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Greens based forestry attacks on faulty scientific paper

Guy Barnett

The Greens should be embarrassed by the retraction of the scientific paper that formed the basis of the party’s political attacks on Tasmania’s forest industry, according to Tasmania’s Resources Minister Guy Barnett. Source: Timberiz

Mr Barnett said that during the greatest health and economic crisis in a generation, the Greens had been caught using false information to try to put thousands of Tasmanians out of work, destroying families and rural communities.

And Mr Barnett has questioned whether the party would now support the state’s “scientifically backed sustainable forest management practices”.

“The contemporary scientific consensus indicates that native forest harvesting does not exacerbate bushfires,” Mr Barnett said.

“In fact, responsible sustainable forestry management is an important weapon in the fight against bushfires.

“Tasmania’s native eucalypt forests naturally build up large amounts of fuel, which increases the likelihood and intensity of devastating bushfires.

“By actively managing our forests, through sustainable harvesting, followed by controlled low intensity post-harvest burning, we can reduce fuel loads and the risk of bushfires.”

But contributing author of the withdrawn paper and researcher Dr Jennifer Sanger says the retraction has had a “negligible” effect on the science and was the fault of incorrect public information provided by the state government.

Mr Barnett said the Tasmanian Government was committed to keeping Tasmania safe from the threat of bushfires by delivering a range of initiatives, including our nation-leading Fuel Reduction Program that has helped reduce the statewide bushfire risk in Tasmania by 5.9%, the lowest it has been in 15 years.

“Not only does the forest industry have a critical role to play in reducing the risk of bushfires it also delivers essential support to the Tasmania Fire Service during bushfire emergencies,” he said.

“Sustainable Timber Tasmania is a critical part of our bushfire response capability in regional and remote areas. In the 2018/19 financial year, STT staff spent over 66,300 hours fighting bushfires to protect local communities and forest values.”

Labor MP Shane Broad said in parliament the paper had supported political and mainstream media arguments that forestry contributed to bushfires.

He said the paper had stirred “unwarranted attacks” against Tasmanian forestry operators around the time of the Bushfire Royal Commission.

“The Greens should retract their statements based on assertions in this paper,” Mr Broad said.

The Tasmanian Liberal Government is committed to a responsible and sustainable forestry industry, recognising the sector injects billions into the Tasmanian economy and supports thousands of jobs, many in regional areas.

However, Dr Sanger said the retraction did not affect the prevailing findings of other scientists across Australia and overseas.

“It’s not like our study is the only study out there,” she said.

“For us it’s the issue with the forestry maps that is particularly frustrating. There is this resource there that is not available to academics because for whatever reason the government wants to keep it private.”

Dr Sanger said Mr Barnett’s statements in the meantime were “concerning” and “misleading”.

“There’s actually no evidence out there that logging forests helps fight fires… It’s a bit frustrating to see people claim that it’s the consensus in science when it’s not.”