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Ancient Southwest forest spared the chainsaw this year but protection must become permanent

Karri trees up to 500 years old in the state’s Southwest will be given a reprieve from logging by the McGowan Government as the ‘two-tiered’ Karri forest was removed from the Forest Product Commission’s annual logging plans for the next 12 months.

Conservation groups are welcoming the move which was confirmed in a letter from Forestry Minister Dave Kelly, but the groups are warning that the forests and the wildlife they contain will come under threat again in the future unless the protections are made permanent.

The ‘two-tiered’ classification is given to Karri forests west of Bridgetown to the south of Northcliffe exhibiting characteristics of old-growth forest, with a mix of ancient and younger trees and a complex understory. Due to the presence of a small number of stumps from selective cutting by hand before clear-felling practices were introduced, the areas do not qualify for protection under the narrow definition of ‘old growth’.

CCWA Director Piers Verstegen said it came as a shock to many West Australians to realise that ancient trees and old-growth forests were still being clear-felled because they did not meet the government’s narrow definition for protection.

“We strongly welcome Minister Kelly’s recognition that these beautiful forests have significant values for the community and for biodiversity, and we are grateful that these refuges for wildlife and biodiversity will be spared from the chainsaws and logging machines this year,” said Mr Verstegen.

“With plantation industries able to supply wood chips and timber products more efficiently, the destruction of native forests for loss-making native forest logging is not good stewardship of our resources and is having devastating effects on our wildlife and the environment.

“Two-tiered forests must be protected permanently so that these beautiful forests can provide homes for endangered wildlife, support tourism, and help tackle climate change.

Convener of the WA Forest Alliance, Jess Beckerling welcomed the move to take two-tiered forest off the logging plans.

“Temporary protections such as these are very often the first step in permanent protection and the WA Forest Alliance will continue to campaign for the two-tiered karri to be fully and securely protected, while we also work towards urgent protections for the South West's other native forests, particularly the remaining high conservation value jarrah forests.” Said Mrs Beckerling.  

“This freeze on logging applies to approximately 9000 ha of magnificent ancient karri forests that extend from west of Bridgetown to south of Northcliffe, fringing river systems and providing critical habitat for wildlife. They store huge volumes of carbon and maintain water quality and river health in the main karri belt of the South West. 

“There is some fine print. Individual old-growth trees in regrowth areas can still be logged, and small and irregularly shaped old-growth and two-tiered karri forests that don't meet the minimum area of two hectares can still be logged. We will continue campaigning for those trees and forests to be protected. 

“WAFA extends our sincere gratitude and congratulations to Minister Kelly for the best news for the forests in nearly 20 years”.

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