This week I attended a discussion forum on the protection of forests in the south west of Western Australia, organised by the Conservation Council of WA and the WA Forest Alliance. This event saw the launch of a position statement from 36 international scientists regarding the 2014-2023 Draft Forest Management Plan currently under review by the EPA.
The forests are under unprecedented environmental pressures and continued disturbance from industrial-scale logging. These pressures include the spread of forest pathogens, soil compaction and erosion, destruction of threatened species habitat, uncontrolled fires, and fragmentation. The magnitude of these pressures may be exacerbated by current and future climatic changes. The new FMP must acknowledge and reduce these pressures in order to protect ecosystem services and integrity.
In the statement the authors recommend a list of measures to be incorporated into the plan, including, but not limited to:
- protection of critical habitat for threatened species
- additional corridors linking refuge areas
- improved protection of areas free from dieback
- valuing the forests as a carbon store
Much of the discussion focused on big issues like forest thinning, water catchment management, prescribed burning and wildfire. A/Prof Mike Calver from Murdoch University discussed the history of forest management, highlighting that the preservation of forest integrity has always come second to social pressures and the economy of forestry.
It is therefore pertinent to ask: will the new FMP provide the south west forests with sufficient protection from increasing environmental and climatic pressures?