Blockade planned to save WA forest

June 8, 1994

By Anne Pavy

PERTH — The West Australian Forest Alliance (WAFA) and the Wilderness Society have decided to take direct action in an attempt to block the destruction of valuable forests. A blockade has been planned, which will start with a festival on July 2-3. It could last for up to six months.

This winter, four of the best of WA's last wilderness forests are on the Department of Conservation and Land Management's logging agenda. The four are Hawke, Rocky, Sharpe and Giblett, in the south-west of the state. These areas contain the last area of undisturbed karri forest.

The state government is logging our remaining native forests to extinction, and is taking the most precious areas first.

A report prepared for WAFA by resource economist Judy Clark shows that Western Australia is in a position now to begin transferring logging from native forests to plantations and tree crops.

The report was released by WAFA and handed to environment minister Kevin Minson on the eve of his decision on long-term logging levels.

The Clark Report makes clear the options for WA: to continue the ecologically and economically disastrous policy of logging our last old-growth forests, or to accelerate the creation of a sustainable, high employment industry based on tree-crop resources.

The key findings of the Clarke Report include:

  • The Western Australian wood products industry is well positioned for unprecedented growth over the next 10 years, based entirely on its softwood (pine) and hardwood (eucalypt) plantation resources. There are already 110,000 hectares of softwood and hardwood plantations in WA.

  • Tree crops and plantations are not a supplement to native forests but are evolving as the preferred resource base for the bulk of the wood products industry.

  • Australia's native forest woodchip export industry will continue only so long as it can sell at a price that compensates for the low quality of the native forest resource. The industry is now under pressure as Japanese buyers continue to negotiate lower chip prices by playing off suppliers from many different countries. State forest agencies (such as WA's Department of Conservation and Land Management) cannot reduce royalties without further damaging their financial performance (CALM's 1992 cumulative debt was $114 million).

CALM has just bulldozed tracks around two logging coupes in preparation for clear-felling in 1995. These tracks were put in without public consultation. The tracks encircle magnificent stands of old-growth karri forest.

Under CALM plans, about 80% of the wood produced from this ancient forest will be woodchips.

The blockade wants to force the federal government to take action. Jacquie Svenson, a member of the Wilderness Society and one of the coordinators of the blockade, says, "the state government has shown that it can not be trusted to protect native forests, and we have given it enough of a chance. So we want to get the federal government to step in and use its powers under the Endangered Species Act and the biodiversity convention of the national forest policy."

The blockaders feel that lobbying is not working quickly enough. There is a need to take non-violent direct action now to make sure the forests remain standing over the winter logging season.

"The actions are going to be very people-oriented to try to show how people can take personal action to stop these things from happening", Jacquie Svenson says. "It is going to be very accessible to people; non-violence is accessible in that it is all about personal empowerment to action against injustices."

The success of this blockade will depend on community support. To find out more, contact the Wilderness Society in Perth on 430 6088.

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