News - 13 May 2018

About the Tasmanian Government’s plans to log forest conservation reserves

  • The Forest Agreement (TFA) was made between conservation groups—including The Wilderness Society—forestry industry bodies and unions in November 2012. It took almost three years of hard-fought negotiations, and agreed to protect over 500,000 hectares of iconic forests and habitat.
  • Read more about the TFA here.
  • TFA initially agreed to immediately protect 400,000ha out of a total of 500,000ha of forest. But, 100,000 later, as it passed through Parliament, this balance was flipped: elected representatives in the Upper House changed it so that only 100,000ha was immediately protected under the subsequent TFA Act, the Nature Conservation Act (2002).
  • The remaining 400,000 was declared 'Future Reserve Land' and informally reserved for future gazettal as formal reserves.
  • After election in 2014, the Hodgman Government passed legislation that renamed this Future Reserve Land 'Future Potential Production Forest' (FPPF), maintained its informal reserve status, and it's off-limits to logging until at least 2020. FPPF is listed as part of the Tasmanian Reserve Estate.
  • This FPPF land comprises of:
    • old-growth, rainforest and other high conservation value native forests
    • 110,000 hectares of old growth
    • almost 200,000ha of mature forest
    • 30,000ha of myrtle rainforest
    • significant areas of threatened species habitat
    • approximately 37,000ha of identified Giant Freshwater Lobster priority habitat areas
    • significant areas of core swift parrot and masked owl habitat.
  • The status of these 356,000ha of FPPF land is that they're hanging in limbo. These forests:
    • currently remain protected from logging, sitting under a moratorium from logging, but only until at least 2020
    • were due to be protected as conservation reserves, but Will Hodgman has pulled them back and, as the name suggests, termed them future forests to be logged. 
  • We know that these forests are vulnerable because Will Hodgman has already tried to bring forward the moratorium deadline so that these forests could be logged before the 2020 moratorium ends. This is because Hodgman has already tried to pass legislation that would do just this. The only thing that prevented him from succeeding was the Upper House knocking back his ‘Unlocking Production Forests bill’. See these media reports for details:

Bottom line: the fate of 356,000ha of forests that should be reserved hangs in the balance. If the Liberals win the next election, they are certain to try to log these reserves again.

Why Will Hodgman’s plans to log 356,000ha of High-Conservation-Value (HCV) forest will hurt Forestry Tasmania

Forestry Tasmania recently advised that changing the management of FPPF land would impact its analysis of HCV areas and the management on the land it manages. So if the government logs this land, FT would need its application to be “reviewed and revised”, setting its FSC bid back to square one.

Why? Because FSC takes into account not just the land FT manages, but the land around the land it manages—because it has to evaluate the total impact on the environment of FT’s operations. If a reserve outside FT’s remit is logged, this has a knock-on impact on the implications for FT’s operations in total. In short, the government’s reckless plan to log reserves will make FT’s attempt to secure FSC accreditation—something The Wilderness Society supports—much harder and even impossible.

Where is the FPPF land that should be reserved but could be logged?

The FPPF land is spread across North West, northern and eastern Tasmania and includes iconic areas such as the takayna/Tarkine, Blue Tier and Derby, Douglas-Apsley, Wielangta, Tasman Peninsula and Bruny Island—even bordering many national parks and reserves in these areas.

Some areas, such as Derby and the Blue Tier, have seen the investment of significant amounts of public money in the construction of tourism and recreation-based opportunities such as mountain bike and walking tracks. These have stimulated massive local and regional economic revival.

Derby, for example, has experienced a 250% increase in visitation over the last two years, accredited to the network of new mountain bike trails, mostly constructed on FPPF land (Saul Eslake, Tasmania Report 2016). This means some of these areas could be negatively impacted by logging.

See maps here for details. 

What’s in these FPPF areas?

Important conservation values found in these forests include the habitat of threatened species—such as the Swift Parrot and Giant Freshwater Lobster—threatened vegetation communities, wilderness, domestic and agricultural water catchments, significant banks of stored carbon and Aboriginal cultural heritage.

What does FT/STT say about FPPF land?

In 2017, the board of Sustainable Timber Tasmania (SST)—formerly Forestry Tasmania (FT)—provided detailed advice to Treasurer Peter Gutwein, which said that FT recommends contracted wood supply obligations be reduced to 96,000 m3. In no way does FT recommend, suggest or canvass reversing protection for the FPPF land so as to meet contracted/legislated wood supply targets. On p28 of its 2016-17 annual report, FT confirmed its “ability to make available the volume legislated in the Forest Management Act 2013 of at least 137,000 cubic metres per year of high quality eucalypt sawlogs from the Permanent Timber Production Zone [the land it manages] for the next 90 years”. In short, this means that FT has enough timber supply for its contracts.

Compare this with Resource Minister Guy Barnett's response to FT’s same annual report, in which he said: “FT has never been able to meet the 137,000 high quality sawlog target”. This means Mr Barnett is trying to look for ways to log more forests, even though FT says it doesn’t need more timber. So why does Mr Barnett want to do this? A cynic could say that, by inciting a return to the ‘forest wars’ would generate extra votes for the Liberals. So they're not just decimating Tasmania’s forest reserves, but trashing them for votes to boot!

Threat to social licence; no evidence of viable markets for FPPF timber

As well as environmental impacts, there appears to have been no consideration of the social licence and timber market risks associated with logging forests currently counted as reserves and containing values such as old growth, rainforests, and critical threatened species habitat.

The government’s explanation for this legislation is also heavily lacking in any evidence to support the proposal. This includes:

  • no assessments of risks to conservation values, social licence and FSC;
  • no evidence of a demand for FPPF timber;
  • no data on what timber is available, commercially or otherwise, from the FPPF;
  • no information on what areas are being targeted for logging; and
  • no response to Forestry Tasmania’s advice that additional investment in plantation sawlogs is required.

What needs to happen—how you can help:

The FPPF land should largely be formally reserved as either National Parks or State Reserves, as these are the tenures that offer adequate protection from logging and mining. Some, such as the forests surrounding the Tasman Ben Lomond or Douglas-Apsley National Parks, should be added to those existing reserves. Others should be combined with existing smaller reserves to create stand-alone new national parks, state reserves or nature reserves, such as the Break O’Day State Reserve and Wielangta Nature reserve. Reserved land is now acknowledged by the government as delivering economic, employment, environmental and community wellbeing benefits and is central to Tasmania’s identity. Reversing, as opposed to progressing reserve status, is a retrograde step that precludes a range of tourism, community and environmental opportunities and is likely to damage Tasmania’s brand and identity.

How to help prevent these areas from being logged

  • Tell people what could happen.
  • Tell us what you need to highlight this imminent threat.
  • Tell and show people how much better it is for these reserves to remain intact, rather than be logged.

Additional sources