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NSW Red River gums gone in 50 years?

Sir (Hans) Wilhelm Ernst Hans Franz Heysen , OBE (8 October 1877–2 July 1968) was a well-known German Australian artist. He was particularly recognised for his watercolours of the Australian bush. He won the Wynne Prize for landscape painting a record nine times. Heysen was a conservationist far ahead of his time. He fought to preserve the flora of the Adelaide Hills—particularly the great red gums and white gums—and repeatedly warned of the dangers of destroying the natural environment. He also recorded the human activities of the region in great detail.

Hans Heysen's watercolours portrayed the river red gums as the guardians of inland Australia. He wrote: "The red gums in the creek beds fill me with wonder; their feeling of strength of limb, of vigour and life, suggest the very spirit of endurance."

Apparently, the “spirit of endurance” was no match for those in power who see not the forests but $$ in logging profits! If logging continues when 80 per cent of the landscape along the Murray has already been cleared, what is their future?

The NSW Labor government was once a conservation trailblazer. During the 1990s, forest management in eastern NSW was totally overhauled and in subsequent years millions of hectares of national parks were created towards a National Forest Policy targets for ecosystem protection in the escarpment and coastal forests and into the north-west.

However, even before the Victorian government’s outstanding decision to remove 90% of its forests from production, NSW forests provided five times the volume of timber compared to Victoria, from only 1.5 times the forest area.

This region is known to provide habitat for at least 69 plants and animals threatened with extinction, including species such as the Barking Owl, Regent Parrot and Southern Bell Frog.

National Resources Commission Report

Now a new Government report has painted a bleak picture for the future of the Riverina's iconic red gum forests.

A recent 260-page Natural Resources Commission (NRC) report finds the forests under serious stress, with many of the trees dead or dying and raises doubts about the capacity of some areas to continue to support wildlife.

The wetlands are a nationally important region recognised for sustaining large water-bird colonies. They form a part of the extensive lower Lachlan river wetlands and rely on river flows from the upper Lachlan, with the tributaries of the Belabula and Abercrombie Rivers.

If the drought conditions continue in line with climate change predictions, much of the existing forests that are home to numerous threatened species will not survive even in their current condition. The preliminary assessment of the forests was undertaken by the commission at the request of the Premier, Nathan Rees, following a long battle by environment groups to stop logging in the region.

The report says conditions in the Werai Forest are so bad that it could be gone within 50 years if drought conditions persist.

(dead red river gums - Wikimedia commons)

Gary Rodda, Forests NSW Riverina regional planning manager, said that in any given year about four per cent of the 110,000 hectares of river red gum available for harvest was selectively harvested.

“The red gum forests are sustainably managed for a range of social, economic, and environmental benefits that flow on to the community,” Gary said. “This harvesting process is carefully managed to ensure a patchwork of tree sizes and ages in the forest, which means there is a good selection of habitat for fauna and flora,” Gary said. Can anything in nature be harvested forever?

Recent History

In 2007 The non-government National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) alleged the Government had not completed the required environmental impact statement before allowing logging of red gum forests along the Murray River. In September, Primary Industries Minister Mr Macdonald suspended logging in the 11 red gum forest compartments the NPA had complained about. The NPA found two endangered species - koalas and the black-chinned honeyeater.

2008 , THE New South Wales Government was accused of illegally logging almost 20,000 hectares of listed red river gum wetlands in the Riverina. "An estimated 7202 hectares of Ramsar wetlands and 1043 hectares of superb parrot breeding habitat (were) being logged …or are planned for logging in the next three months." However, this was denied by Ian Macdonald! A truce was called when Mr Macdonald agreed to conduct an environmental impact statement (EIS) on the logging if the NPA dropped its legal action.

In May, 2009 , it was reported that A superb PARROT was about to cost 1000 workers their jobs because the Federal Government has ordered a NSW timber industry to shut to protect the bird! No mention that the parrot was under threat from logging its home, its habitat!

The Daily Telegraph then learned that Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett's department issued a stop-work order to the State Government, a move the industry claims could wipe out the entire southern NSW town of Deniliquin.

(swift parrot)

A Forests NSW briefing note obtained by The Daily Telegraph warned 11 sawmills would be forced to close overnight and 800 people would lose their jobs along with the closure of an industry worth $60 million to the NSW economy.

How often do we hear the argument of “jobs” and “economic benefits” to endorse environmental damage? The goalposts are continually moved in favour of communities and human benefits. It is a battle for the red gums vs a few short-term economic benefits and jobs that shouldn’t have been created in the first place. What about sustainability, often mentioned but rarely considered.

Tens of millions of paddock trees shelter livestock, nurture wildlife and save long-cleared farmland from appearing as bare as the desert. Surely if this devastation was caused by a “pest” species, shooters would be employed to “manage” them!

The Government in 2008 notes the National Parks Association report that has found a threatened species in the State's Red Gum forests. Detection of these species in State forests that have been managed for timber supply and grazing for many generations confirms that Forests NSW forest management practices are “environmentally sound”! Really? Nothing kills threatened species faster than loss of habitat.

The Ramsar listing that was supported by both the NSW and Federal Governments listed “timber harvesting” as one of the many uses of the Ramsar site. Maybe Ramsar needs to redefine conservation of wetlands.

UPDATE: August 2009
The Natural Resources Commission is undertaking an independent assessment of the River Red Gum Forests. This is a critical opportunity for us to press for the creation of new National Parks and as the NRC is accepting public submissions
The Red Gum forests act as filters for the river - if the New South Wales Government is serious about protecting the health of the Murray River, then it needs to protect our River Red Gums.

Write a submission for a new national park

Download a kit to write your own submission
for the creation of a new national park.

An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Forests NSW’s timber harvesting and associated road works in south-western NSW has gone on public exhibition today, Minister for Primary Industries Ian Macdonald said.

The EIS, prepared by independent consultants, covers red gum forests in the central Murray, lower Murray and Murrumbidgee, and includes the towns and surrounding communities of Deniliquin, Barham, Balranald, Narrandera and Darlington Point.

“Public submissions will be received by Forests NSW up until
The EIS can also be viewed and downloaded from the Department Industries’ website

Do “jobs” and “economic benefits” always have to win over the environment? The new national park should ensure a wildlife corridor for our diminishing waterbirds and other wildlife.

Email Premier Nathan Rees here by filling out the form


I would prefer to pay people to either do nothing, stand on their heads or do whatever they do well than to destroy the environment in the name of "jobs".

Four new national parks are set to be created in northern Victoria within weeks to protect river red gum forests.

The National Parks Bill was introduced to State Parliament last week and it will be debated early next month.

Under the plan 150,000 hectares of forest along the Murray, Goulburn and Ovens rivers will be protected and stock grazing and logging will be banned.

What is needed is NSW to do the same.

The National Parks Association alleges that Forests New South Wales engaged in bullying and intimidation by claiming that a reduction in logging operations would cause massive rural job losses.
NPA told Forests New South Wales the logging had to stop in the Murray-Mildura area, and all logging had to stop in the Ramsar-listed wetlands by May 31.

The same arguments of "job losses"! How will our environment survive the need for jobs when our population doubles (or more) by 2050?

Please fill in the form (link above) to send a supportive message to Premier Rees.

A final decision on River Red Gum National Parks is due by Tuesday, 2nd March, but there are no guarantees it will be a good one. (The Wilderness Society news)

The Minister for Forestry, Ian MacDonald, has said he does not agree with the recommendations of the Natural Resources Commission for large new National Parks and is working to undermine them.

Logging has to stop in the Millewa forest and the promised National Park of 42,000 hectares needs to go ahead in full. These ecosystems are too important for chainsaws to attack.

The full reserve areas recommended by the Natural Resources Commission need to be protected. Red gums help prevent soil salinity and help to protect the river system. They are all part of our national heritage.

Forget a Transition period that allows logging to continue - the trees need to be protected now. State parks should be incorporated into the National Parks system to protect our biodiversity, and ironically this year is the International Year of Biodiversity! This seems to be un-noticed in Australia.

Forests NSW are trying to open up new areas for logging in the Millewa forest!
Like the forest industries of Tasmania and Victoria, they are a law unto themselves and with their chainsaws, they have too much political power.

Please help stop this vandalism, and protect the habitat of our wildlife, and that of koalas!


The New South Wales Environment Minister Frank Sartor has announced government approval for 107,000 hectares of red gum protected areas in the state's Riverina.

About 80 per cent of the area will be protected immediately with the remaining area available for logging over the next five years.

A support package worth up to $80 million will be offered to affected communities.

ABC Online- Riverina red gums get protection from logging

The logging is to be phased out in 5 years. It should be phased out straight away, but at least this is as good a response that we could get from our leaders, a so-called "balanced" response for the community and environmental concerns.

Well done for all those who made an impact!

Will they also get some water?

According to ABC Online, the Deniliquin council says the decision will "cost jobs and hurt the local economy".

The same arguments keep coming up! The economy vs. conservation of essential and heritage ecosystems!

The council's general manager, Graeme Haley, says national parks will not necessarily save wetlands which are suffering from a lack of water. "We're replacing a $70 million per annum industry with a national park and a support package of up to $80 million over three years".

Red gum ecosystems along the Victoria-New South Wales border are teeming with unique plants, birds, marsupials and fish - including nationally listed threatened species that are recognised under Australian law. These trees possess deep sinker roots, hypothesised to grow down towards zones of higher water supply. These roots have extremely high rates of hydraulic conductivity, making them very effective in conducting water. They need periods of partial flooding where trunks are inundated for months. Seeds are washed to high ground during a flood and germinate to take root and grow before the next flood submerges the new tree.

There is a cycle of dependency - the trees need water and the water and biodiversity need the trees to function as filters and buffers (‘green lungs’) that are crucial to the healthy functioning of the Murray River and its tributaries, and include 84,000 hectares of wetlands of international significance under the Ramsar convention.

Old rotten limb hollows, or broken branches, provide nesting hollows for galahs, sulphur-crested cockatoos, gang-gang cockatoos, cockatiels and various parrots.

But these internationally significant Ramsar-listed wetlands are being seriously damaged by unnecessary water extraction and logging.

The executive director of the New South Wales Forest Products Association, Russ Ainely, says more than 500 people will lose their jobs. Sawmillers are apparently set to become the next endangered species! Considering that they are feral, an introduced rampantly reproducing invasive species, it maybe in the best interests of our long-term future, and the future of our life-supporting river system.

A spokesman for federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett says he is considering the NSW Government's decision and is seeking advice about the forests, especially the RAMSAR listed wetlands.

Now that Peter Garrett has been demoted from climate change rebate schemes, maybe he can actually concentrate on the "Environment" part of his portfolio!

Yet more government greed..Where will it end?.

The WA Government is embroiled in a new logging controversy with the revelation that a Dardanup forest containing 500-year-old jarrah trees will be logged and part of the timber burnt for charcoal.

Taxpayers stand to make as little as $160,000 from the sale of wood from 372ha of forest - about the size of Kings Park.

Locals claim the plan will destroy the last pocket of isolated, ecologically significant bush in the area, taking down some of the remaining centuries-old curly jarrah trees and endangering the rare western ringtail possum.

The Preston Environment Group says if the logging goes ahead they will consider a non-violent, human blockade to stop the felling.

The Government-run Forest Products Commission says the project's "stumpage value" for sale of the timber was expected to be between $160,000 and $240,000. Eight to 10 per cent of timber will end up as charlog.

Remaining regrowth, jarrah and marri logs will be used for high-value products such as flooring and furniture as well as for domestic firewood.

Under the FPC's plan, the remainder of the 1200ha forest will not be logged. The commission said it was likely a "significant portion" of the proposed logging area would not be harvested. But it was too early to say what size that area would be.

"To the extent that less area is deemed appropriate to harvest, the yield and value derived may be reduced," the commission said.

A commission spokesman said its harvest operations were strictly regulated by the Forest Management Plan and audited and certified to internationally-accepted environmental standards. He said it was not a case of simply wiping out the area in question.

Strict procedures were in place to make sure the forest would be regenerated and that the harvest would take place only in permitted areas.

While trees deemed "significant" will not be logged, the FPC could not say that the 500-year-old jarrahs would be saved.

Environment group chief Peter Murphy said the ecological significance of the area would be destroyed as logging equipment would clear vegetation to get access to the area.

Boyanup local Terry Lightfoot said the area was proposed for conservation in 1981 but the plan was never put in place. He said Australia already had the global record for wiping out native species and the logging would further endanger rare flora and fauna.

Forestry Minister Terry Redman said the Government was strongly committed to equitably balancing conservation and other uses of State forests.

"I am confident that both ecological and social values of the coupe were well understood by the Conservation Commission of WA during the development of the FMP," he said.

The logging will take eight to 10 weeks and is due to begin later this year.

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The NSW government has made a new 100,000 hectares of national park but logging is to continue for five years in some of the most vital parts of the Forests.

According to The Wilderness Society, ‘transition logging’ will continue in approximately half of Millewa Forest, which is the largest River Red Gum Forests and no plans have been made to reserve any of the Koondrook-Perricoota-Campbells Island group – which is the second largest.

Like Brown Mountain, some of the preserved areas were "cow paddocks" while the logging of old growth forests continue as not being of any "significance".

NSW Natural Resources Commission had recommended all of Millewa Forest be placed in National Park. The entirety of the regions forests are in an extreme crisis, with over 75% of trees stressed.

The Millewa Forest area is also one of the few that has not been extensively logged in the past 10 years.

This area is listed internationally as a significant site under the Ramsar Convention, is a Living Murray Icon, and provides likely habitat for at least 13 threatened species.

The Wilderness Society believes that the Millewa State Forest will be almost completely logged out at the volumes proposed.

Leaving "only" 20% of the area for the next five years as a transition to saving the Murray red gums sounds like a "balance" between community needs and conservation of an environmental icon, but without knowing the quality of what is being saved and what will continue to be destroyed by logging is deceptive.

A national park "is a large area of land which is protected by the government because of its natural beauty, plants, or animals, and which the public can usually visit." (Collins English Dictionary).

Logging is an incompatible ananthema, so NSW use of the term is deceptively misleading and inappropriate for its Riverina declaration. Sounds like Sartor-Keneally spin trying to have their cake (NP) and eat it (log it) too. Logging National Parks is like saving koalas by shooting them.

Such government greenwashing needs to be legislated to make it an offence against the public trust and so trigger no confidence government elections.

Sack the bastards!

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