Cable Harvesting and the effect on Leatherwood Plantations

The coupe (or logging area) which this document talks about is WE008E.

This area has been harvested using high-lead cable harvesting between December 2003 and June 2004. WE008E is approximately 20km north of the intersection of Clear Hill Road and the Gordon Highway and overlooks Lake Gordon. When we visited in December 2003, the high-lead cable machine was in operation at a landing on the Southern side of this very leatherwood-rich coupe (almost every second tree was a leatherwood tree).

Despite the fact that the coupe was acknowledged by both beekeepers and Forestry Tasmania to be rich in leatherwood, Forestry Tasmania wanted to go ahead with logging. The only rule in the Forest Practices Code that is intended to retain leatherwood for beekeepers is to be found on p. 57 of the 2000 edition. This states that dense stands of leatherwood should be retained for beekeepers (apiarists) along streams by widening the reserves or creating reserves if they don’t already exist.

After much prompting and insistence by beekeepers, Forestry Tasmania agreed to try and retain leatherwoods (subject to safety considerations) in one of the Class 4 (small flowing streams) stream reserves of 10m on either side of the stream, on the Northern side of the coupe. The stream in question is marked in red on the Forest Practices Plan which can be seen in the following image together with a locality map so you can work out roughly where this coupe is.

Forestry Tasmania’s Cable Harvesting planner, Bernard Plumpton, and beekeepers’ representative, Simon Pigot, walked down the Class 4 stream in this gully, counting and marking with yellow tape all the leatherwood trees within 10m of the stream. The trees were grouped into three classes according to the approximate width of their trunk near the base.

The results were as follows:

Less than 20cmBetween 20cm and 40cmGreater than 40cm634834

The gully and surrounding areas were then harvested using the high-lead cable system with all its limitations between December 2003 and June 2004. The end result? Just one leatherwood out of the one hundred and forty five that were marked was left standing. Check the following pictures of the gully after harvesting.

looking down the gully that used to have 145 leatherwoods within 10m of the stream

Looking down the gully that used to have 145 Leatherwoods within 10m of the class 4 stream

another view of the gully that used to have 145 leatherwoods in it

Another view across the gully that used to have 145 Leatherwoods within 10m of the class 4 stream

When we brought this to the attention of the press in March 2005 (ABC Radio transcript), Forestry Tasmania at first denied that the area was particularly dense in leatherwood, then tried to tell the world that cables don't qualify as logging machinery (The Forest Practices Code says that the 10m streamside reserve should be a machinery exclusion zone). Forestry Tasmania finally denied any knowledge of the number of leatherwood trees in the Class 4 reserve, despite the fact that Bernard Plumpton, a Forestry Tasmania planner, had been in the gully and counted them with beekeeper representative, Simon Pigot.

Later, on ABC TV that night, Forestry Tasmania said that setting aside leatherwood when cable harvesting was too difficult and that instead they set aside leatherwood outside the coupe to compensate. If you observe the Forest Practices Plan for this coupe (WE008E) shown above, you can see that a small part of the coupe is labelled section 2. This section has not been logged, mainly because it had been logged some 30 years ago and was inaccessible from the nearest cable landing. If this is what Forestry Tasmania considers to be setting aside leatherwood outside the coupe, then it is inadequate - especially when compared to what has been logged inside the coupe.

There is no avenue for beekeepers to appeal or have independent review of this planning decision. Forestry Tasmania has vehemently opposed every attempt by the beekeepers to get access to a review or appeal process. Indeed, the only possible appeal process available at present, the Forest Practices Appeal Tribunal, is accessible only by loggers and land owners who are not happy with forest practices officers' amendments to their forest practices plans. Beekeepers have no right to access this appeals tribunals. See The Forest Practices legislation.

Ultimately, the whole process of clearfelling and burning maturing rainforest like that which used to be in WE008E, is not in the interests of beekeepers or the general community. We must continue our push for selective harvesting instead, and if it is found that selective harvesting can't be done safely, efficiently and economically on these steep areas, then the only alternative is to leave them alone!

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