Debate takes in forest management

Western Australian Forest Alliance spokeswoman Jess Beckerling wants to see forests like Warrup protected from logging.
Western Australian Forest Alliance spokeswoman Jess Beckerling wants to see forests like Warrup protected from logging.

PEAK environment groups are calling on the government to ensure WA capitalises on the introduction of the carbon tax as a part of the development of the next Forest Management Plan.

WA Forest Alliance (WAFA) spokeswoman Jess Beckerling said forests could not be logged profitably, however if they were preserved climate change could be mitigated.

Forest Industries Federation WA (FIFWA) deputy executive director Melissa Haslam refuted the claim logging released massive carbon stores into the atmosphere.

"Native forests make an enormous contribution to mitigating climate change," Ms Beckerling said.

"Now that we have a carbon (dioxide) tax in place, protecting our forests represents a major financial opportunity for WA.

"Mature forests take carbon pollution out of the atmosphere and store it in woody biomass and forest soils."

Conservation Council director Piers Verstegen said when forests were destroyed by logging and burning, the massive natural carbon stores were released into the atmosphere, further contributing to climate change.

Ms Beckerling said the conservation sector had made several appeals to the state government to conduct a thorough analysis of the carbon storage capacity of native forests so the state can take up the opportunity to sell carbon credits "and capitalise on the carbon economy".

"So far these appeals have fallen on deaf ears, but we hope the Premier and Environment Minister will see the potential now the carbon tax is in place," she said.

"Climate change is having economic as well as environmental impacts.

"The Forest Products Commission blamed the drought for their $13 million loss last year and in 2010 the Environment Protection Authority told us that huge areas of forest aren't regrowing after logging because there is not simply enough rain."

Conservation groups are concerned about forests such as Bridgetown's Warrup which is still being logged and that the forest will not recover.

"It is time for WA to face up to the reality of climate change and the opportunities that the carbon economy represents," she said.

Mr Verstegen said that the state government had recently commissioned an economic and social impact assessment for the next forest management plan.

"However this study excludes examination of this huge potential economic opportunity," he said.

"With the next forest management plan currently under development we have the opportunity to transform the way our South West forests are managed.

"We have the potential to turn a loss-making logging industry that is pushing endangered species to the brink of extinction, with a profitable industry that is based on the preservation of our forests and the animals that rely upon them.

"At present we are selling ancient jarrah trees as firewood for $9 a tonne, while we could be attracting a carbon price of $26 per tonne while also preventing the extinction of WA's threatened wildlife.

"With the introduction of a carbon price, WAis well positioned to become a leader in renewable energy and forest carbon sequestration - both industries which will bring new sustainable jobs and investment to WA."

Ms Haslam said the trees sequestered carbon.

"However as they get older and growth slows they sequester less," she said.

"Eventually, if the tree is left to die and rot all the carbon is released back into the atmosphere.

"It is possible to remove more carbon from the atmosphere through sustainable forest management."

Ms Haslam said it was well known 50 per cent of the dry weight of timber was actually stored carbon.

"This carbon is stored for the life of the product," she said.

"While this carbon is stored another tree is growing in its place, actively taking up carbon increasing the total amount of carbon from the atmosphere.

"A sustainably managed forest with periodic harvesting continues to increase the total carbon storage through the cumulative addition in multiple carbon pools."

She said evidence from the international scientific community indicated active forest management delivered the greatest carbon mitigation effect as demonstrated in the fourth assessment report of the International Panel on Climate Change 2007 which stated, "A sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks while producing an annual sustainable yield of timber, fibre and energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained

mitigation benefit".