As part of the campaign to have State Forest converted to National Park in the Pilliga-Goonoo region of central western New South Wales, the Western Conservation Alliance held a forest protest in the Tinkrameanah State Forest in August 2002. The main thrust of their media release* announcing the sit-in was that : logging was a threat to the beautiful and high conservation value Tinkrameanah forest because contractors were not supervised.
Tinkrameanah State Forest became national park just over a year ago and timber harvesting is now banned.
This last week there have been bushfires in the Pilliga-Goonoo region with over 100,000 hectares burnt.
Volunteer fire fighters have been working around the clock, but in the Tinrameanah nature reserve they couldn’t put in a fire break because national parks officers were concerned about the potential environmental impact.
Yesterday I received an email from a woman who lives in the Pillaga near Tinrameanah, Juleen Young wrote:
“Tinkrameana was under State Forestry control but went under National Park’s control with the Brigalow decision. They have not had it 12 months and it has been incinerated, gone.”
Perhaps it was inevitable that the Tinkrameana forest would one day burn?**
The Pilliga forests are only new. Early explorers described the country as open grassland and woodland. Early European settlers followed with sheep but they didn’t survive the drought. Then there were flood in the 1880s triggering massive germination of native cypress and Eucalyptus. A timber industry established and flourished until about 1967 when the state government started converting the working forests to National Park beginning with the 80,000 hectare Pilliga Nature Reserve.
In May last year then NSW Premier Bob Carr announced a ban on logging over a further 350,000 hectares describing the decision as achieving ‘permanent conservation’ of the iconic forests. As the timber workers were chased out of their forests, they explained that without active management there can be no conservation. They said that the Pilliga forests need to be tended – including thinned and protected from wildfires.
Indeed foresters have a vested interest in not letting their forests incinerate, and that vested interest has benefited barking owls and koalas.
I’m sure that the Western Conservation Alliance, not to mention the Wilderness Society, are disappointed that the Tinkrameanah is gone. But the bottom-line is that while campaigning so hard to have State Forest converted to National Park, they didn’t budget for fire prevention.
In fact environmental activists in NSW have lobbied hard for restrictive fire intervals for prescribed burning and heavily conditional licensing and on top of this the National Parks and Wildlife Service is chronically under funded with inadequate reources for effective hazard-reduction (see ‘When Will We Ever Learn?’ by Jim and Aled Hoggett).
The Tinkrameanah forest may start to grow back one day, but with timber workers excluded will it ever be as biologically diverse? Indeed if the cypress is not thinned it may just develop into thicket void of koalas and barking owls?
The Western Forest Alliance was wrong to suggest the greatest threat to the Tinkrameana was logging, indeed the long term survival of biologically diverse healthy forests in the Pilliga region may depend on sustainable use conservation, in particular getting timber workers back into the forests.
* Media Release
Embargoed until 12 noon, 9 August 2002
Western Forest Protest: First ever in region
Today the Western Conservation Alliance is holding the first-ever forest protest in the region against destructive logging, including the destroying of hundred-year-old grass trees in Tinkrameanah State Forest, near Coonabarabran.
“Management of this beautiful forest by State Forests is seriously lacking. Logging contractors are either failing to follow new licence conditions negotiated last year, or they are working under old, inadequate licences with no supervision”, said Friend of the Pilliga representative, David Paull.
“Either way it’s obvious that when land is designated state forest, it is in harms way. National park protection would ensure such damage would not occur.”
The WCA is calling for an immediate investigation into the logging and a moratorium on all logging of high conservation areas in the Brigalow Belt South Bioregion, such as Tinkrameanah State Forest, until the Western Regional Assessment is finalised.
‘Conservationists from all over the Western Region and NSW are concerned about the ongoing destruction of western woodland remnants and other poorly conserved forest communities’ said Bev Smiles from National Parks Association of NSW.
‘The protest highlights the need to stop logging key western forests and start planting hardwood timber lots on degraded agricultural land’, she said.
The Western Conservation Alliance wants Tinkrameanah State Forest to be protected in the Western Regional Assessment, to be finalised this year.
The peaceful protest in Tinkrameana State Forest, 40 km east of Coonabarabran and just to the west of Tambar Springs is being held on Friday 9th August. Further protests are planned.
** See comment from Luke (December 2, 3.21pm) following my recent blog post ‘Pilliga Forest Burns’ for a history of fires in the Pilliga.