Forest Management Plan proves controversial

THE state government's newly released Forest Management Plan (FMP) has proved controversial among conservation and green groups.

Conservation Council WA (CCWA) president Piers Verstegen said the government's next forest management plan will be a death sentence to endangered animals.

However, the Forest Products Commission (FPC) said the concerns were premature.

A scoping document for the FMP argues 10,000 hectares of native timber should be available for logging each year from 2014.

Mr Verstegen said this was a 20 per cent increase.

He said in recent years 8000 hectares had been logged and Warrup's numbats and other endangered species would not survive the increase.

"We've shown the logging industry is exempt from hard-won legislation designed to protect our threatened animals," Mr Verstegen said.

"We've exposed hundreds of serious breaches of environmental guidelines by unregulated and unaccountable logging contractors and government agencies have admitted even the inadequate controls that are in place are not legally binding," he said.

"We've demonstrated the logging industry cannot make a profit because global markets are no longer accepting unsustainable timber products.

"We have even revealed the taxpayer subsidised logging industry could be destroying hundreds of millions of dollars in carbon credits and preventing the creation of sustainable jobs for the South West.

"Despite all the arguments, the state government has now released a scoping document that outlines plans for increased logging in South West forests."

He said conservationist groups had less than two weeks to put their case to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).

The EPA is now required to assess the plan.

An FPC spokeswoman said the scoping document indicated the scale of timber harvesting activity was consistent with the current FMP.

"The chairman of the Conservation Commission has indicated the concerns of the Conservation Council are premature," the spokeswoman said.

"The draft is still in preparation and to say there is government commitment to an increase in harvest levels is incorrect. Suggestion that timber harvesting will lead to extinction of species is unfounded.

"Most native species are highly adapted to living with disturbance.

"For example, in the 1970s numbats were almost extinct, surviving in only two places - Dryandra and Perup forests - both of which were subject to timber harvesting.

"They appear to be well adapted to survive with disturbance and in regrowth forests.

"Today, a large majority of their habitat is reserved in national parks with the main threat being feral animals.

"WA's forests are naturally subject to disturbance due to regular natural fire. Species are well adapted to cope."

Member for Collie and Labor forestry spokesman Mick Murray said the Labor party opposed the 20 per cent increase.

Mr Murray said the Barnett government and various agencies were "softening up conservationists for a dramatic logging increase by sending out a blueprint idea for the new FMP".