Tuesday 10 May 2022

WA Forestry Minister’s timber yield claims refuted

Forestry Australia’s Western Australian Branch has refuted claims made by Minister for Forests Dave Kelly who suggested timber yields in WA’s forests are declining, that the state’s forests are no longer productive, and that the decision by the State Governments to end native forest harvesting is based on “science”.*

Chair of the WA Branch of Forestry Australia, Brad Barr said there was no available evidence to support the claims. “There is no available evidence in Western Australia to support the State Government’s claims that timber yields are declining and that WA’s State Forests are no longer productive,” Mr Barr said.

“Forestry Australia, representing scientists, professionals and growers who manage, study and care for our forests, wrote to Minister Kelly in March 2022 seeking evidence of this science. No answer has been forthcoming.

“It is the statutory responsibility of the Conservation Commission to provide advice to the Minister for the Environment about the level of sustained yield that could be provided by WA’s magnificent multiple use State Forests. To the best of our knowledge, the Conservation Commission provided no correspondence to Government to the effect that a conclusion could be drawn that “the science tells us that the industry is no longer sustainable.

“Forestry is a scientific discipline, informed by careful study of forest ecosystems. Critical to that is measurement of trees, to determine the rate of growth. Long term measurement plots have not shown that tree growth has stopped, despite the clear reduction in rainfall since the 1970’s.”

“Recent scientific research, published in the journal Climate Dynamics¹, concluded that the recent decline in rainfall in SW Western Australia since 2000 is not unusual in its magnitude or duration compared to rainfall variability over the past seven centuries. We’ve been lured into an invalid comparison period – the twentieth century was actually the wettest in seven centuries. The resilient forests of WA have survived and thrived in much drier conditions in the past.

“Forestry Australia notes that the 2014-2023 Forest Management Plan (FMP) document, and its various independent reviews (most recently in 2019) have all reiterated that the potential effects of climate change on the growth rate of jarrah and karri trees have been applied when projecting future yields. The FMP settings for future tree growth was “high climate change severity assumed”. And even then, a further ten-percent was deducted from calculated sustainable yields, just to be on the safe side².

“Actual measurements of tree growth conducted since have shown these predictions to be overly pessimistic, with actual tree growth being much higher in reality.

“The Minister may point to reduced sawlog yields and difficulty in meeting contract volumes as evidence.

“In reality, Government intercessions that cancelled planned harvests of high yield areas at short notice, overestimation of COVID impacts on forest product demand (predicted to subdue demand, but massive Commonwealth stimulus in fact exploded demand), under-resourcing of DBCA forest environmental planning, a shortage of harvest and haulage contractors, and recruitment gaps at the Forest Products Commission all conspired to make it difficult to harvest the long-term sustainable volumes that the forest scientists know are out there in our forests.

“Minister Kelly is receiving very poor scientific advice on the topic of forest productivity and impacts of climate change. Whatever advice he is getting, it is not coming from members of Forestry Australia.”

Media contact:
David Abbott
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*Minister for Forests Dave Kelly has stated that: “The decision by the State Government to end native logging, at the end of 2023, really is dictated by the science. Climate changes means that it does not rain the way it used to in the SW of WA, and that has had a profound impact on our native forests. The timber yield out of the forest, even if you wanted to continue the industry, is simply not there. That is what the science is telling us³.

Kelly, David, MLA, Minster for Forestry, interview with Andrew Collins, ABC Drive, Friday 6th May, 2022 starting at 1:35:00

¹Megadroughts and Pluvials in southwest Australia: 1350-2017 CE. O’Donnell, McCaw, Cook and Grierson (2021), Climate Dynamics.

²Page 89, WA Forest Management Plan.

³ Kelly, David, MLA, Minister for Forestry, interview with Andrew Collins, ABC Drive, Friday 6 May, 2022.