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Forestry Watch Survey Report

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Tags: Forests, Swift Parrot, Masked Owl

Forestry Watch Survey Report: Cassy O'Connor MP, 3 March, 2020


Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, I am glad we have an adjournment debate today because I wanted to share with the House the results of the Forestry Watch survey report, which was issued on 20 January this year. This is the work of scientists and citizen scientists who are going out, in this instance, particularly to forests in the Huon and Styx valleys to find evidence of our swift parrot habitat as well as the masked owl habitat.

It is clear that the reason that Sustainable Timber Tasmania has twice now been rejected for forest stewardship certification is that on the evidence, evidence that was accepted by the FSC auditors, 'sus timber' is logging high quality habitat for the critically endangered swift parrot as well as pushing the masked owl closer to the brink.

One of the scientists working through Forestry Watch is Dr Jen Sanger, who has been undertaking work at the University of Tasmania into the increased risk of bushfire that is associated with native forest logging.

The Forestry Watch coordinated a group of scientists and citizen scientists who went into three coups in the Huon and Styx valleys which were earmarked for logging, SX038E, RU030E, EP048C and EP021C. The primary findings were as follows: areas of coups had no sign of anthropogenic disturbance, indicating old growth forests; high quality swift parrot habitat and masked owl habitat; proximity to swift parrot foraging habitat; and high density of fallen trees providing habitat and stored carbon. For members who are uncomfortable with the term 'old growth', it is defined by the Forest Stewardship Council as 'ecologically mature forest where the effects of disturbances are now negligible'. Each of the three coups that Forestry Watch scientists went into conformed with the FSC definition of old growth.

In Tasmania's case, old growth is often eucalyptus regnans forest, the tallest flowering plant in the world. It has the highest known carbon density of forests worldwide and continues to accumulate carbon indefinitely. Logging of old growth followed by intensive harvesting cycles causes the release of carbon stored in forest soils in a process that continues centuries after initial logging.

Only last week, I was in the north-west of the state and visited the beautiful 45 hectare forest at Lapoinya, which is earmarked by 'sus timber' for clear-felling, burning and replanting. In this lovely forest, which has not been logged for at least a century, I saw rainforest trees, myrtle and sassafras, and streamside burrows of the giant fresh water crayfish, Astacopsis gouldi - there are multiple streams on this property. It is a beautiful little intact forest which 'sus timber' wants to smash into the ground and then burn and plant a plantation.

I have sent a series of questions to the GBE about the proposed logging of an old forest at Lapoinya and am still waiting for answers. One of the questions that this GBE, as well as the Government, must answer, must wrap its head around, is the science that is telling us that when you log native forests you increase the risk of more intense and severe bushfires. When you log an old forest, you take the moisture out of the soils. There is a whole lot of undergrowth and kindling that is left on the ground, and then you get regeneration of trees that are highly combustible. Regrowth, according to the scientists, goes up like a powder keg when you have high fire danger conditions.

So-called Sustainable Timbers Tasmania and the new Minister for Climate Change should be making themselves aware of the fire risk associated with logging. We just heard the Premier talking about the importance of keeping the community safe from bushfires. This is part of that equation. We need to end native forest logging for its own sake and for the intrinsic values of those forests. We need to protect the carbon in those forests. Our forests sequester up to 4 million tonnes of carbon every year until 2050 and critically, we need to change forestry practices in Tasmania so we are not exposing communities, individuals and wilderness to further risk of more extreme and intense fires.

If the new Minister for Climate Change wants to be taken seriously on this issue, he must move away from the politics of division over forests. He needs to ask for a meeting with Dr Jen Sanger from UTAS, or Professor David Lindenmayer from the Australian National University, who says that forests that have been logged and regenerated are significantly more likely to burn at higher severity. This is the science.

We are a parliament that is bound to do right by the people of Tasmania and on behalf of the Greens and every Tasmanian who recognises we are in a climate emergency and this requires a change of thinking, the humility to say you were wrong, and to set a different course, I call on the new Minister for Climate Change to put in place the steps necessary to end native forest logging in Tasmania, to protect our threatened and endangered species and to protect our communities from more intense and severe bushfires which, as we know, are coming down the line at us now every couple of years or so.

If Mr Gutwein wants to be taken seriously as the Minister for Climate Change, he needs to wrap his head around the fact that business as usual in our forests is not only no longer an option, it is recklessly irresponsible to continue down that path.