Conservationists have hit back at the Forest Products Commission’s (FPC) claims that for plantation estates to offset native forest logging would take 30 years of investment.
An FPC spokeswoman said that conservationists were wrong in arguing that plantation timber needed to grow three-fold for native forest logging to stop if the current demand on timber by the FPC was to continue.
“This would require substantial investment over a 30-year period to build up a viable plantation area. The total investment would exceed billions of dollars,” said the spokeswoman.
“The FPC would like to see an increase in the plantations estate, however it could never replace the native forest industry.”
“There is a strong demand for Western Australia’s distinct native timber and substitution is not always feasible.”
Environmentalist and academic Dr Beth Schulz said the FPC’s argument was misleading. “WA would have a much bigger private sawlog plantation estate if the Government had not always sold native forest sawlogs for a fraction of their true value,” she said.
“Given the relatively long time it takes for hardwoods to reach a harvestable age for sawlogs, the private sector cannot compete when sawlogs from public forests are sold for a pittance,” said Dr Shulz.
The FPC said that after harvesting the carbon continues to be stored for the life of the timber product. Dr Shulz said this is factually incorrect.
The FPC spokeswoman said that after harvesting “replanted forests provide the opportunity for more carbon storage. The growing, harvesting and regeneration cycle continues and therefore carries on removing carbon emissions from the atmosphere.”
“For every tonne of timber produced, 1.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide is taken from the atmosphere.”
But Dr Schuzl said very little of WA’s native forest timber “goes into long-lived products like furniture.” In fact 15 per cent of the total log volume sold becomes sawn timber.
“Most is used for short-lived products like woodchips, charcoal and firewood.” With woodchips and paper the CO2 is released within two years. With charcoal and firewood the CO2 is released immediately.
“So what the FPC claims is wrong,” said Dr Schulz.
“The FPC claim takes no account of the massive amounts of CO2 released in the routine intense regeneration burns plus other frequent extensive prescribed burns conducted to protect the timber resource.”
Dr Schulz argued that the FPC’s claim that almost two-thirds of WA’s native forests are protected because they are in national parks is incorrect.
The FPC said that their two-thirds claim “is three times the national conservation standards for jarrah and two times the national conservation standard for karri.”
Dr Schulz said that instead “about half would be nearer the mark and remember that two-thirds of that have been logged.”
“Many of the big trees are gone.”
According to the draft Forest Management Plan (FMP) 2014-2023, there are 2,277,880 ha of forest left within the plan area – with 1,892,310 ha vested in the Conservation Commission. There are 1,045,940 ha in various conservation areas, including areas only temporarily unavailable for logging.
“The area unavailable for logging amounts to 47% of total remaining and 55% of forest vested in the Conservation Commission – a far cry from the FPC’s claim of ‘almost two-thirds,” said Dr Schulz.
If you exclude FHZs, it comes back to 45% of total remaining and 53% of forest vested in the Commission.
The FPC also had said, “The positive thing about timber compared to all other building materials is that it is renewable.”
Dr Schulz said that most of WA’s mature trees have been logged and “will not come back for centuries, if ever.”
“No sawmill wants regrowth logs anyway so this too is wrong. Across most of our forests, we have replaced big centuries-old trees that have top quality wood with small young trees whose wood is greatly inferior.”
“Some 60,000 ha of karri – about a third of all the karri forest in the world – is very immature even-aged post-clear-felling regrowth that is less than 50 years old.”
“Under current proposals, clear-felling again at 80-100 years of age, it won’t even reach maturity. Logging of native forests in WA has never been, is not and at the levels the FPC demands, never can be sustainable,” said Dr Schulz.
The FPC spokeswoman said that when the whole carbon cycle is examined that forests “used for timber production are a better carbon sink than forests which are set aside and reserved and this is relevant to both plantations and native forests.”
But Western Australian Forest Alliance coordinator Jess Beckerling disagreed. “Every year about 100 square kilometres of native forest are destroyed by logging the south west.”
Ms Beckerling said that the logging was negatively impacting the biodiversity of the south west. She said that during the past decade 18 forest dependent species had now become threatened with extinction.
Outgoing Greens WA leader, Giz Watson in her remaining months in parliament would campaign for better protections for the south west’s biodiversity and for an end to native forest logging.
“We are calling for a rapid transition from native forestry to sourcing our timber from plantation and farm forestry. That is because economic research from the Australian National University shows that, in Australia, we can meet our timber needs through plantation-sourced timber,” said Ms Watson.
“We no longer need to log them, so we should not.”
“The FPC wants us to believe that most native timber is used for specialised purposes like furniture and flooring. This is simply not true.”
“The FPC wants us to believe that forests used for timber production are a better carbon sink than forests which are set aside and reserved. Recent scientific research shows that Australia’s native forests sequester more carbon than other forests, making them the best type of carbon sink, precisely because of their age and their biodiverse composition.”
“The FPC’s assertions just do not tally with the science,” said Ms Watson.