Controversial report by former Harvard University academic Jonathan West, was hidden away by request from Government. The report states that logging is carried out at twice the sustainable rate, leaving forests devastated and unable to regenerate… The report states.
News Source: THE AUSTRALIAN
A suppressed report alleges extensive over-cutting of Tasmania’s native forests, but urges environmentalists to accept mining and some logging in proposed reserves for the sake of a peace deal with industry.
The explosive report by former Harvard University academic Jonathan West was withdrawn at the request of government from a bundle of expert forestry reports released last week.
This was despite Professor West chairing the group of experts and using his report to try to unite the disparate elements of the group’s advice.
His report, finally provided yesterday after questions were raised by The Australian and the ABC, is damning of the state-owned Forestry Tasmania, saying logging has been carried out at twice the sustainable rate. He said over-logging had helped set the scene for a looming “dual disaster” of industry collapse and the destruction of remaining world-class forests.
“Sustainable yield is . . . the Hippocratic oath equivalent: the forests must not be harvested at a rate greater than that at which they grow,” Professor West said. “Otherwise, the industry ceases to be renewable; it is mining.”
FT managing director Bob Gordon blamed the timber shortfall on planned tightening of the Forest Practices Code, saying the changes reduced volumes able to be taken from each harvest area.
“It does not suggest FT has over-allocated or over-cut the resource,” he said. “Professor West’s statements are not supported by the evidence.”
However, the report will add to pressure on FT as the state government reviews its future and conservationists accuse it of trying to sabotage the forest peace talks — a claim it rejects.
Professor West, a founding director of the Australian Innovation Research Centre and a former Wilderness Society director, said a peace deal was possible only if both sides made previously unthinkable compromises.
While his expert group finds the 568,772 ha sought for new national parks does contain conservation values, his report said “not all these values would be lost if the forests were harvested once”. Some of the forests should be granted immediate protection because their conservation values — linked to old-growth, wilderness, threatened species or rare ecosystems — would not survive logging.
However, he said other areas might be logged once, regrown and then added to the reserves. The compromise is strongly supported by some industry negotiators, who are about to enter into a crucial final phase of talks with the Wilderness Society, Environment Tasmania and the Australian Conservation Foundation.
Professor West said the impact on timber supply of declaring the new reserves was not as great as might be expected.
This was because the protection of more forest would “greatly reduce” the need to guard environmental values via Forest Practices Code restrictions on logging in production areas.
The state and federal governments say they were not obliged to release Professor West’s report because it was not part of the expert group’s terms of reference.