We must return federal environmental protections to native forests.
"When an area of our pristine, irreplaceable forest is logged, it is cut down and bulldozed." Fairfax Media via Getty Images
Last Friday was a chance to restore balance to the way our native forests are managed -- a chance that was wasted.
Over the past 20 years, areas designated for logging have been exempted from Australia's national environment laws. Even open cut mines don't get that sort of special treatment. These logging laws, known as 'Regional Forest Agreements', were meant to protect jobs and protect the environment. They have failed on both counts.
Forests are not a Magic Pudding and this fact finally caught up with the government and VicForests in January 2017. Knocking down forests faster than they can regrow has been the management standard for decades by every logging agency and overseen and excused by every government (Liberal and Labor). After such cut-throat management, the industry and workers are now screaming that their throats have been cut because the limit has been reached; forests can no longer provide the sawlogs demanded.
In 2010, economist Judith Ajani wrote about the forest wars that have besieged us over the last 40 years or more, the bad decisions made and what needs to be done. This is still as relevant today – in fact even more so as the industry is set to collapse due to overcutting but with the bosses screaming for more logs. Sadly, much of the remaining forests’ ecological values that were so critical to save then, have been lost – making the urgency now extreme. It’s a war between possums and pulpwood basically, politics and ethics.
Premier Daniel Andrews secretly extended the 20 year RFA logging deal for East Gippsland with no review, assessment or public knowledge, one day before it was due to expire. This is an astoundingly irresponsible move considering that in the week before, VicForests admitted there are not enough forests left to keep the sawlog supply going.
After EEG launched a 10 month Supreme Court battle, the government’s logging agency VicForests, has agreed to await further surveys and put in place protections for wildlife and plants before logging. The court orders made on 23rd December detail VicForests obligations regarding the high value forests.