Pilliga pillaged: Mark Speakman needs to come clean on ‘ecological thinning’ 

The reaction to The Greens David Shoebridge’s comments on timber harvesting in the Pilliga forest confirm what environment groups have long suspected: that the timber industry sees ‘ecological thinning’ as a lifeline says the National Parks Association of NSW.

Recent ABC media stories have highlighted the appalling destruction of the Pilliga forest, the largest inland forest left in NSW, as a result of overestimates of wood supply by Forestry Corporation.

Loggers are being forced to cut trees that are simply too small which threatens the entire ecosystem of the Pilliga.

Overestimates of supply are nothing new for Forestry Corporation: in 2014 the taxpayer, via the then Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson, paid $8.55 million to Boral to ‘buy-back’ 50,000m3 of non-existent timber per year for five years. This was supposedly to ensure sustainability of supply (not, of course, environmental sustainability).

The Greens solution to the problem of plummeting wood supply is for the state government to transition the industry out of logging. Which, given the lack of timber and the stress this places on local communities[OS1] , seems like a reasonable solution.

But some mill owners, and recently Gunnedah Sire Council, have called for access to National Parks under the guise of ‘ecological thinning’. The premise of ecological thinning, contested by ecologists and environment groups, is that small-diameter cypress trees need to be removed to promote growth in other trees.

NPA Science Officer, Dr Oisín Sweeney, rejects this assertion: “it’s true that some areas of cypress forests become dense with saplings” he said;

“However, these areas account for under 15% of the Pilliga Forest and are a natural stage in the cycle of these forests,”

“National Parks are places where natural processes should drive the ecology, not humans. We know that both fire and floods will thin these forests for us. We need to think on bigger timescales.”

NPA CEO Kevin Evans said: “years of work and consultation went into creating the system of reserves and State Forests in the Pilliga—not to mention tens of millions of dollars in compensation”

“The citizens of NSW have a right to expect that their National Parks are places where they can be assured of an experience with nature, not a log truck,”

“These latest calls for access to protected areas to increase timber supply tells us what we long suspected: that the O’Farrell report into ecological thinning was a sop to allow double dipping under the guise of management to prop up a dying industry,”

“This has dragged on too long. [Environment Minister] Mark Speakman needs to come clean to both the loggers and the NSW community about ecological thinning: it’s a bad idea under a false premise and it needs to be ditched if this government has aspirations of environmental credibility.”

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