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The Forum > Article Comments > Crime, fiction and political intrigue > Comments

Crime, fiction and political intrigue : Comments

By Chris James, published 3/10/2008

A story that could be a TV drama - with the arrival of the A-Team a more insidious side of the timber industry began to emerge.

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Article's about forestry issues written from the 'green' perspective (as this one has been) are typified by a lack of understanding of what occurs in forests (ie. who plans and controls timber production) and a total lack of proportion (ie. how much forest is actually being used for this purpose against the total area of forest).

These things don't matter to the writer because to be so aggrieved as to spend the considerable time required to produce such an article betrays an unbridled passion for 'saving' forests that has no time for reason or perspective.

However, most reasonable, open-minded people should be interested in knowing that academically-trained foresters (not the timber industry) plan and control where and how much timber production occurs. These days just 9% of Victoria's forests are available for timber production, and it is permitted within just a 12% portion of the forests in Melbourne's 160,000 ha water catchment area. The proportion of these available areas that are harvested each year is tiny, and they are immediately regenerated and to grow as new forests.

Logging is not done for amusement. It is done to produce materials that are much in demand by society.

These above points form the context against which this article needs to be assessed.

The author refers to the 'devastation' of logging and 'the new generation of activists' fighting against it. However, is it really devastation to sustainably use a minor portion of a renewable natural resource for human need? I don't think so.

True devastation would be if forests were being logged without limits or controls and permanently cleared (not regenerated). While this is not the case in Australian forests, it is the wrong impression that the environmental movement has deliberately created to engender a muddle-headed conventional wisdom about this issue, particularly in far away cities where their views are rarely scrutinised. Under these circumstances, who can blame the timber industry for mobilising itself in defence of its integrity and livelihood.
Posted by MWPOYNTER, Friday, 3 October 2008 4:09:16 PM
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As a member of Timber Communities Australia, like the Forest Protection Society, I can tell you it is a grass roots network of communities throughout Australia that is prepared to articulate the hopes and aspirations of their people, their workplace and their community. They seek to support sustainable development of natural resources particularly their forests that provide multiple benefits of timber, carbon uptake, water, environmental, recreational and tourism values. They are proud of their contribution but do not enjoy being kicked like a football in some political game waged by so called environmentalists.

Such organizations grew in response to the image laden campaigns of the new political party now known as the greens; but initially known as groups such as the Wilderness society, Friends of the Earth and other so called “environmental” groups.

As the author acknowledges, TCA has been very effective in promoting the facts about forest management and the social and economic benefits of multiple use and sustainable development, so much so that former Wilderness Society spin doctor Bob Burton has attacked TCA in his Source Watch entry, that like the current article relies on Bob Brown’s attack on the people of TCA behind parliamentary privilege.

It is amazing that Chris James refer to herself as Dr. This is a Doctorate in Communication, eg a University sanctioned “Spin Doctor”. Perhaps she was the one who thought up the PR stunt to keep road kill in the freezer, so that green groups could have “evidence” of the loggers impact when the TV crews arrived, that was a major feature of the Four Corners report.

Forest workers and their families have a vital interest in ensuring our forests are well managed, if there is no forest there is no forest industry. Timber communities rely on professional foresters and scientists with practical knowledge to ensure that the forest is renewed after harvest rather than spin doctors and false imagery of doom. The TV series should be one of good news and hope for a treasured lifestyle.
Posted by cinders, Friday, 3 October 2008 5:06:39 PM
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Having re-read the article it is important point out the following errors:

'Greens ... brought a new knowledge about conservation and a determination to stop logging in old growth forests and the water catchments'

Most Greens have passion, but this should not be mistaken for knowledge. For example, there is no old growth forest logged in Melbourne's water catchments - only 1939 regrowth from the Black Friday bushfires.

'The memory of the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires that killed 49 people .... was still fresh in the minds of local residents.'

While some areas of the Central Highlands forests were burnt in 1983, all the deaths and most property damage occurred hundreds of kilometres away in western Victoria - Otways and Western District.

'The Greens they claimed would stop the clear-felling and this would be the cause of future fires'

It is a reality that commercial activity in the forest generates funding for protective management activities such as fuel reduction burning, and provides a reason for workforces equipped with appropriate fire-fighting equipment to be in the forest and readily availble if needed. Without as many of them, fire control becomes more problematic as we have discovered in 2003 and 2006/07.

A general comment: This writer confers incredible political powers to the 'logging industry' - yet the area of Victorian public forest available for wood production has declined by 70% since 1986, largely for political purposes to appease misinformed 'city greens' swayed by this type of largely ignorant commentary.
Posted by MWPOYNTER, Friday, 3 October 2008 9:13:01 PM
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It is not just members of greens groups who are opposed to logging the forests, the bulk of which goes to woodchip. 16 Melbourne councils have voiced their objection to logging in the water catchments because it poses a threat to Melbourne's water. This is well over one million people, a potential for boosting greens membership no doubt if the government doesn't act to stop it. The devastation to the biodiversity of the forest cannot be replaced by planting a monoculture.
Posted by Dr Chris James, Saturday, 4 October 2008 11:10:58 AM
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The pro-clear-fell-logging fraternity argue along well worn so called scientific lines. These arguements are so out of touch with recent changes in knowledge that they remind me of Rome's refusal to accept that the earth encircled the sun. Read the Green Carbon Report put out by the ANU recently. The forests of the Upper Yarra Ranges where I live are some of the most carbon rich in the world. The demographic of this area has radically changed over the last 10 to 15 years.
Warburton for instance is no longer a timber town. The majority of the local population do not want clear fell logging to continue here.
The environment movement is marganilised by the pro-clearfell logging lobby as if they are modern day witches. But it is no longer only environmentalists who are campaigning against present logging practices. Ordinary residents representing a broad cross-section of local communities are firmly supportive of the position that the Yarra Valley shire and 14 other shires have taken. The old guard within the timber industry are deeply entrenched in denial. They are caught in old patterns of thinking motivated by short term greed and like the American economic crisis instigators are headed towards their own demise.
Having said that I support efforts to creatively redeploy timber workers. They could be redeployed in so many ways especially in the eco-tourism and eco-management fields. Who is not wanting to change?
Who is making the big finacial gains? Who is in denial of climate change? Who supports an old political and social reasoning that is corrupt and intended to benifit a few at the expense of the many, the environment and our children's future?
The arguements put forward against Dr James article are tired, purile and part of the problem that our civilisation now faces.
The economic and environmental meltdown is no fantasy.
The arguement that human activity has little or no place in the changes taking place is pure denialist bunkum.
We need a grass roots awakening now that links us all in a new caring
and wholistic approach to challenges like deforestation.
Posted by keithcolin, Saturday, 4 October 2008 11:37:44 AM
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Response to Chris James:
Yes, all who know about this issue are aware that Melbourne municipalities have been assailed by presentations from 'green' groups - particularly the Melbourne Catchment Action Network - about the supposed 'devastation' occurring in the catchments and convinced that they should oppose it.

This is hardly surprising given that they were presented with only one side of the arguement as I am not aware that any of them sought any similar presentation from the foresters or industry representatives who know what is actually occurring in these forests.

Again this hardly surprising as many of Melbourne's inner urban municipalities have councils dominated by Green Party members or supporters who would be inclined to this point of view anyway.

Interestingly, when the Municipal Association of Victoria (who represent the various municipalities) tried to pass a similar motion opposing logging in the catchments, it failed when the majority of municipalities outvoted those that have been convinced by the 'greens'.

It is drawing a very long bow to suggest that just because a municipal council takes a particular stance on an issue, they are representing the views of all their constituents.

You again display your ignorance of this issue when you talk about replacing the forest biodiversity with a planted monoculture. No planting occurs, the harvested areas are regenerated with seed and all elements of the understorey recolonise the site naturally as they would after a wildfire.
Posted by MWPOYNTER, Saturday, 4 October 2008 5:09:56 PM
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