Forest thinning proving costly

Headshot of Nicolette Barbas
Nicolette BarbasSouth Western Times

Landowners and farmers are turning to “ecological thinning” to try and save forests in the South West of WA from fire and collapse but the definition of a word outlined in the Environmental Protection Act is making this process a costly one.

According to FIFWA Deputy Executive Officer Matt Granger, thinning removes a portion of smaller diameter trees to enable remaining trees to thrive.

“Besides competing for water, light and nutrients, the dense regrowth creates a major fire hazard,” he said.

“Besides being an intervention to boost the health and resilience of native forests to pests, diseases and climate change, ecological thinning has also been demonstrated to boost water yields in catchments and reduce fuel loads.”

Institute of Foresters and Australian Forest Growers spokesman John Clarke has been working with owners of private native forest in the South-West for a number of years and believes the current process for approval of ecological thinning in private native forest is cumbersome and costly.

“Unless they can get an exemption, a landowner or farmer has to pay $2000 to get a clearing permit and fill out a 9 page form to thin out the bush regrowth just so he can do a prescribed burn,” Mr Clarke said.

“They also have to pay top dollar to get a cockatoo tree habitat survey done, even though in this thinning process, any tree likely to have a hollow for cockatoos would be retained.

“This whole approach is poor and nonsensical.

“Reform of the approval process is needed to recognise that many private forest owners wish to manage their forests in ways that maintain health and productivity for the long term.”

The EP Act is being reviewed in Parliament and State shadow environment minister Steve Thomas has proposed an amendment in relation to clearing.

“I absolutely understand that clearing in environmental terms is an issue and that landowners need to protect their families and possessions and that is why I have moved this amendment,” Mr Thomas said.

“The paper work has gotten absolutely ridiculous, just to be able to allow a local bushfire brigade to oversee a burn in a dangerous piece of unburnt bush.

“It certainly is an issue across the South West and effectively impacts anywhere you have a reasonable amount of residual forest where that meets a population base – so almost the entire South West.”s

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