The $1.5 million grant to trail logging as a means of bushfire mitigation by the Abbott Government is a suspicious attempt to dress up fire control as another logging industry subsidy, says a regional conservation group.
Environment East Gippsland says that the Australian Forests Products Association has been lobbying for this for a long time.
“AFPA has claimed in its past submissions to government that national parks should also be logged, under the cynical banner of fuel reduction”, said Jill Redwood of EEG. “As a logging lobby group, it is not difficult to see quite a bit of self-interest here”.
“According to both Tasmanian and Victorian forestry research, thinning of forests in fact creates a more flammable and dry forest. Forestry Tasmania’s published silvicultural data[i] says that thinned forests are so dangerously flammable that no burns should be lit within 2 km of them.”
The logging debris from the dead understorey shrubs and tree heads create perfect bonfire fuel while the opening up of the canopy allows more wind and sun to dry a normally damp and fire retardant ground layer. Higher temperatures and lower humidity result, which also encourages vigorous growth of flammable bracken and grasses.
“What is more incredulous is that the three year logging trials are to be overseen by the logging lobby group AFPA in conjunction with VicForests” said Jill Redwood. “This is as crude and seemingly corrupt as putting the tobacco industry in charge of lung cancer research or supermarkets in charge of milk pricing”.
“We would expect the Victorian Government to consider this plan with the interests of the community as a priority, not the logging industry’s agenda of greater access to public forests and the profits it would deliver to them”.
[i] Forestry Tasmania - Technical bulletin #13, p 25.