Academic journal article The Economic and Labour Relations Review : ELRR

How Often Should Native Forests Be Logged? A Case Study on the Eden Management Area

Academic journal article The Economic and Labour Relations Review : ELRR

How Often Should Native Forests Be Logged? A Case Study on the Eden Management Area

Article excerpt


In recent years there has been much debate surrounding the use of our natural environment. Politically, the issue of environmental degradation has been of major significance, reflecting growing community concern over environmental issues. In 1992, the Federal and State governments signed the National Forest Policy Statement. This statement included a moratorium agreement which stated 'until assessments are completed, forest management agencies will avoid activities that may significantly affect those areas of old growth forest or wilderness that are likely to have high conservation value'.

In 1994, heated debate arose over the Federal Resource Minister's renewal of export woodchip licences against the advice of the Federal Minister for the Environment For over three months, the logging debate was front page news with public protests held by both Conservation and Timber Industry groups. The Federal Government lost much of its environmental credibility over the debacle, and was confronted with legal action over its renewal of licences. In an attempt to soothe public anger, the Federal Government established a programme of reassessment based on Preferred Logging Areas.

In New South Wales, controversy has arisen over the New South Wales Forestry Commissions' decision to ignore the Preferred Forest Areas reassessment programme. This defiance of Federal Government policy has meant that logging has continued in virtually all of the forest areas in the South-East Forests. An AGB McNair poll published in the Sydney Morning Herald in February 1995 found that around 65 percent of people surveyed opposed logging of previously unlogged areas.

The question central to this debate is: how often should our native forests be logged, if at all? Traditionally this question has been addressed by examining only the economic returns of the forest's timber. This investigation expands previous work by incorporating economic, environmental and intergenerational concerns of how often to log into an optimal harvest analysis. The harvesting operations in the Eden Management Area are examined as a case study. The resulting optimal harvest period is used to assess the sustainability of the New South Wales State Forestry Commission's current management practices in the Eden area. It is hoped that this analysis may then be used as a more general methodology for assessing logging operations throughout Australia.

Australia's Old Growth Forests

Although the use of Australia's Old Growth forests has been the source of much heated debate, (1) it is interesting to note that no generally accepted definition of what constitutes an 'Old Growth forest area' exists. Amongst the myriad of characteristics that Old Growth areas possess, there are a few easily identifiable characteristics that most of these areas exhibit. These include a high degree of structural diversity produced by a number of vegetation strata, low levels of disturbance to the natural environment and a predominance of large, mature aged trees. (2)

The Commonwealth Government of Australia, in its 1992 National Forest Policy Statement, defines old growth forests as a 'forest that is ecologically mature and has been subjected to negligible unnatural disturbance [such as logging, reading and clearing]'. (3) This definition focuses on forests in which the upper stratum, or overstorey, is in the late mature to over mature growth phase, however, it places only limited emphasis on the 'non-timber' values associated with a mature standing forest.

Within this analysis however, Old Growth areas are identified in accordance with standard New South Wales State Forestry Commission (State Forests) policy. State Forests recognises Old Growth areas as areas that are 'both negligibly disturbed and ecologically mature and have high conservation and intangible value[s]'. (4) The majority of trees within the forest must also be in the latter stages of their growth cycle. …

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