Another logic-lacking media release put out by the logging industry in July called for more and faster access to log all the burnt forest. They claimed they needed government assistance to cart the logs long distances to their mills and maybe even money to help with storage (they have to keep them damp to prevent cracking) until they had orders to sell the logs.
In the next sentence they said that for each day they weren't cutting forests they were losing half a million dollars.
I drove over the fire-fried country between East Gippsland and the North East in early August, six months after the summer fires, with Kevin Thiele, EEG's Public Officer, Botanist and Computer Trouble Shooter.
"With all due respect, I do not think this was the biggest bushfire in 100 years I think it's the biggest back-burn in living memory" Quote from Charles Slade, Channel Nine reporter in the Federal enquiry into the 2003 fires.
Last issue's front page story was of the needless logging of a 70 km swathe through the Snowy National Park during the January fires under the direction of a logging company boss seconded into the Department to help with fire fighting management. He was put in charge of this back burn line.
Contrary to the constant blathering of "greenies don't fight fires", myself and many other conservationists were also out there getting soot stained and coming home exhausted from the front line. In fact at the Tubbut fire, of the 12 crew in three trucks one night, at least five of us were "greenies". We just don't wear signs on our overalls saying " I AM A GREENIE ".
The Regional Forest Agreement promised the MAXIMUM amount of logs that could be taken from public forest, while providing the MINIMUM area to meet conservation criteria. No allowance was made for fire. There was no margin of error for events outside the control of governments. If fires destroy even part of the reserve system or "available" forest, the whole RFA breaks down.
It wasn't so much the record dry and drought, the changed flammable nature of the forests or the high temperatures and strong winds that caused the huge fires, it was the Greenies!
The blame game has been eagerly played by many who profit from exploiting the land - high country graziers and loggers in particular. Politicians and your average rednecks (journalists included) happily joined in.
Here are some pointers that may help dampen these claims:
The opportunistic logging of a 70 km slice of the Snowy River National Park in late February outraged more than just environment groups. The normally compliant Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) is so disgusted by this shameless act of vandalism, it is carrying out an investigation.
Widespread salvage logging for 30 years after the 1939 fires had huge ecological impacts. It favoured cutting fire damaged (but living) larger diameter trees. After a fire, generally there will be a return of a healthy multi-staged forest required to provide maximum habitat. Bushfires usually leave a high level of this structural complexity in the forest. Wildfires typically consume less than 10% of the wood. However, salvage logging (clearfelling) will convert the forest to an even aged, plantation-like structure.