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Government goes ‘above and beyond’

The State Government has gone over and above the level of protection offered to the electorate in the revamped Regional Forest Agreement by adopting recommendations made by a Ministerial Advisory Group.

The group was established to advise on improving management of the forests.

Environment Minister Cheryl Edwards said once the recommendations in the report – dubbed the Ferguson Report after Group chairman Professor Ian Ferguson – were adopted, at least 86 per cent and up to 90 per cent of old growth karri forest would be protected.

“This is an increase of more than 9,000 hectares, or equivalent to at least an additional 15 per cent on the level set out in the RFA, being protected,” Mrs Edwards said.

An end to logging in karri-tingle old growth and forest that has been selectively logged in the past was one recommendation made by the group that will be immediately acted on.

Negotiations will commence with the timber industry to reduce the level of karri sawlogs harvested to an average 149,000 cubic metres per annum.

The current contracted level is 168,000 cubic metres a year. By 2004 the annual yield will be 50,000 cubic metres.

Mrs Edwards also signalled a new course in forest management – one that would encourage greater community involvement in decisions about forest management in the State.

She said it was vital that the government worked closely with the community to achieve change.

“Improved processes will involve the community at various stages of planning including a ‘whole of forest’ approach as well as regional and local logging plans,” she said.

“The implementation of wider strategies for greater accountability and management of karri and tingle forests is not only about economic values, but those of the community.

“The way we are managing our forests is setting a new direction in forest management. Changes to the structure of the Department of Conservation and Land Management are presently before Parliament and a new era is beginning.

“Consideration also will be given to the appointment of independent facilitators to assist the community during the planning process.”

“This new era will be characterised by greater transparency and community involvement and, while it will take time, it is important that work is commenced as soon as possible.

Mrs Edwards said she hoped all parties would recognise that the government was moving in a new direction in forest management.

“The Ministerial Advisory Group report is part of that process and makes a major contribution to the overall aims of ecologically sustainable forest management while at the same time providing stability for South West communities who rely on native forests for their livelihood.”

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