Australian Bushfires: Ash to ash, Dust to Dust...


Green to Ostrich?
An Open Letter on Victorian Bushfires

Many rural Victorian people applied to cut trees down close to their houses for a fire safety barrier, but Green protests stopped that happening. Some houses are gone now.

The Government wanted to winter control burn to reduce fuel but the Greens blocked them. The fuel is gone now.

The Government wanted to production thin more stands for health and to get bigger trees, but the Greens stopped them. Unthinned stands need no thinning now.

Recently the Greens forced a halt in logging in Victoria because a possible rare animal was seen in the area. More than one million native animals have died in the fires this week.

The Greens have forced hundreds of thousands of hectares of good productive forest into reserves and parks. Now hundreds of thousands of hectares of these reserves are charcoal and ash.

The Greens fret about CO2 emissions. Millions of tonnes of CO2 have been released since Sunday last. Who is to blame for that? It is not the coal producers this time.

The Greens criticize hardworking forestry workers for damaging the environment. They will not have to worry so much in future, as many are dead.

And what are the Greens now saying about it all? Nothing! They have gone to ground, or underground - where they should maybe stay.

Within weeks they will emerge again to continue to disrupt the legitimate activity of the forest industry and to help set the scene for the next tragedy. Isn't it high time the government had the sense to put a stop to this nonsense once and for all? In fact Green leaders should be charged with complicity to destroy lives and property.

But I doubt they will be.

Dennis Neilson
Dennis Nielson - Dana Ltd - Pulpwood and International Forestry Advisers - International forestry consulting firm providing information services for pulpwood and forestry, investment advice and market analysis studies

¿Los avestruces verdes?
Una Carta Abierta sobre los Incendios Forestales en Victoria (Australia)

Muchos habitantes de la Victoria rural solicitaron licencia para la corta de árboles demasiado próximos a sus viviendas, pero las protestas de los ecologistas impidieron que así sucediese. Algunas de esas viviendas ya no existen.

Las autoridades australianas quisieron efectuar campañas de quemas controladas preventivas durante el invierno para reducir la carga de combustible, pero los ecologistas bloquearon la iniciativa. Ahora ya no hay combustible.

Las autoridades australianas qusieron someter algunos rodales a claras productivas por motivos de sanidad de la masa y para obtener árboles remanentes de mayor diámetro, pero los ecologistas detuvieron el proceso. Algunos de esos rodales ya no necesitan aclareos, pero no han sido productivos.

Recientemente los ecologistas forzaron un parón en la actividad de cosecha de madera de Victoria porque "un posible animal raro" había sido avistado en la zona. Más de un millón de animales nativos han muerto en los incendios de esta semana.

Los ecologistas habían forzado que cientos de miles de hectáreas de buen bosque productivo fuesen declaradas reservas y parques. Ahora, cientos de miles de hectáreas de estas reservas se han convertido en carbón vegetal y en ceniza sin valor.

Los ecologistas se vuelven locos con las emisiones de CO2. Millones de toneladas de CO2 han sido liberadas a la atmósfera desde el pasado Domingo. ¿A quién le van a echar la culpa de ello? Esta vez no es de la industria del carbón.

Los ecologistas critican abiertamente a los trabajadores del sector forestal por "dañar el medio ambiente". Quizás no tengan tanto de preocuparse en un futuro, porque muchos de ellos han muerto en las llamas.

¿Y qué están diciendo los Verdes sobre todo esto? Absolutamente nada. Se han tirado al suelo, o han seguido la estrategia del avestruz. Quizás es ahí donde deban estar.

Sin embargo, dentro de unas semanas, esos mismos avestruces emergerán de nuevo para continuar entorpeciendo la actividad legítima de la industria forestal y para colaborar en la creación del escenario perfecto para la siguiente tragedia ¿No es tiempo de que el gobierno de Australia tenga el sentido común para detener este sinsentido de una vez por todas?

De hecho, quizás algunos líderes ecologistas deberían ser acusados de complicidad en la destrucción de vidas y de propiedades. Pero dudo mucho que así suceda.

Dennis Neilson
Dennis Nielson - Dana Ltd - Pulpwood and International Forestry Advisers - International forestry consulting firm providing information services for pulpwood and forestry, investment advice and market analysis studies

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6 Comments by our readers :::

Phil in Sydney said...

I'm disappointed you would publish a letter promoting self-interest ahead of ecological issues.
Fire management has nothing to do with the "legitimate interests" of loggers. Nor have green groups ever stopped householders from clearing firebreaks around their properties.

Gus - Eucalyptologics said...

Thanks Phil! I am too far away to make anything but general comments, since I know some of what happens around our periodic fire events, but not too much about yours, beyond what the media have said.

We decided to publish Dennis' letter not because of the wording, but because of the ideas. Some of those ideas sound pretty much like a logical hammer.

As example, I do not think anyone with some knowledge can "say no" to the need of federal or state parks, reserves of any type and "no intervention areas" for ecological preservation.

But it is quite probably also true that the "leave it untouched, not a log, not a road, not a..." thinking, when becoming the main and only policy is as stupid as the "freeway to total spoilage".

For those areas which have become ash and smoke, and which kept some valuable forestry resources if allowed to be sustainably harvested, the chance is gone.

When a good thought ("let's preserve") becomes exclusive ("let's not let anyone touch it"), forgetting ecosystems are resilient ("they regenerate after catastrophe or major change, be it logging, be it fire")... it can end up, after things like these recent fires... in a giant cost of opportunity!

Because that is what happens. Conservation is necessary, but costs money. Even without a catastrophe like this year. Productive options may not apply to the 100% of available land, but each hectare creates money!

Phil, ecology and environmentalism are two different things. When "being Green" becomes politics, sometimes the later takes actions that forget (intentionally or not) the former.

The turnover largely depends on the quality of those politicians involved.

Maybe the base thought of Dennis' letter is simply an expression of how fragile everything we human design is. Decades of human-driven protected areas have evaporated, with most of the pieces of the ecosystems around them. Millions in potential timber value are also gone.

Will it be the end? No. But maybe it is a good example of nature "resetting" the scenario. And a good one also showing that some "predictions of doom" have no base.

If regeneration happens, as it will, after these fires... then productive forestry, with minimal measures to aim to sustainable production, are quite surely not going to ever cause widespread irreversible environmental impacts.

sean said...

I am agreement with Phil from Sydney, it is very disappointing that you decided to publish such a diatribe, particularly given the degree of human suffering that resulted from the fires.

It is absolutely appropriate and desirable to raise and discuss all of the issues connected to the past and future management of forests in Victoria or indeed any of our states, however I would have thought it is important to try to base such discussion on facts available to anyone who cares to engage any of the National Parks Service, the Rural Fire Service, the Bush Fire CRC, or the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council rather than the ill informed rantings provided by Dennis.

Gus-Eucalyptologics said...

Thanks for your comments Sean! I think it is healthy to show as many angles as possible on the effects of such natural disasters. Obviously, human suffering is the most visible effect (mostly because "it sells well" for the media), but it surely is not the only one. And it is surely not the longer-lasting impact either.

When large tracts of land are devastated like this not only life and property are destroyed.

Investments are destroyed too. Particularly impacting, those related to rural employment via primary industries and their associated industrial chains.

Forestry and timber industry in Victoria is one of those greatly affected. Be the forestry happening in crown land, leased land or private land, be it plantation forestry, native managed forestry or conservation forestry. Each burnt acre is burnt money, regardless of the "possibility to harvest it" (so, degree of protection) before the fires happened.

And such money belongs to someone. But more importantly, the added value that is now lost (even a bigger cost of opportunity), also belongs to someone!

So, be sure, there are many looking at those who make a policy of exaggerating the environmental impacts of the most profitable forms of forestry. Impacts that are nothing compared to the ways of nature.

Those tend to be the same ones that seldom look at the "hidden" economic impacts of their proposals to "protect things".

Each burnt acre is burnt money. Any "harvestable" acre of those would have produced money if (sustainably) harvested before the fires. More than once.

I think that thought should be well visible from Australia, NZ, Europe, America or wherever. Dennis spotted that neatly. I do not think that means anyone is telling Victorians how to manage Victoria :-)

sean said...

Hi Gus, one can only hope that the final deliberations from the Royal Commission led by Justice Teague will reflect a greater understanding of the three tiers of legislation that determine forest management in Victoria (as in other states) than is displayed in the original letter you published.

Trying to foster blame for the negative outcomes of the fire whether loss of human life, or destruction of vegetation asset, on one political actor is naive at best, certainly deliberately provocative and definately not what I would describe as a neat observation.

Gus - Eucalyptologics said...

Well Sean, I am pretty sure the cost of the Royal Commision inquiry is no cost, but investment in a better future.

What I wonder is if the direct and indirect cost of countless environmental campaigns (within and outside the boundaries of Australia) will yield or not a better understanding (for the average citizen) of the three tiers that determine sustainable forest management anywhere.

In other words, if they are cost or investment.

The strategy Dennis followed in that speech (deliberately, I would bet, since he is an old fox ;-)) follows quite accurately the same line of thought and action (of course, reversed to foster blame on the "tree choppers") some environmental activists keep promoting globally.

That is the kind of lever still being used by many to "educate" the average Australian (and non Australian too) citizen on environmental matters. Naive. But it is working.

One generation more, and the average taxpayer might expect we all give them ecotopia.

I just hope there is yet a timber industry by then. Mostly because some of the base resource assetts lost today will be ready, again. And without the former, the later only yield... a neat cost of opportunity... again!

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