Forest management – inconsistent with ESFM and community interests

This week the National Parks Association has been undertaking its ‘Koala Count-2015‘, an app based survey where citizen scientists can ‘play a vital role in helping to pinpoint where efforts should be focused’.

In that regard, the ABC reported on calls from east Gippsland environmentalist Jill Redwood, for an investigation into why areas logged 11 years ago have not regenerated. Jill is concerned that trees are not growing back in clearfelled areas around Bendoc and these are part of an estimated 10,000 hectares of native forest in Victoria, that has not regenerated after clearfelling.  Jill is also concerned about  taxpayers having to foot the multi-million dollar bill, required to fund attempts aimed at regenerating these former forests.

Responding to the call – ” . . .  VicForests’ general manager Nathan Trushell said his organisation rehabilitated 95 per cent of logged land successfully. However, he said some areas, including at Bendoc, were not regenerated by the State Government before VicForests was created. “VicForests started operation in 2004 and there was a backlog of areas that weren’t successfully regenerated prior to us starting operations and from time to time the Victorian Government contracts us when there’s funds to do that work,” he said. He said alpine regions could be harder to regrow plants in. “The risks are greater generally speaking as you increase elevation,” he said. “That’s not to say it can’t be done successfully. What it means is we need to take additional measures, certainly we increase our seed application rate and we get our site preparation right.”

While on the one hand Mr Trushell seems to acknowledge post logging tree seed germination is poor, at elevations 850 meters above sea level or greater. An investigation would seem to be required into why this is the case. The question regarding the funding of regeneration attempts is a separate but associated issue. Given the knowledge about poor regeneration appears not to have translated into management action.

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There are similar issues in forests at similar elevations to the north, Glenbog SF for example. In this case where eucalyptus regeneration is poor, the gaps between retained trees are filled with weeds and shrubs. Forestry Corporation’s response has been to increase the size of the gaps between retained trees, thereby reducing the number of trees with seed (!?).

As indicated in the chart above, from the first RGBSAT koala survey data, these issues are also evident in coastal forests. The data represents those species, where 100 individuals were recorded, of trees (n=3557) less than 200 mm diameter at breast height . While some interpretation is required, Black forest oak, identified as ‘Alit’ (Allocasuarina littoralis) is clearly the most abundant tree species in this size class. From this data it would be difficult to argue that these trees aren’t growing in locations that have previously sustained eucalyptus trees.

The data is a little biased though, as it includes many close coastal plots with Spotted gum (Corymbia maculata), where Black forest oak is less common. Removing these plots reduces the number of trees (n=2747), but increases the proportion of oaks from 37.6% to 42.5%.

Also this week, on the NSW north coast, the EPA fined Forestry Corporation $15,000 for polluting a creek, after clearfelling in Tuckers Nob State Forest. According to North Coast Environment Council spokesperson Susie Russell, the fine was a slap on the wrist and EPA would not have known about the pollution had local residents not reported it. Susie also suggested the EPA and Forestry are negotiating to enable an increase of clearfelling across the Mid North Coast, meaning pollution events will increase.

Coupled with the uncertainty about what if anything grows back, evidence that Forestry is operating within its legislated objectives, particularly with regard to the interests of the community, is difficult to find. Makes me wonder if the EPA gets anything out of it, apart from FCNSW’s eternal friendship.

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