People might remember our expose — of the secret “East Gippsland Old Growth Project” in winter 2005. Well, the DSE have come out at last to sell it as a positive project.

You might remember we reported its purpose was to try and convince the public or the DSE Minister (or both) that old growth forests can be logged and still have their overall values maintained.

Ex-VAFI boss as manager

The ex-head of the state logging industry group is heading up the project. With such an appointment the agenda is clear – to maintain loggers access to public forests.

Still looking for more logs

There is still no reliable “sustainable yield” for this region. At best it is hopeful guesswork. So one component of the project is to see how they can grow more sawlogs from lowland forests that were selectively logged in the 60s and 70s. They’ll thin trees from these regrowth forests to test their hypothesis. But the Forestry Union’s Michael O’Connor said it wasn’t safe for his workers (a rare occasion of concern), that they weren’t consulted and so will boycott the trials (very few loggers in EG are in the union but he huffed and puffed anyway).

How best to log fragments

The other component of the project is to work out if it will be best to log 2/3rds of all old growth coupes on the map or just log 2/3rds of each coupe.

The project hopes to prove they can grown more logs from thinning the lowland forests (after one year’s trial?) which in turn could help save some old growth they say. By the way – they’re looking at saving only 1/3rd of what’s left.

But no money for environmental research

EEG told the project manager, Jan Raddick, that the only option we’d agree to for old growth is “all out – right now”. None of this “how best to keep fragmenting the fragments” options. Transforming more forests into pulpfarms, as industry gasps its last, really is a huge waste of $1 million, not to mention ancient eco-systems. DSE still has no idea of the impact of clearfelling on biodiversity. This was a promise under the now discredited RFA but hasn’t happened due to a claimed a “lack of funds”! [give us $5 and a lunch voucher and we’ll tell them].

Cutting down trees no one wants

Jan Raddick also acknowledged that all saw mills were in a bad way but said they have to work on 100 year modelling to make sure logs are there in the future if the community needs them. The government or DSE seem to be very concerned about sustaining sawlogs 100 years from now but not the environment.

It will be very difficult to sell this one to the public as an old growth solution.

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