act 1984 (WA) to “lock in this Labor government’s historic decision to stop the unsustainable practice of commercial native logging”.

Specifically the Bill will:

1. repeal the provision in section 55(1a) that allows timber production on a sustained yield basis to be a purpose for which indigenous state forest and timber reserves may be reserved.

2. limit the regulation-making power in section 55(1a) so that timber production cannot be prescribed in the CALM regulations.

3. amend section 55 to clarify that timber production does not include the removal of salvaged forest products arising from, or in anticipation of, prescribed activities or purposes.”

So in order to “stop the unsustainable practice of commercial native logging” the government proposes to ban sustainable timber production from State Forest as a whole in favour of unsustainable timber production from State forest when it is being used for mining.

Bizarre.

This comes just 8 months after the WA Minister for Forests, along with other State and Commonwealth ministers signed up to “continued sustainable management of forests”.

But timber production from salvaged forest products from mine sites is not quite what it seems. The government also has another State Agreement obliging it to supply logs to produce charcoal for silicon production. In the absence of firewood logs from the broader state forest, this means that regardless of quality, most of the salvaged timber from mine sites will be sold as firewood for domestic or industrial use.

Bauxite operations in this State has so far removed the forest and most of the soil from 30,000 ha and fragmented 90,000 ha or 17 per cent of the north-west jarrah forest ecosystem (coincidentally the same proportion as the Amazon rainforest clearing). Despite being in operation for nearly sixty years, the operation has yet to be fully assessed by the EPA. The wanton destruction of this unique forest, with only rudimentary environment oversight and totally inadequate reservation of even the remnants is unfathomable, and in the light of the recent proposals, the height of hypocrisy.

Jack Bradshaw is a former manager of the Forest Management Branch of the Dept of Conservation and Land Management.

Related story: What’s happening to the jarrah forest?

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