The national body representing hundreds of forest and environmental scientists, the Institute of Foresters of Australia (IFA), has today delivered its verdict on the campaign being run by activists to close Victoria’s hardwood forests to the timber industry.
The IFA has announced that there is little scientific backing to support this campaign, which is focusing on the status of the Leadbeater’s Possum.
The IFA’s findings support the views of other scientists who have indicated that the creation of a large new national park – effectively closing down the hardwood timber industry of Victoria – will have next to no impact on overall possum numbers.
The IFA report says that the Leadbeater’s Possum has suffered mostly because of a number of previous catastrophic bushfires and suitable habitat will increase over the next ten to twenty years, providing conditions for the population to rebuild.
The IFA says the comprehensive set of actions recommended by the Leadbeater’s Possum Advisory Group in 2014, such as increased use of nesting boxes, should be given a chance to show results.
The IFA report points out that earlier population assessments may well have underestimated numbers. The Victorian Government is already reporting more positive population data. For example, in recent surveys, 36% of sites revealed possum colonies and evidence that 219 nesting boxes are being used. (Victorian Legislative Assembly questions on notice #332-339: http://qon.parliament.vic.gov.au/PARLIAMENT/general/qon/prod/qon.nsf/Search.xsp)
Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) Mr Ross Hampton said, “This is a welcome contribution by scientists who truly understand the nature and complexity of our natural forests. They understand the interplay of biodiversity, fire, pests, and sustainable forestry operations which harvest trees and then carefully prepare and regenerate these areas with the seeds of the local native species.”
“This is also great news for the policy makers who must deliberate on this issue. The Victorian forest, wood, and paper products industries support some 21,000 jobs right across the value chain. Victoria is still reeling from the loss of vehicle manufacturing and regional unemployment is soaring in some parts. It is vital that the Leadbeater’s Possum’s future is secured, and equally important that the forest, wood, and paper product industries have certainty to invest and grow jobs,” said Mr Hampton.