Error puts forests in jeopardy

THOUSANDS of hectares of old-growth forest were at risk of being logged after the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water admitted some old-growth forests had erroneously been made available for logging.

A report released this week by the department found the implementation of protocols to protect old-growth forests on private land was ‘highly variable’, ‘problematic’ and had ‘resulted in some old growth being made available for harvest’.

North Coast Environment Council vice-president Susie Russell said the report confirmed the organisation’s worst fears.

“Old growth is disappearing from the maps,” Ms Russell said.

The environment council had been pushing for a review, which it claimed the department had resisted for years.

Landowners wishing to harvest timber on their property must apply for a property vegetation plan which identifies areas of rainforest and old growth, protected under the Native Vegetation Act.

Landowners can apply to have the property vegetation plan adjusted if it incorrectly identifies rainforests and old-growth areas where there are none.

However, Ms Russell claimed the system broke down because, although landowners were required to provide evidence the mapping was incorrect, this often did not happen.

Ms Russell said by extrapolating figures used in the report, it was possible as much as 6000 hectares of North Coast old growth had been remapped.

In response to the report, the department said it would immediately strengthen old-growth forest protocols for private native forestry.

The department said it would implement all four recommendations from the review, which were to acquire and use three-dimensional digital imagery when mapping vegetation, increase field work undertaken by assessing officers, conduct annual field calibration exercises and undertake peer review.

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