Productive forests and collaborative stakeholders- essential for koalas

In the latest of the ABC’s ‘Logging in the South East’ series, Bill Brown asks Dr Judith Ajani why we still have native forest logging when there are so many plantations. ‘It’s an issue that should have been solved many years ago.’ according to Dr Ajani but, the problem has always been getting the state agencies to acknowledge the productivity problems in native forests and plantations.

Back in 1994 Forests NSW research found that plant growth in native forests would probably be reduced as a result of soil disturbance and in areas of gross disturbance proposed consideration of ‘ 1) whether they constitute nonproductive infra-structure or productive land base; 2) acceptable levels for these disturbance classes; and 3) appropriate research into strategies for reducing their extent or severity and impacts associated with them.’

In pine plantations they suggested that ” Ultimately there must be a better understanding of soil deformation processes in pine operations leading to a more objective set of management rules than currently exists.”

Far from being solved, research on the issue effectively stopped with the RFA, due to the NSW government’s general non-compliance, the illusion that state prescriptions or the Australian Forestry Standard address the issue and perceptions that ESFM equates to the management of National Parks. Contributing to the problem, as pointed out in the Catchment Action Plan, there is a “ lack of collaboration on knowledge management within the region, across regions and with State government.”

While agreeing with Dr Ajani that native forests should not been seen as a commodity, the same should apply to plantations, when productivity issues are not addressed.

For koalas, the challenge is to identify key stakeholders who support a collaborative approach to restoring forest productivity and yesterday I took my first tentative steps toward this broader issue. Whether or not this works out, I’ll be putting time into finally completing the first community proposed and Federally funded, ‘native forest sub-catchment productivity demonstration site’.

According to FNSW there were about 42,000 ha of pine plantations in the Eden Region in 1999, most on the tablelands but some in coastal catchments like Towamba, blue diagonals with black outline in the graphic below. The area of red horizontal lines is referred to as a ‘high conservation value’ catchment, although the methods employed to determine the HCV status aren’t clear.

The problem with regard to the plantation adjoining the Towamba river, as illustrated in the inset image, is that forest ecosystem mapping, blue hatching, found 40% of this plantation is/was native forest, including areas of an endangered forest ecosystem.

Collaboration on productivity issues cannot occur with stakeholders whose contrary opinions are based on dodgy data that is employed to support unscientific management .

towamba

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