Will loggers define a big tree?
The Bracks Government is now drawing up prescriptions for protecting giant trees. This is after Forestry Tasmania torched El Grande recently (which made world news), and the discovery in East Gippsland of a massive tree in a planned logging area (see front page item, Autumn ’04 Potoroo). There has been no protection for giant trees in the past and massive stumps in logging coupes testify to this.
Protection measures will be a good move, if somewhat belated. As always though, the logging side of the DSE is bulldozing their arguments through to render any protection measures as weak as possible. The draft plans so far have seen a compromise size for triggering protection, at a minimum of four metres diameter or about 12.5 mts circumference. Such trees are almost mythical.
The Forest Resource Inventory project (SFRI) for Tambo and East Gippsland areas measured 15,583 individual trees as part of the sampling program. Only one of these trees was greater than 3.5 m diameter and no trees were greater than 4 m diameter, confirming the rarity of these very large trees. We are asking that 10 metres should be the size that triggers protection.
In East Gippsland, big trees are generally confined to the fertile wet forests of the Errinundra Plateau and adjacent escarpments, the Roger River and adjoining Yalmy escarpment.
Protection of identified trees will depend on their siting and position inside a logging coupe. We have been asking that they be protected with a decent tree buffer rather than a small understorey buffer that would expose them to the elements and wind throw or fire (as was the fate of El Grande). We are also asking that clusters or groves of large trees be protected as recruitment oldies, and that these should include trees down to say 6 metres.
The draft prescriptions are being worked up right now and might cover other areas of the state as well. This means there could be pressure from foresters from the NE and Otways. If you have a special interest in large trees, please contact me to find out how you can help.