I live in a wooden house and I work off a wooden desk. I know trees re-grow and that Australia has one of the most productive and sustainable timber industries in the world.
I know that I have more of an affinity with the timber communities that work native forests than with the companies that plant extensive pine plantations.
I also know that timber communities are under intense pressure because they are swimming against the tide. The Australian community has come under what seems like ‘the spell’ of environmental activists who campaign incessantly against logging.
I recently received several emails from Rod and Juleen Young who are part of the Pilliga-Goonoo timber community in north-west NSW. They are waiting for a decision from the Carr government that will determine the fate of their community including 240 remaining timber workers.
At issue is whether public land that until recently has supported a timber industry worth $38.4 million in gross output and generated employment for 420 people should be turned into National Park.
If the land has been logged for over 100 years and is still of such high conservation value why not keep it the way it is?
Rod and Juleen have written:
“The State Government has refused to accept the Brigalow Region United Stakeholders (BRUS) Option and after a protest in the Pilliga in February 2003 by the Greens the government placed a moratorium on 500 logging compartments of the best timber in the Brigalow Belt South Bioregion (BBSB) demanded by the Greens.
This moratorium has restricted our timber industry to unsustainable logging areas, leading to a downgrading of log supplies and as a result a lot of the mills are almost bankrupt.
The Government promised a decision on the BBSB no later than November 2002. The local communities, dependant on the timber industry have been on a knife edge ever since and are still waiting.
We are now desperate for a decision.
The debate is all about active land management versus lock up. For years we have stressed the need for thinning the cypress pine forests, the long term sustainable forest management, the viability of the koala population and barking owls etc in logged areas, the need of the forest road network for fire control, the case of landowners living next door to a forest, the small towns that provide the necessary services and social base for the timber workers and the local farming and grazing families.”
At issue is whether these forests in the Pilliga-Goonoo region of north-west NSW should become National Parks or continue to be State Forests and usable by the local timber community.
The Pilliga-Goonoo community have identified 189,300 hectares of new conservation reserve (where logging will be excluded) while allowing for continued access to sustainable yields of white cypress sawlogs of 68,000m3 per year. The region has also produced valuable timber products from iron bark.
Why has the NSW government taken so long to say yes or no to the Pilliga-Goonoo community?
Is it that the government feels it can’t say no to the Greens because it risks losing Sydney votes at the next election? At the same time it would be so unfair to close down yet another productive and sustainable timber community that works a beautiful native forest?