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Forest protection already in WA

A submission from a group of scientists to the Environmental Protection Authority has placed the spotlight on the management of South West forests. Source: Donnybrook-Bridgetown Mail

However, industry groups say many of their recommendations are already in place.

The scientists who were involved in the paper included associate professor Grant Wardell-Johnson, based in the Department of Environment and Agriculture, School of Science at Curtin University, and professor Pierre Horwitz, an aquatic ecologist based in the School of Natural Sciences at Edith Cowan University.

The `Scientists Statement on the Protection of WA’s South West Forests,’ which was released on World Environment Day, states that securing improved protection and management is essential to the area because of its large numbers of endemic species and the serious threats to its biodiversity.

“Western Australia’s karri, jarrah, marri, tuart and tingle forests grow within this biodiversity hotspot and nowhere else in the world,” the statement said.

“These forests have become important refuges for forest-dependent flora and fauna species.”

The statement goes on to say about half Western Australia’s native forests have been permanently cleared for farms, towns, roads, powerlines and dams and of the remaining half, about 40% continues to be subjected to clearing or logging.

“In combination, climate change, forest diseases, destructive fires, logging and mining are placing enormous stress on the South West forest ecosystems.

“The region is drying more rapidly than other parts of Australia and drought is having significant impacts.

“In this context, continued industrial-scale logging of the remaining forests is undermining their capacity to cope with the pressures they are under.”

The statement suggests a number of measures be included in the new Forest Management Plan (FMP), such as the protection of critical habitat; additional corridors for fauna movement to link refuge areas; the protection of dieback-free forest areas; waterways be protected from the impacts of logging and clearing and the value of Western Australia’s South West forests as a carbon store be recognised, accounted for and prioritised above conflicting uses.

A spokeswoman for the Forest Products Commission (FPC) agreed there were a number of threats to sustaining native forests.

“The proposals put forward by the scientists are largely supported, as in fact they are already in place,” the spokeswoman said.

“The ‘precautionary measures’ are already addressed in the Forest Management Plan (FMP) 2004-2013 which is prepared by the Conservation Commission Western Australia, reviewed by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and regulated by the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC).

“These are being further refined in the proposed FMP 2014-2023 which is currently with the EPA for approval.”

The spokeswoman said the FPC rejected any suggestion timber harvesting was a threat.

“Forest management in Western Australia is sustaining the forest biodiversity,” she said.

“Extensive monitoring by Forestcheck has clearly shown that the forest biodiversity recovers very rapidly following disturbance.

“Rigorous processes for environmental planning and protection are applied prior to, during and after harvest. The FPC works with a number of government agencies to protect sensitive ecological communities. DEC already have protocols in place for managing threatened species.”

The spokeswoman said management plans had been developed from scientific assessment and research over many years.

“The FPC operates and maintains continual improvement management systems for environmental, operational and safety performances, all of which are accredited under the Australian Forest Standard (AFS) and Environmental Management System (EMS) ISO 14001,” she said.