It's amazing how vested interests can jump in and take advantage of even the worst catastrophes. Right now timber industry lobby groups are claiming to have the solution to bushfire hazard reduction - allow them to log national parks!
Of course they are careful to avoid the term logging, preferring instead to use the word “thinning”. Thinning is something that should always occur after logging takes place, but something that has been sadly neglected over the past two decades to cut costs.
The problem is that over 20 years, logging frequency in state forests has increased, as has the intensity, anything up to 80% of basal area in some places.
This heavy logging opens up canopies, lets in sunlight, heats the ground surface, and promotes a massive regrowth, particularly Wattle species, weeds, and highly flammable Blady Grass and Bracken, which results in the entire forest becoming more flammable.
There is a good example on the Summerland Way, 13 km north of Whiporie, showing the higher resilience older forests have against fire. Anyone knowing that road will recall a healthy patch of relatively large Tallowwoods and other tall Eucalypt species, growing right to the road's edge. Those passing since the recent devastating blazes will be relieved to see that forest, while burned, has retained a relatively unscathed canopy, while all around heavily logged forests have been obliterated.
Tall forests with unbroken canopies retain moisture at ground level and in the leaf litter, and they also encourage an understorey which includes fire resistant species, while the deeper shade inhibits the growth of those flammable pioneer species like Wattles and Blady Grass.
All this is in stark contrast to those heavily logged forests, including many of the national parks that were logged to within an inch of their being before they were handed over to the parks estate.
There are areas of forest that could benefit from thinning, including some of the more recently established national parks, but that work has to be carefully undertaken to minimise collateral damage, and definitely not by huge industrial logging machines.
- John Edwards
This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on January 27, 2020.