Protests at Helms Forest Block continue

LOGGING in Helm’s Forest Block, located in the Jalbarragup area of Nannup, came to a standstill on Tuesday January 7 when Claire Anderson, 23, sat suspended on a tree platform that was tied off to two road machines and one logging machine.

The action was sparked by a Forest Products Commission (FPC) plan to log 350ha of this forest.

The WA Forest Alliance (WAFA) claimed the harvest would yield ‘very few’ tonnes of wood for the damage it would cause to this important cockatoo breeding ground.

"It is difficult to comprehend that a forest as important as Helms would ever be threatened by logging,” WAFA Spokeswoman Jess Beckerling said.

“We are calling on the Premier and the Forest Products Commission to immediately stop logging Helms and all other forests relied on by threatened species to prevent the extinctions of wildlife that are unique to our South West forests.”

David Patterson, who along with his wife runs cockatoo rehabilitation centre ‘Jammari’ on the boundary of Helms forest, has been caring for cockatoos in the area for more than 20 years.

Rare Carnaby and Baudin cockatoos as well as the red-tailed Naso cockatoos recover in the sanctuary following a variety of accidents, often from logging related mishaps.

Many cockatoos in the sanctuary will be released soon into the forest, however serious concerns are held for their future wellbeing when logging operations begin.

Some of the resident cockatoos will never return to the wild, having lost whole wings or been disconnected from their feeding range.

“Without Helms the cockatoos will die,” Mr Patterson said.

“They have nowhere else to go now that everywhere around us has been logged or burnt. We have raised some of these birds up from chicks and released them into Helms. They come back to us for extra seed, particularly since the prescribed burns and escapes that have taken out so much of their food source. We are absolutely devastated that the Barnett Government is planning to log this last refuge. We will fight this plan with everything we have,” he said.                          

A group known as ‘Artists at the Helm,’ led by local South West artist Helen Seiver, have been creating artworks pertaining to this situation for an upcoming exhibition in February 2015 to be held at Bunbury Regional Art Gallery.

During their visit to the region the artists and writers gained access to the Jamarri black cockatoo rehabilitation centre which borders the Helm’s Forest Block area.

Recently visiting the area, Dr Vahri McKenzie, Edith Cowan University South West campus Arts program lecturer said her day at Helm’s block forest coupe was deeply affecting.

“Though the stories of loss and the stupidity of the economic decisions being made at this time are confronting, it was enlivening to be part of a group of students, lecturers and community members bearing witness, and being with this important place,” she said.

FPC General Manager Vince Erasmus said there were extensive national park and conservation areas around Helms.

“These areas are excluded from timber harvesting activities and contain many old trees suitable for foraging and nesting. The current planned harvest represents a very small part of the greater forest area,” Mr Erasmus said.

“During the planning process an additional area of old-growth was found in Helms and will be excluded from harvesting. There is more than 334,000 hectares of old-growth forest protected in the South West region. Timber harvesting is only permitted in forests that have previously been harvested and regenerated (regrowth forests).

“The harvesting of Helms 02 is in accordance with the three-year harvest plan and is conducted under the strict requirements of the Forest Management Plan 2014-2023 (FMP),” he said.

Mr Erasmus said detailed planning and preparation was undertaken to meet the requirements of the FMP for every harvest area.

“This includes flora and fauna surveys and the assessment of disease risk, water issues, heritage issues and social impacts and other environmental requirements. It is a rigorous planning process. For example, habitat for cockatoos and other flora and fauna are set aside to ensure environmental values are protected, including the nearby Blackwood River National Park and Wiltshire-Butler National Park.

“Where timber harvesting is permitted, suitable old trees are protected as ‘habitat trees’ on every hectare of forest,” he said.

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