“IF a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day , he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer . But if he spends his days a speculator , shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen” HENRY DAVID THOREAU.
A fulltime firewood merchant in Mount Rae forest is supported by forestry networks who intend to use Private Native Forestry (PNF) legislation to “open up” over a million ha. in the Southern Tablelands for firewood or biomass clearing. This incredible public statement by the Southern Tablelands Farm Forestry Network (STFFN) could conceivably happen under PNF once any suitable economic driver is found.
The declining forests and woodlands of the Southern Tablelands , which have been saved for the very reason that they exist as remnants in highly modified agricultural landscapes, not containing millable timbers or many quality saw logs, are now at risk of being cleared anew for firewood or biomass .
The STFFN claims that firewood is the best value product for timber and that f irewood is greenhouse positive! They claim that State approvals under PNF r recognise this clearing as a tool for “improvement ” for our native forests. They do not like the terms clearing or logging and prefer ‘ecological thinning ‘. The firewood flogger in Mount Rae Forest claims he is only conducting firewood clearing to “fund the necessary silvicultural operations needed to enhance biodiversity” in this forest. The very biodiversity they claim does not exist.
THE REAL FACTS SURROUNDING MOUNT RAE FOREST LEAVE THIS NON-RESIDENT FIREWOOD MERCHANT AND THOSE WHO SUPPORT HIM DISCREDITED.
Despite all of this a firewood merchant (and two other non-resident landowners in this forest) , supported by the Southern Tablelands Farm Forestry Network (STFFN) , were granted approvals for clearing under the Private Native Forestry (PNF) Code of Practice. This interim legislation (July 2007) provided the loopholes to get around all previous objections to this operation.
WITH THE VAST MAJORITY IN THE AREA PLANTING TREES FOR ENVIRONMENTAL REASONS, WHAT DOES THE SOUTHERN TABLELANDS FARM FORESTRY NETWORK (STFFN) DO?
Try to convince the “uneducated” public through forestry rhetoric and pseudo science that clearing trees for firewood is good for the environment. In fact it will improve Mount Rae forest ! and other native vegetation remnants on millions of hectares in NSW.
Mount Rae Forest became their test case for firewood logging as a supposedly legitimate agricultural practice, enhancing the biodiversity of the regions native forests and woodlands.
Despite repeated challenges , not one piece of scientific documentation to support the opinion that such logging in Mount Rae Forest can “improve’ it has been produced . Improve it? Clearing trees with a bulldozer (used in the past) or a heavy metal tracked skid steer machine ( foresters call it an “ecological harvesting machine”) cannot improve documented threatend species habitat for rare orchids, large forest owls and squirrel gliders. All scientific evidence is to the contrary.This operation was opposed by the State Government’s own scientists, but approved by bureacrats and politicians . This forestry network spreads misinformation concerning this forest , its threatened species and rare vegetation communities. The Chairman of STFFN publicly stated (in print) these species were “non-existent” and “imaginery”! That this forest is of no conservation value! A STFFN spokesperson stated that there is currently no understorey in this forest –apart from a “leaf litter layer “- that the canopy is too close together and “sunlight cannot penetrate to the forest floor” and that this forest is “moribund” and “dead and dying“. It is easy to make such outlandish statements when no environmental studies are required by Private Native Forestry legislation. Years of findings by independent ecologists, government experts and professionals clearly demonstrate the opposite.
If a non resident firewood flogger can get away with State approvals in the high conservation value vegetation communities of Mount Rae forest, proven home to 11 threatened species and focus of over $360 ,000 in tree plantings and community efforts, is any remnant in the Southern Tablelands safe?
At a meeting with the previous Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Verity Firth (7th july 2008) and her key adviser , almost every part of this legislation was shown as flawed, when applied to Mount Rae forest. No accountability, no impartial consultants or fauna protection, no genuine environmental monitoring.
The impression that input into this legislation and identification of existing loopholes is encouraged by the Minister for consideration , was negated by the response from her adviser that the end product of logging-firewood-is a social issue ,not DECCs. This has been followed by a complete lack of follow up by the department , and a response in local media justifying the logging of this forest and denying the presence of any loopholes . Another example of political cowardice?
This legislation appears to be completely dominated by forestry and developer interests. Private Native Forestry is deemed to meet the requirements of the NV and TS acts , but the Mount Rae Forest case clearly demonstrates it cannot.
I have publicly challenged those involved to provide scientific documentation on how logging in this forest by a firewood merchant will ‘improve’ habitat (as the developer and forestrynetworks have stated ) for the Federally listed Diuris aequalis orchid. I offered $1,000 to be given to charity if they, or the then environment minister could answer this. The lack of any response said it all.
The large forest owls and arboreal marsupials of Mount Rae forest are likewise unimpressed as to how ministerial biodiversity certification will help them . The answer is-it cannot. A series of environment ministers know this but refuse to act.
The argument that this act sees clearing on private land , completely regulated for the first time is a fallacy, exemplified by Mount Rae forest, which was protected by DECC before the advent of the PNF act and is now surrendered to the chainsaw, the bulldozer and the chimney under it.
The Department of Environment and Conservation (now Office of Environment and Heritage) wrote to Upper Lachlan Shire Council in April 2007:
“DEC advises that it objects to the matter on 4 major grounds.
1. Impact upon threatened species…2. Impact upon significant vegetation. Mount Rae is a locally and regionally significant area of native vegetation in a landscape that has been largely cleared. 3. Inadequate consideration of Aboriginal cultural heritage 4. poor supporting documentation and consideration of ecological sustainability of operation”
In summary the vegetation proposed for clearing is known to be of very high conservation value…”
In June 2007 I received a reply from the Director South, Climate Change and Environment Protection to a letter from me expressing my concerns. The response: “DECC acknowledges the high conservation values of the forests under consideration…DECC ecologists are of the opinion that the proposed operation will have a negative impact upon the forests and threatened species of the Mount Rae area”
A few weeks later the PNF interim COP was introduced and without consulting any of the above, the PNF unit of the now DECCW approved the same operation . The North Coast Environment Council wrote of PNF , “DECC has made getting a logging approval a tick the box exercise”
The following are a few public quotes by those concerned about the logging of Mount Rae Forest under PNF legislation.
MALCOLM FISHER-community campaign officer for The Wilderness Society (Sydney): “At Mount Rae Forest we have a precious remnant of intact landscape where an incredible diversity of rare animals and plants have miraculously survived”
RODNEY FALCONER-author “Down by the Riverside; a field management guide to native plants “- ” It would appear that government disinterest and ineptly written legislation have given carte blanche to unscrupulous speculators to destroy our last tall forests. ”
IAN COHEN – Former NSW Upper House Greens MP : ” The new Private Native Forestry code was meant to require that harvesting operations were carried out in a way that ensured environmnental outcomes are improved or maintained. It’s hard to see how you can maintain or improve the environment by cutting high conservation value forest down for firewood. ”
ALAN W. STEPHENSON-National Conservation Officer , Australasian Native Orchid Society– “Some of the flora is unique…we should not allow the desire for a quick dollar to destroy this area. Have we not learned from past mistakes across Australia?”
BILL MARTIN – Former Upper Lachlan Shire Councillor: “Speaking personally, we live in a big land and if we cannot preserve a little chunk of healthy native forest then things are tough”
CATE FAEHRMANN- former Nature Conservation Council of NSW CEO and current GREENS Member of NSW Parliament after visiting this forest: “The Mount Rae Forest is a priceless remnant of a once majestic and beautiful forest and should be protected for future generations.”
ERIC HURN, Roslyn Landcare Project Co-ordinator and Deputy Chair (past Upper Lachlan Shire Councillor) : “Mount Rae is a lifeline to landcare groups in the Roslyn, Taralga and other places. It is important for the whole catchment.”
Cr. Bill Martin was one of those councillors who unanimously voted against this operation in 2008 . Their decision was based on professional consultancies , and previous advice from NSW Government scientists, submissions from locals and as one councillor stated -their own common sense. The STFFN responded with uninformed comments that Councillors had relied on evidence from local “amateur ” bird watchers and a Roslyn landcare spokesperson. They claimed their “science” (opinion and rhetoric ) had been ignored and called for the councillors to be sacked !
Cr. Martin understood the threat of State Government PNF approvals. He stated that he feared that ” we have only saved it for a little while”. This has unfortunately come to pass and the need for council consent has finally been removed in the last few areas of the State where it (and common sense ) were required.
The Nature Conservation Council of NSW wrote in Nature News -March 2008- an article –SAVE MOUNT RAE FOREST FROM BEING TURNED INTO KINDLING:
“In April 2007 , the NSW DECCW first rejected the development application to log Mount Rae due to the high conservation value of the land. Reasons for this included that logging would have a negative impact on threatened species and a significant impact on local vegetation, that there was inadequate consideration of Aboriginal cultural heritage, and that insufficient proof existed that the logging would be sustainable. However the same application was recently approved in November 2007. What has changed? The impact of logging will still have long term consequences for the land and for neighbouring areas of land… Logging will cause irreparable damage to this unique and rapidly disappearing type of forest. Is logging truly sustainable ? Are the benefits worth the risk? The answer , according to both the DECC last April , residents of the Mount Rae region , and the Nature Conservation Council , is a resounding no .”
A bauxite mining company -ABx- is now conducting exploratory drilling on some lands in Mount Rae forest. In February 2012 they announced that the third richest bauxite find in the world is in ‘Mt.Rae”. I will assume that yet another hypocritical State law may ultimatley be used to oversee the further destruction of plants, animals and habitat in this forest.
“Hell is the truth seen too late” John Locke
THIS WEBSITE HAS PROVEN NECESSARY TO DEMONSTRATE TO ALL THE GENUINE SCIENCE SURROUNDING MOUNT RAE FOREST AND EVIDENCE OF IT BEING OF HIGH CONSERVATION VALUE.
Links to lists of all species identified in this forest are contained on these pages as well as quotes from ecologists and government scientists. All photos are from Mount Rae Forest unless otherwise stated . Slideshows and video are to be added so people can see and judge for themselves this forests (non firewood ) values…