Managing forests for multiple gains

Managing forests for multiple gains

Garry Squires, an experienced forest management planner and former regional manager Gippsland for Department of Natural Resources and Environment, believes convenor of the East Gippsland Greens, Dr Deb Foskey, “misses the point” in her comments about multiple use of forest in East Gippsland (Bairnsdale Advertiser, March 8).

Multiple use forest management, Mr Squires says, is achieved by managing broad forest areas for a range of uses “recreation, conservation, wood products, honey, soil and water values, etc.”

“She states that ‘it is clear that a logged forest has only one purpose which renders all other uses redundant’. Of course the same could be said for many other uses of parts of the forest,” Mr Squires said.

“For instance national parks are not available to apiarists or the timber industry, camping is only allowed in limited designated areas and many roads and tracks are only open to management vehicles so their purpose is also limited.

“Similarly when a recreation area is constructed in the forest it also limits the other uses of that part of the forest.”

Mr Squires said multiple use management acknowledges that not every hectare can be managed for every use, but rather that the range of uses and values can be catered for over the broad areas of the forest.

“Part of the process of multiple use is to zone parts of the forest according to their key management emphasis,” he said.

“In the forests of East Gippsland there are over one million hectares and about eight per cent of that area is in various parks and reserves where the emphasis is on a range of non commercial values.

“On parts of the remaining 20 per cent of forest area, commercial harvesting is the emphasis. Commercial harvesting produces logs for the timber products required by the community, including firewood.

“In the process the forest also provides employment opportunities.”

Dr Foskey said “the timber industry does little to keep our communities alive, but we see hope and possibility in the Emerald Link project.” however Mr Squires says she fails to acknowledge that the timber industry is “an important part of the economy of East Gippsland”.

“In fact, a recent survey identified 114 full time jobs directly related to the timber industry in the Orbost district alone mills, harvest and haulage contractors, VicForests, etc. This accounts for 24 per cent of direct employment in the area and when the flow-on effects into the community are taken into account more than one third of all families in the Orbost district are dependent directly or indirectly on the timber industry.”

Mr Squires said forests are dynamic and change over time.

“This is well illustrated by the fact that the proposed Emerald Link trail follows many existing old logging roads and tracks and for more than half of its length the walker would be travelling through regrowth forests following logging 40 to 50 years ago a testament to the regeneration practices following those logging operations and the fact that forests grow back,” Mr Squires said.

“The Emerald Link website even claims ‘Our vision is to protect the forests of the last unbroken forest wilderness area, on mainland Australia, that connects alpine forests to the rugged coastline to the sea’.

“The fact is that much of the so called wilderness area is actually regrowth forest from the logging 40 to 50 years ago.

“With the multiple use forest management approach, if government decides to fund a walking track in the forests of East Gippsland from mountains to the ocean it does not need to be at the exclusion of the production of timber products.”

East Gippsland would welcome more jobs to assist the local economy, but it does not need to be recreation or harvesting, it can be both, according to Mr Squires.

“The forests of East Gippsland have been managed successfully on a multiple use basis for decades and there is no reason that this cannot continue into the future,” he said.