Why Logging Goolengook makes No Sense.

The following is a letter written by one GECO troublemaker to the Victorian Minister for Conservation and Land Managament (sic) (you remember the one that ruined health for Victorians).

MAY 1997

The recent Regional Forest Agreement (RFA), which was installed in East Gippsland this year, has shown the true colours of the Australian Government's lack of commitment to protecting Australian forests. This initiative was supposed to protect both the forests and forest industries from an unsustainable future. However, this so-called scientific and comprehensive study has not only signed the death warrant for jobs in the industry but also signed the death warrant for the largest and last remaining warm temperate/cool temperate rain forests and old growth forests in Victoria.

Under the Regional Forest Agreement, forest industries are descending into an unsustainable future. The lifting of woodchip quotas has opened up the forest for the next twenty years, ensuring that multinationals such as Daishowa can reap unlimited amounts of woodchips from these forests. This unlimited quota will ensure more job loss in the timber industry. Since the 1960s woodchipping has increased 230%, facilitating a 40% decrease in timber industry jobs. It takes 3-4 workers to operate a saw mill facility, whilst it takes one person seven seconds to push a tree down a chipper belt - hardly a job creator. As well as this, regeneration failure is as high as 80% in some areas of East Gippsland, providing little or no resource security. This is a reflection of the inadequate techniques of clearfelling and burning, conducted by the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE).

The Timber Industry is already woodchip driven and under the RFA it is doubly so. The reality for East Gippsland is that 80-90% of the trees taken out of the forest are woodchipped (Dr. R. Bain, Dir, National Association of Forest Industries, "The Australian", 21/9/95). Coupled with the devastating effects of clearfelling these forests will not survive or regenerate into a biodiverse ecosystem, or even a forest. It is also economic madness to suggest that the industry, as it stands and as it is being restructured under the RFA, will provide a sustainable resource, create jobs and provide real income for Australia. The Timber Industry is already woodchip driven and under the RFA it is doubly so. The reality for East Gippsland is that 80-90% of the trees taken out of the forest are woodchipped (Dr. R. Bain, Dir, National Association of Forest Industries, "The Australian", 21/9/95). Coupled with the devastating effects of clearfelling these forests will not survive or regenerate into a biodiverse ecosystem, or even a forest.

Alternative fibres such as hemp grown organically on already cleared land can greatly reduce our reliance on timber for fibre based products. Hemp is a biannual crop producing as much as twice the amount of usable fibre per acre as an Old Growth forest produces. It can be grown in almost all soil types with little reliance on additional fertilisers - hemp is a long rooted crop providing soil stabilisation, thus reducing the risk of erosion. It is a nitrogen fixing plant replenishing the soil and keeping the land sustainable and viable for future crops. Recently an initiative to set up Australiaƕs first hemp paper processing and manufacturing plant was launched in the northern Victorian town of Benalla. With the introduction of new processing technologies secured by the Victorian Minister for Agriculture, Pat MacNimara, it has been predicted that within 18 months Benalla would become the centre of a modern, economically viable hemp industry (The Australian Newspaper, Pg.9, 4/10/1997). Benalla will be able to process 8500 tones of hemp per year, supplying about 5400 tones of pulp per year and undercuts the world market price of $1800 to $3000 per tonne by about half. This fibre can be processed into high quality paper, providing jobs in both manufacturing and farming, with potential returns to farmers competitive with beef and wool (The Australian Newspaper, Pg.9, 4/10/1997).

Timbers from Australian forests are more valuable if used sustainably. With the reintroduction of high value added products, this timber can be harvested from both plantation and from selective logging, providing more jobs, profit and ensuring far less stress on the forest. New technologies such as Radcon Radial Sawing can greatly increased the percentage of timber produced for the furniture and craft industries. Up to 60-80% of each log can be utilised, and coupled with Kiln drying these high value added products will provide more employment and profit for Australia and its local communities. It makes more ecological and economic sense to keep the profits in Australia instead of sending the profits off shore. It will also drastically reduce the reliance of the industry on East Gippsland old growth forests.

These forests are spectacular and far more valuable intact. Eco-tourism is a fast growing industry and can provide long term employment opportunities and profit without destroying the forest. In Gippsland tourism provides $134 million in economic benefit , with 2973 full time jobs. The timber industry employs far less people and provides only $53 million dollars (most of which is generated through tax payers subsidies). This is also less than agriculture which provides $109m and manufacturing which provides $104m per annum (Comprehensive Regional Assessment, "Social Report" for East Gippsland FMA, June 1996). An industry such as Eco-tourism can provide far more benefit to the local community than clearfelling the forest, and in fact the timber industry at the moment is rapidly closing the door on this impressive opportunity. Tourists come to Gippsland to experience the natural beauty of the lakes, beaches and the forest - they won't come to see a clear felled wasteland.

It is clear that forests can be a valuable resource; however they are more important for the intrinsic values they hold. East Gippsland forests are internationally renowned for their importance as one of the last intact cool and warm temperate old growth and rainforest. They are also internationally renowned as being one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. Old growth forests are essential for clean water, biological diversity, habitat for rare and endangered species and are important for counteracting the greenhouse effect. Logging seriously affects water quality, and seriously affects the amount of water produced. Old growth forests produce and purify millions of litres of water per year... the effects of logging on water is a well known fact (RAC Inquiry,Forest and Timber Inquiry, July,1991).

Biological diversity is an essential part of life - our survival is dependent on a biologically diverse planet. Deforestation is a major cause of loss of biomass, and a major cause of extinction for endangered species which rely on old growth and rainforests for their survival. The DNRE states in it's Pulpwood Harvesting report that "Woodchipping will have the most serious impact on species which are dependent on old growth forest, and a gradual decline in abundance of theses will result." It also acknowledges "Possible species elimination from some timber harvesting areas and an increased risk of regional extinction". The abandonment of pre- and post-logging surveys ensures that we will never know what is there or what was lost due to logging. Australia already holds one of the worlds worst rates of extinction. This cannot be allowed to continue.

An area which has been seriously overlooked by the RFA is the forest contained in the Goolengook block, south east of Mount Ellery. This area was deferred under the Victorian DFAs but is now up for logging. Under the RFA only a small amount of the 9,000ha area of the block has been protected (1,222ha in Goolengook has been placed in a Special Protection Zone/ Dedicated Flora and Fauna Reserve). The remaining area, which contains eight logging coupes due to be clear felled this year, is available for logging. This area has been rated a Sight Of Significance (SOS) for it's rainforest and old growth values. It is ridiculous, even criminal, to log this area. Goolengook block which borders the National Park contains many endangered species of Flora and Fauna and is one of the largest intact stands of old growth forest in East Gippsland and Australia.

This area is a prime example of biodiversity, harbouring an impressive amount of Flora and Fauna, many of which are endangered. It is habitat for the Spot-tail Quoll, Yellow Belly Glider, Slender Tree Fern, Skirted Tree Fern, Oval Fork Fern,and Green Bird Orchid. If this area is allowed to be logged, some, if not all of these species will die out. For example, in Victoria there used to exist three types of Quoll. However, due to deforestation, two of this species have become extinct and the remaining Spot-tail Quoll only exists in East Gippsland - but for how much longer? The Slender Tree Fern is an extremely beautiful and rare species of Tree Fern. It has been listed as a very rare and threatened species in the RFA document. It is extremely sensitive to disturbance of habitat and will almost certainly suffer if this area is allowed to be logged. DNRE research shows that only between 2-13% of Tree Ferns regenerate after logging and never regrow on snig tracks or log landings.

In conclusion I urge you to consider the above information and protect the forest contained in Goolengook. Don't let this vital part of Australia's natural heritage fall to the woodchip driven economy of destruction. The arguments I have presented clearly show there are alternatives to clearfelling these forests. I have lived in East Gippsland for four years and have watched thousands of hectares of forest fall and fail to regenerate, totally destroying forever the precious ecosystems, animals, plants and stunning beauty. Don't let Goolengook become another victim of this senseless slaughter - it is far more important to us as a beautiful sentient forest, offering habitat for all creatures and plants therein contained, than it is as a barren waste land.

Yours Sincerely,

William Taylor.

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