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Forests need foresters

By Viv Forbes - posted Wednesday, 21 July 2021


Green extremists plan to convert Australia into "tree heaven". They will bully this through, no matter what the cost.

Huge areas of forest are already converted to "locked-up-land" – national parks, world heritage areas, Kyoto protected trees, remnant vegetation, aboriginal reserves, wildlife habitat and corridors etc. Many lock-ups are so large and so poorly managed that they have become extreme bushfire hazards and a refuge for wild dogs, cats, goats, camels, pigs, lantana, groundsel and other weeds and pests.

Now Australia faces a shortage of timber for farms, industry, homes and furniture. While our vast forests lie idle or burnt, we import timber.

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Aboriginals and early settlers used forest timbers without asking permission from anyone.

Aboriginals used timber and bark for warmth, cooking, weapons, shields, and gunyahs. Settlers used bark, dead timber, slabs and logs in open fires, stoves, boilers, huts, sheds and bridges. Then with axes, saws, mauls and wedges they made split posts, rails and strainers for yards and fences. And foresters and sawmills produced sawn timber to build towns and cities.

Aboriginals managed the whole landscape with fire - they burnt grasslands and forests at irregular but frequent intervals. They lit fires at any time for many reasons – grassland regeneration, wildlife hunting, tribal warfare and fire stick maintenance. There were no burning permits or vegetation protection orders, no central plans and no fires were extinguished or mopped up.

Man-made fires were augmented by lightning strikes, and no one tried to put them out either. Fires were observed day and night by early explorers such as James Cook who recorded in his log in 1770:

" .. a point or headland, on which were fires that Caused a great Quantity of smook, which occasioned my giving it the name of Smooky Cape."

As Australia became more settled, squatters needed to protect fire-vulnerable fences, farm animals, machinery and homesteads as well as neighbours and towns. They soon learned to use fire with more care and planning. They used roads and firebreaks, took account of expected temperature, wind and vegetation conditions, and collaborated with neighbours. They aimed for annual cool-season burns. And when lightning or vandals lit dangerous fires at the wrong time or place, they fought fire with fire – using back-burns to protect homesteads and other infrastructure. Squatter fire management was far superior to aboriginal management for a settled Australia.

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Then came the foresters with the motivation, equipment and knowledge to protect their forests, sawmills, neighbours, equipment and villages. The sale of timber products funded effective forest management. Foresters made and maintained roads and tracks, built and manned fire lookouts, managed woody weeds and undertook fuel reduction burning.

But Australian foresters have been forced out of most forests which are now in the hands of green zealots.

The new forest policy is – "control everything, debate endlessly, allow nothing and do nothing. Then, when everything burns, call an enquiry and ignore the findings."

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About the Author

Viv Forbes is a geologist and farmer who lives on a farm on the Bremer River.

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