Forests need foresters

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 lockups 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.

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

Aboriginals managed the whole landscape with fire — they burned grasslands and forests at irregular but frequent intervals.  They lit fires at any time for many reasons — grassland regeneration, wildlife hunting, tribal warfare, and firestick 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 neighbors 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 neighbors.  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 backfires to protect homesteads and other infrastructure.  Squatter fire management was far superior to aboriginal management for a settled Australia.

Then came the foresters with the motivation, equipment, and knowledge to protect forests, sawmills, 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 inquiry and ignore the findings."

Under bureaucratic forest management, new roads are banned, old roads are closed, dead timber and weeds are allowed to accumulate, and water catchments are choked with trees and lantana.  Graziers are locked out, and action is constipated by never-ending bushfire royal commissions; green-black corroborees; urban activists; and federal, state, and local bureaucracies.  Then, when flames are leaping through the treetops, money and water are wasted on flashy water bombers.  As a result, too many forests, animals, farms, and houses go up in smoke.

Australia's flora and fauna evolved to survive and thrive in the grasslands and open forests created in "the Land of Smoke."  They were not threatened by the many small fires of aboriginals or squatters.  But the infrequent megafires created by green policies in locked-up lands are a lethal threat to all forest-dwellers and their neighboring farms and towns.  It is time to open the sawmills, unlock the gates and roads, and put foresters back into the forests.

Even climate crusaders should support these reforms.  Logging will boost carbon capture as old slow-growing trees are replaced by vigorous new trees.  Fewer trees will be burnt in wildfires, thus minimizing release of CO2 to the atmosphere.  Harvested timber will store carbon in long-life houses, fences, bridges, power poles, and furniture, while treetops and trimmings will produce mulch, paper, and cardboard.  Renewable and recyclable timber can replace much steel smelted with the coal that greens detest.

Forestry will improve bushfire protection as foresters clear roads, add tracks, clean up flammable undergrowth, reduce fuel loads, maintain the equipment, and train workers to locate and isolate any fire outbreaks.

Image: Pixabay.

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