Forestry: Nothing has been learnt

By Dr David Leaman

Reproduced from Tasmanian Times


Someone at the current round table (forest industry peace meeting) formed to “solve” the forest debate is unhappy – otherwise we would not be able to read a leaked draft document. And, rightly so, since it appears that the same old errors are being made by much the same people.

The panelists lack some key players.

This is stupid blunder number 1 for there must be full inclusion of interested and affected parties – including farmers and land owners.

There also seems to have been no consideration of the future and the planning of resources and community needs but then I would not expect this of groups who cannot see beyond trees.

In the third edition of my book, WATER-facts, issues, problems and solutions (2007) I included two essays as appendices THE REAL ISSUE IN TASMANIA’S FORESTS, THE CONSERVATION ERROR IN TASMANIA’S FOREST DEBATE (pages 156, 159). The content remains as valid, if long ignored, as when written several years earlier.  Supporting information and science is in the book plus a 2008 addendum and a reviewed summation listed as (Leaman, D. E., 2008. Comparative Assessment of Catchments in Eastern Tasmania – issues for Management. WATER DOWN UNDER 2008. Proceedings 4th International Conference on Water Resources and Environment Research, Adelaide, April. Pages 542-554. Engineers Australia).

The issues go much wider than narrow definitions of native or old-growth forests. Any trade off involving plantations and pulp mills must include the interests of people affected and the wider environment.

Do we want to dry out Tasmania? And, an all-plantation pulp mill will, unless we rethink the location of present plantings, break many towns and farms due to loss of water.  No one wants to deal with this risk and the required planning that goes with it. I have long argued that we need to plan our forest industry very carefully (for all uses and users) locating all operations to minimise water demands while maximising wood yield. Unless all this is thought out there can be no lasting resolution.

So please. Stop.

Start over. Deal with all related issues, not just trees. Broaden the panel. A good rule is: if water issues are satisfied then the tree-forest idea may well be workable. This does not work in reverse as present proceedings imply.

Peace will not, can not, come without a broader and more complete base. Time for all to read those appendices, or as my children used to tell me when I launched some bright new idea, “get real”.

Other questions include how long should a rotation be? – for milling timber, for example: what about water quality and chemical use? Native forestry does not require forcing. There are many things to sort out, solutions by tree classes (old growth/plantations) are least of them.