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No such thing as our forest wars

Rob de Fegely

Recent claims by activists, media, industry advocates and politicians about the existence or emergence of ‘forest wars’ is completely misleading and disrespectful, according to a veteran forester and conservationist, Rob de Fégely. Source: Latrobe Valley Express

Mr de Fégely, a Member of the Order of Australia (AM), said the definition of ‘War’ is a state of armed conflict between countries or groups of people.

“In the 50 years I have been studying and working in Australian forestry, there has never been any armed conflict in Australia’s forests!” he said.

Mr de Fégely is a registered forestry professional, a director of Margules Groome Consulting P/L, chair of Sustainable Timber Tasmania and a director of Forestry Corporation of NSW. He emphasised that his comments are his personal comments and do not reflect the opinion of any of the entities he works for.

Mr de Fégely said to describe a contentious debate and/or protest as warfare was not only misleading but an insult to people in the Ukraine, Middle East and any other parts of the world where communities are intimidated or threatened by armed force and conflict.

“It is also a massive insult to our returned service personnel both past and present who have endured the horrors of real global conflicts and we will never know what they have endured and suffered as a result of their bravery,” he said.

“However, I am in awe of how many carried their experiences stoically and bravely to make great contributions to build our wonderful economy and community on their return from active service. We owe them a lot.”

Mr de Fégely said sadly, claims of ‘forest wars’ are designed to heighten outrage in caring but often uniformed communities.

“It is an abuse of our language! Debate over how we use our natural resources to meet the twin demands of conservation and consumption for eight billion living people on our planet is important, but it needs to be respectful of the range of opinions and knowledge,” he said.

“Everyone on Earth deserves three meals per day, to be well-clothed and housed, which means we need to produce food, clothing and housing materials somewhere on our planet. Avoiding impact is impossible.”

Mr de Fégely said the challenge, particularly with wood production, is to develop a natural system with minimal inputs that has multiple benefits including conservation, recreation and production.

“Australia’s trained foresters work hard to achieve this. Everyone loves wood, which is the perfect renewable as we can grow, harvest and regrow it in perpetuity and unlike wind turbines and solar panels, it does not require any mining of critical minerals to fulfil its functions,” he said.

“Despite being the sixth most forested country in the world, Australia cannot supply its own demand for wood, so we rely on wood imports from forests overseas where harvesting standards are often far lower than ours.”

Mr de Fégely said as we honour our returned service personnel this Anzac Day and reflect on the armed conflicts past and present, “I am tempted to say ‘Shame on you’, but I will simply say, ‘Show more respect!’