Logging in WA’s South West

Recently I took part in a guided tour of our remaining native Karri forests with the West Australian Forest Alliance . I remember visiting these forests as a child, it is always inspiring. The first time I climbed the Gloucester tree near Pemberton I was barely in my teens. At 72m tall, the Gloucester tree was the highest 14-year-old me had ever been.

Clear Felling in WA's Challar Forest

When I heard the new Forest Management Plan will double the scale of logging in our remaining Karri forests (1), I wanted to see the implications of this for myself. I knew it would be painful to see, but I had to go. I had to bear witness and share the tragic reality of clear-felling with you.

Only 10% of our native Karri forest remain today, BEFORE logging expands.

After what I witnessed I have no doubt this new plan, if allowed to continue, will leave us with no pristine Karri forest left. It’s no wonder activists have begun taking direct action to halt the destruction (1,2,3).

I am very glad they have.

We’re not talking a few trees here, we’re talking about the whole forest.

The whole forest is destroyed during clear-felling, the trees are virtually all chopped down, the undergrowth intentionally stomped with machinery. Once the process is complete and no wood remains to be logged, the area is set on fire.

From canopy to understory, to soil and, eventually, to river systems, the destruction is all consuming. I can barely imagine how we might damage the ecosystem more if we tried.

All that remains are a few ‘habitat trees’, required to be left behind at a rate of 5 trees per hectare in mixed Karri/Jarrah forests, and only 2 trees per hectare in Karri only areas (1).

This rate of retention is not nearly high enough to maintain a healthy forest canopy, let alone support the wide variety of native birds and other unique wildlife whose survival has depended upon these forests for thousands of years.

Even the chosen ‘habitat trees’ are often damaged during the logging.

In the short term felled forest are left with no canopy to provide shade, vital to maintaining moisture levels of rich forest soils. As the soils dry out they release methane, carbon, and are drained of nutrients.

In the tracks of earth moving equipment used during felling – extreme soil degradation becomes evident immediately. Soils held together for centuries by year-round moisture now rapidly turn to mud.

In Challar Forest the next heavy rains will wash now muddy soils of recently clear-felled forests into our south-west’s last remaining pristine river systems around Deep River.

Why isn’t this better regulated?

Why is the forestry industry NOT subject to the same wildlife conservation laws and environmental standards required of the mining and tourism industries? It sure should be. No industry should be exempt from environmental regulations.

We all have an obligation to preserve our ecosystems for future generations. Especially those receiving public funding in a democratic society.

It doesn’t even make cents (or sense).

Did I mention native forest logging actually COST taxpayers in Western Australia more than $20 million last year? Yes, you read correctly.

According to the Conservation Council of Western Australia, the Barnett Government LOST $20 million subsidising the clear-felling of native forests in 2012(1).

It makes no sense for us to continue logging native forest. No logical argument stands to show this industry is more beneficial to the state than it is damaging and expensive.

On the other hand, maintaining our native forests offers a significant no-risk income stream in the form of carbon credits, and real sustainable jobs in the fields of tourism, agriculture and forest management.

It is time the State Government stepped up and put a blanket ban on the logging of our remaining native forests and extended environmental protection laws to fully cover the logging industry.

Lets keep our remaining forests beautiful for future generations.

Support the West Australian Forest Alliance and join the fight to stop the logging of WA’s remaining native Karri forests.

12 thoughts on “Logging in WA’s South West”

  1. Thank you for writing this article, the pictures send a shock-wave home to us here. Evoking a quick response in us, and a need to take action against this. We visited there just last year and were so proud that such an Enchanting Forrest stands so strong and tall. Immune from all the destruction, and far away from the harsh, throw away, unappreciative society that surrounding cities hold. I felt so grateful to these trees sheltering us from the sounds of traffic, and nurturing the true existence of Mother Earth. So this has really affected me hearing this. We need to take a stand and protect the trees. The simple fact is that we, human beings need trees to survive as well as wildlife and the eco system. Everyone needs to understand and respect that.

    1. Thanks for the comment Charley, I look forward to working together with you and the West Australian Forest Alliance crew to put a permanent end to this.

  2. We hardly understand the ‘life of plants’. As a result, our clear-felling of Karri and its understory is likely to be more destructive than we ever thought was possible. Below is an excerpt from Michael Pollan’s excellent summary of the leading edge of plant science and how “mother plants” can help the ecosystem benefit collectively from the available nutrients, including those provided by fungi in the “invisible community”…

    “The pattern of nutrient traffic showed how “mother trees” were using the network to nourish shaded seedlings, including their offspring—which the trees can apparently recognize as kin—until they’re tall enough to reach the light. And, in a striking example of interspecies coöperation, Simard found that fir trees were using the fungal web to trade nutrients with paper-bark birch trees over the course of the season. The evergreen species will tide over the deciduous one when it has sugars to spare, and then call in the debt later in the season. For the forest community, the value of this coöperative underground economy appears to be better over-all health, more total photosynthesis, and greater resilience in the face of disturbance.

    In his talk, Mancuso juxtaposed a slide of the nodes and links in one of these subterranean forest networks with a diagram of the Internet, and suggested that in some respects the former was superior. “Plants are able to create scalable networks of self-maintaining, self-operating, and self-repairing units,” he said. “Plants.”
    See: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/12/23/131223fa_fact_pollan?currentPage=all
    … for the whole story in the New Yorker.
    We are yet to understand Karri forest, but we are prepared to put it at risk of extinction because of our greed for short term profit (or is it a taxpayer loss?). Either way, future generations will judge the policy of clear-felling Karri forest as … stupid.

    1. Well said Glenn, the web of life’s symbiotic interactions occurring all the time are so important. There is still so much we can learn…

  3. What a disgrace!!!
    just goes to show how far removed from reality our politicians are. What are they going to tell their kids – we used to have forests but our legacy to you was the wanton destruction of the last remnants of forest in Western Australia so we could gain a few votes.
    Great stuff Mr. Barnett & co. hope you’re all proud of yourselves for selling out not only the taxpayer, but Australia’s heritage as well.

  4. They have just done research that ‘proves’- the reason we are now having less rainfall ; is because we now have less trees !!
    Seriously!! How many of us; who have just lived and loved and understood the forests and nature, could have told them that long ago- from logic and reasoning ,without having to ‘research’ it!
    But will governments listen?!! Redundant question, of course.!
    I could preach to the converted here but you all know the arguements and reasonings. Thank you for all the activism that is trying to save the remaining remnants of forest we have left. May you all stay safe and strong.

  5. Increasing the logging quotas is a crazy step backwards, especially when the Northern Forests at least are suffering disease and deterioration due to drought stress and the other impacts of a changing climate. The decline in rainfall on the darling Scarp has been well documented by the Water Corp and others over the last 40 years at least.

    When the Gallop government stopped logging in old growth forests in March 2001, it was a huge step forward for forest conservation. Sure, there were arguments about what constituted “old growth forest”, which coups should be “in” and which should be “out”, whether the cuts to the quota were big enough, etc. Despite all the arguments at the time, many saw it as a very positive step forward in what has been a long journey of many steps.

    Another aspect of the “Protecting Our Old Growth Forests” Policy at the time was the downsizing of the native hardwood timber industry by the government buying back contracts for logs and paying those companies to exit the industry. Controversial as it was for the impact on regional towns and communities, the closure of long term family businesses, and questions about the selection and allocation of contracts to the remaining companies – the extent of the social dislocation was less than had been feared and the number of players in the industry was greatly reduced. A far cry from the period just before the outbreak of the First World War when there were over 100 sawmills being fed by massive logging activity, and native timbers were one of WA’s biggest export income earners as we fed the Empire’s voracious appetite for hardwood timber.

    A third significant aspect of the policy was requirement for all the timber logged to be “high value added”. This brought about the end of the use of jarrah as a roofing and stud wall material, and was to bring to an end the use of jarrah for railway sleepers, etc.

    Here we are over a decade later. The stated intentions of that policy in 2001 were unravelling just about as soon as it all started to be rolled out, and the unravelling has been intensifying as time has gone by. The use of jarrah for railway sleepers is increasing. Whole jarrah logs are being sent in shipping containers to Vietnam and other cheap labour countries in our region, to be processed and imported back into Australia as cheap garden furniture and other products. This is hardly “high value adding” in the true sense for Western Australia. engineered flooring. The use of jarrah in building and construction framing and roofing has been replaced more by steel then by plantation timbers. How does that make sense from an energy sustainability point of view? Meanwhile whole plantation forests of eucalypts in the Great Southern Region are being bull-dozed because there is no “viable market” for the timber. People in Perth are using rain forest timbers for their decking, etc. If you listen carefully you can hear the orang-utans screaming.

    There is an elephant in the room. Every single day dozens of houses in Perth are being smashed up with excavators in the name of urban infill and/or to replace them with energy hungry McMansions made of high energy materials like concrete, steel, aluminium and glass. These demolished houses, from 40 to 140 years old, contain massive amounts of jarrah and karri. These were old growth trees. Who is speaking for these trees? Very little of this timber is salvaged to be used again. Most of it is going into landfill – to slowly break down releasing green house gases for decades to come. Why are we not protesting about the waste of this fantastic resource? Why do we allow developers to just dispose of this fantastic timber when it could be high value added – recycled, creating employment and honouring these trees cut down long ago? Unless wood rots or is eaten by insects, it can be recycled and re-used again and again for centuries or even millennia. Not bad for such a wonderful low energy material. Who is speaking for these Old Growth Trees which fell long ago but which live on through their timber?

    Our existing native forests need to be protected and conserved for future generations. The trees which have built this State, which we all take for granted, require our respect for all time – even after the tree has long been felled. Trees past and present need to be honoured. Don’t omit to see the elephant in the room.

  6. Thanks so much for your emotive call-to-action article Luke.

    When will people realise WE ARE NATURE. It is not ‘us’ and ‘nature’. Living in dependent harmony with our planet, read: ‘Life-support system’, is so natural we see all other animals doing this. We have no right to destroy the natural systems for our future generations, other animals and forests. We are making ourselves sick by making our planet sick. Getting out into nature is one way to realise the stuff we are made of. It feels great to feel that intimate connection and dependency. It feels great to realise what matters. I believe people who abjectly destroy nature are scared of their dependency on it, because it makes them realise they can’t control their existence. Almost the psychology of ‘Let’s erase that reminder that I am a vulnerable animal.’ People who care for nature have grown up and realize that embracing nature and taking responsibility for the caring of nature is also embracing and nourishing ourselves.



  7. Only heard yesterday that the Karri forest is being eliminated.
    Seems the same puppet masters are in control in Victoria too. . .same modus operandi with their ALL IS WELL bulldust.
    What rateof growth does a Karri have ? being so dense I would have thought it was extremely slow? So HOW can this be a “sustainable” industry ?

  8. There will always be proponents for and against. Logging will not cease until building designs change (which they are). It is interesting to note the 100 year forest out in Eastbrook not far from the chipmill between Pemberton and Manjimup. This is a forest which was clear felled and replanted. It was the site for the first broadacre crop in the lower south west which means it was brought back to naked ground. Today it is a magnificent example of forestry management regardless of anyone’s personal point of view. Forestry is farming on a massive scale. Introduction of blue gum shows how a rejuvenative resource can be utilised with management. I read your post and thought it to be very emotive. It was a good read.



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