It is heartening to be able to report that progress has been made in recent months towards protection of swift parrot breeding habitat from logging. Not surprisingly, there has been resistance to these changes and we must continue to fight to stop the logging industry and Forestry Tasmania (FT) from clawing back the gains.
We understand that the Forest Practices Authority (FPA) has developed guidelines for swift parrot habitat protection that are the culmination of two years’ work by the Fauna Strategic Planning Group and is based on five years of survey work principally by the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE). The Fauna Strategic Planning Group was made up of scientists from FT, DPIPWE, FPA and major forestry companies and the aim was to develop a landscape approach to habitat conservation. Traditionally, habitat of swift parrots and other endangered species was assessed one coupe at a time and this usually resulted in most habitat not being identified before logging and only small areas of habitat being protected.
We understand the guidelines for swift parrot habitat protection will result in viable areas of breeding habitat being protected from logging where there are records of clusters of swift parrot nests. The guidelines will assist forest practices officers and landowners in identifying crucial feeding resources adjacent to nest sites and appropriate buffers. The guidelines will also assist with the identification of potential habitat in the field and set down procedures to determine whether breeding is occurring.
These guidelines have to be confirmed by FPA and DPIPWE but this is not expected to be a major problem.
What we are less confident of is whether Forestry Tasmania will accept these proposed new rules; it would be entirely predictable for FT to resist these new requirements claiming they restrict its ability to maintain wood supplies. Changes to forest practices are a normal risk of running their business that it should be used to addressing and balancing with its requirement to provide wood supplies.
We have written to the Minister for Forests David Llewellyn, asking him to seek a decision by State Cabinet to compel Forestry Tasmania to implement the new swift parrot habitat guidelines in State Forest by immediately designating areas off-limits to logging, where breeding habitat is confirmed, and instigating moratoriums over logging of potential habitat until surveys have been completed. While FT is a government business enterprise and it manages the business independently, the State Government is still the business owner and, under the Forestry Act, the State Cabinet can give instructions to FT. The decision to end the use of 1080 poison in State Forest was made by State Cabinet.
We also want the Minister to encourage Forestry Tasmania to commence planning for pro-active management of areas that are set aside from logging. We are particularly concerned regarding the potential for controlled, accidental and illegally lit fires and firewood removal to damage breeding sites.
The minister needs to take responsibility to provide resources to deal with the likely applications by private landowners for compensation where logging is restricted or set aside entirely to protect swift parrot habitat. While we do not like compensation being paid to private landowners (and this may include companies such as Gunns) for not destroying threatened species habitat, the existing legislation allows landowners to apply for compensation where their application to log their forests is not approved. If the State Government does not offer appropriate compensation then logging can be approved.
The other area where Minister Llewellyn needs to take action is to seek additional funds in the next state budget to ensure his agencies (FT, FPA and DPIPWE) can continue to do the surveying and planning work to refine the mapping of swift parrot habitat.
The TCT has written to the Minister for Forests, David Llewellyn, and we urge all TCT members to do likewise. Your letter should urge the Minister to:
- seek a decision of State Cabinet to compel Forestry Tasmania to implement the swift parrot habitat protection guidelines on State Forest by immediately designating areas off-limits to logging (where breeding habitat is confirmed) and instigating moratoriums over logging of areas of potential habitat until they are thoroughly assessed
- advise FT to commence planning for pro-active management of areas that are set aside from logging;
- provide resources to deal with the likely applications by private landowners for compensation
- provide resources for survey work and research to complete our knowledge of swift parrot breeding habitat
Given that the swift parrot breeding season commences in September/October, the Minister must address these issues without delay. Please write to: