Timber industry calls for more prescribed burns, criticises West Australian state forest management

Timber industry calls for more prescribed burns, criticises West Australian state forest management 

15 January 2016

published by www.abc.net.au

Australia–The representative body for the West Australian timber industry has criticised state forest management after major bushfires.

Thousands of hectares of timber plantations were burnt during the Esperance fires in November and the Waroona fires, which have been contained and downgraded this week.

Forest Industries Federation of WA executive director Melissa Haslam said major fires had been more frequent since timber harvesting in old growth forests ended in 2001.

Ms Haslam said the state government had “dropped the ball” on forest management.

“We know there is a drying climate, which contributes to these things,” she said.

“But we also have an enormous amount of forest now that is just largely unmanaged [and] fuel loads have built up to dangerous levels.”

Ms Haslam said the timber industry used to operate in forests that have now been designated as nature reserves.

She said when there was a timber industry presence in native forests more work was done to manage bushfire risk.

“When we were managing forests for timber production, they were also inadvertently being managed for fires,” she said.

“We used to have manned forestry towers 24 hours a day.”

Ms Haslam denied that she was advocating for increased logging and timber production presence in native forests.

But she said the state government needed to do more to prevent fires from raging out of control.

“You could go in a strike a match and take it as it stands,” she said.

“Or you could go in and [thin], take the scrub out and put it to a better use.

The Department of Parks and Wildlife of WA (DPAW) is the state department responsible for native forest management.

The department provided written responses to the comments from Ms Haslam to ABC Rural.

A Parks and Wildlife spokesperson said management activities in natural reserves were undertaken in a manner consistent with conservation of native flora and fauna.

The spokesperson said the state government had committed an additional $20 million over four years in the 2015/16 budget for prescribed burn operations.

The spokesperson said since July 1, 2015 the department had prescribed burnt more than 131,000 hectares of land.

They said thinning operations were undertaken by the state-owned Forest Products Commission.

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