Four years after SE Forest Rescue raised concerns about logging of rocky outcrops in Glenbog state forest, the Land and Environment court has found the Forestry Corporation guilty of the charge.
According to the Harvesting Plan, the Supervising Forestry Officer was supposed to be looking for rocky outcrops, but this didn’t occur. Rather, the Forestry Corporation developed and relied on an ” . . . operator select methodology whereby Wiltons Logging was briefed about the difficulty in marking-up the area and was told to use their discretion when harvesting. ” The Harvesting plan alludes to this situation indicating ” . . . # SFO/Contract coordinators will continue to conduct onground mark-up & searches and report back to foresters/ecologists any features requiring further investigation.”
In addition to rocky outcrops and cliffs, contract coordinators were also to be on the look out for rainforest, wetlands, heath and scrub, as well as the endangered ecological community, Montane peatlands and swamps. The Harvesting plan also indicates a koala record in one of the compartments. However, Forestry decided the record was invalid and didn’t implement the required searches.
On sentencing, one of the aggravating factors is ‘whether the offence was committed for commercial gain.’ Strangely, the judge indicated ” . . . I find that, although there may have been an element of ‘cost-saving’ in Forestry Corporation adopting the operator select method, there is no evidence that Forestry Corporation gained a commercial advantage by the commission of the offence.”
The notion that trees are cut down and Forestry gets no monetary reward seems to be logically inconsistent.
The judgement also indicates ” . . . The EPA submits that Forestry Corporation’s failure to search, record and mark-up the areas subject to the licence as required, is contrary to the aims of the licence, and has undermined the protective regulatory scheme contained in the Parks Act and impeded the achievement of ecologically sustainable development . . ”
It would be reassuring to know that native forest logging is consistent with ecologically sustainable development. Unfortunately, there is no evidence the regulatory scheme works and evidence to prove the ecologically sustainable management of any public forest is sorely lacking.
In that regard the judgement states ” . . . In relation to the harm caused, Forestry Corporation submits that while it is accepted that it will take hundreds of years for the area to recover, this is a product of the time it takes for trees to re-grow and ought not be overstated.”
The acknowledgement of ‘hundreds of years to recover’ relates to all forests, including those in National Parks, but proving it requires data on tree growth rates. Perhaps these matters will be the subject of future legal arguments.
Forestry was fined $10,000, with a 20% reduction because it pleaded guilty, ordered to pay the EPA’s costs ($65K) and required to put a notice in the Bega District News.
On a lighter note, the photo shows one out of two of this years local baby possums, they both look a bit like boys, but it’s hard to tell. We can be certain the mothers don’t get on very well.