Senator pressures pollies to cancel forest harvest

STATE Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon said she understands the community’s frustration behind moves to log Ferny Forest, but said the ultimate decision is a matter for the Department of Agriculture.

The State Government proposed in late 2021 to harvest up to 50% of the 129-hectare Beerwah State Forest, also known as Ferny Forest, and comes two years before the forest will be converted to national park status becoming protected from harvesting.

 “I understand that obviously there’s a lot of people in the community who
have very strong views and they have
been put forward to Minister Furner, ultimately the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries will be the decision makers,” Minister Scanlon said.

“We do have a code of practice that has really strict restrictions on how logging can occur, and of course we also have committed to 20,000 hectares of that forest including that area being transitioned into a protected area estate by 2024.

“So, I think that is really good going forward but I do appreciate that people have really strong views around what’s happening in that interim period, that’s ultimately a decision for Mr Furner’s department and I know that he’s taking on a lot of those community concerns.”

Minister Scanlon’s comments came after Greens Senator Larissa Waters wrote to state ministers and local councillors urging them to cancel plans to harvest the forest.

Senator Waters wrote to three ministers including Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Minister Mark Furner and Ms Scanlon in late June, reflecting community concern that nearly 65 hectares and trees up to 600 years old could soon be logged. Senator Waters reflected community opposition to the logging, writing that opponents saw it as a cynical and “last-ditch effort to make a buck before the protections come into place on 31 December 2024”.

“It has taken decades for this forest to recover from the last logging, and it now faces increased threats from climate change, invasive weeds and exotic fungi, namely phytopthora and myrtle rust. Consequently, there is an enormous risk that the forest, which hosts at least 190 native plant species, will not be able to recover this time,” she wrote.

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries has repeatedly insisted that no decision has been made to log Ferny Forest despite an ‘Intention to Harvest’ notice posted at the site of the forest in late 2021.

Senator Waters said many factors were in play that should see plans to log scrapped, including the fact the forest is listed as core koala habitat.

“In February the status of koalas in Queensland was raised from vulnerable to endangered,” Sen Waters wrote.

“The South East Queensland Koala Conservation Strategy 2020–2025 states that core koala habitat forests are prohibited from being logged, with no mention of state forests. However, this forest is not a monoculture plantation, it is a native forest, and the Queensland Government itself has identified Ferny Forest as core koala habitat.”

The Senator also noted that First Nations Gubbi Gubbi people had also asked that the forest be preserved due to the cultural significance of the site. She added that the decision to log was a clear example of the “weakness of our current environmental protections laws”.

“To allow this forest to be destroyed to make power poles would be devastatingly short-sighted,” Senator Waters wrote.

“(It) would fail the Traditional Owners, diverse and endangered plant and animal life, local Sunshine Coast constituencies and visitors to the Forest, and Queensland Government policy.”

“I strongly urge the Queensland Government and Sunshine Coast Council to prevent this proposal from going ahead, and I ask that you use your office to oppose this logging.”