Sustainability of Forest Logging in Tasmania AUS Essay

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Sustainability of Forest Logging in Tasmania, Australia

This is a case study about the sustainability problems of the ongoing logging actions taking place in Tasmania, Australia. The case study focuses on the current situation of logging in Tasmania and reasons why it is becoming more and more of an urgent sustainability issue. The major players in the industry are identified and examined as well as relevant policy and policy issues, including problems within its governance structures and an analysis of how to fix the governance problems. The final sections of the case study will offer insights into what needs to be done to remedy the situation and recommendations concerning how to achieve these remedies. The research strategy was to focus on certain key areas of the topic to derive a meaningful and informed analysis. A discussion concerning these key areas, background information, current policies and practices, major players in the industry, environmental impact, sustainability issues is followed by recommendations and implementations.

Background and Overview

A brief outline of the key actors and stakeholders involved and their position on the issue of sustainability is provided at Appendix a.

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TOPIC: Essay on Sustainability of Forest Logging in Tasmania AUS Assignment

One of the overarching constraints involved in assessing the effectiveness and transparency of governance in the Tasmanian logging industry is the ability of the major players involved to conform to the wide range of regulations and laws that are in place while still doing irreparable long-term environment damage to the country's old-growth forests. In this regard, Green et al. report that, "The exploitation of forests is subject to a wide variety of laws: customary laws; international laws relating to trade, human rights, the environment (notably CITES, the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species); national and local laws relating to land tenure, human rights, exports, conservation, wildlife and forestry; and the terms of licenses or concessions for the logging of specific areas" (2007, p. 95). According to Forestry Tasmania's most recent Stewardship Report (2008-2009), "Our sustainable forest management performance is independently audited against three certification standards: namely the Australian Forestry Standard (AS4708); Environmental Management Standard (as/NZS 14001); and the Occupational Health and Safety Standard (AS4801)" (2009, p. 8).

This means that the key players involved can claim legitimacy for their activities because they are de facto legal to the extent that they conform to these customary and international laws, while avoiding the longer-term implications of their actions on the environment and all stakeholders, which would be criminal. As Green et al. emphasize, the strict legality of the logging industry today must be viewed in the longer term context in order to formulate improved governance approaches. According to these authorities, "There are serious problems in accepting 'legality' as a criterion of criminality, or as a basis for measures to curb the damaging aspects of the timber trade" (Green et al., 2007, p. 95). Forestry Tasmania and others are able to conduct their logging operations while simultaneously developing institutional barriers to reform and sponsoring or conducting research that counters the specific "gripe de jour" from the environmentalists whom they characterize as being radicalized. These factors, together with the underlying desire for profit irrespective of its long-term effects makes substantive changes in governance difficult and even impossible without aggressive intervention on the part of the national and local governments and increased grassroots supports from Tasmanian citizens, support that has not been entirely forthcoming. Nevertheless, there are signs that the situation is changing somewhat and these issues are discussed further below.

Current State of the Forestry Industry in Tasmania

On the one hand, "Tasmania is rich in natural assets and is the most forested state in Australia. Its relatively unspoilt beauty attracts visitors from all over the world" (Kloeden & Gordon, 2009, p. 7). On the other hand, though Green et al. (2007) emphasize that despite its abundant natural resources, Tasmania remains the poorest of Australia's eight states and territories. With regards to the current state of the forestry industry in Tasmania, Green laments that, "The rise of Tasmania's forestry industry has been called a 'dark tale of corporate greed and government connivance'" (p. 95). The connivance involved relates to the fact that Forestry Tasmania enjoys the stewardship of a million and a half hectares of state forest on public land within the State by virtue of the Parliament of Tasmania (Green et al., 2007). This public land contains 39 per cent of Tasmania's forests and wood production is available on almost half of the state forest (685,400 hectares), with the remainder being reserved for recreation and conservation purposes (Kloeden & Gordon, 2009). The economic impact of these activities are significant. For instance, Kloeden and Gordon also note that, "Forestry Tasmania supplies three million tonnes of hardwood and softwood timber products to Tasmanian customers for processing into sawn timber, rotary peeled veneer and pulp and paper products. In 2008/09, 3.3 million cubic metres of sawlog and pulpwood were harvested from state forest, generating around $217.5 million based on the price paid by our customers for logs delivered 'at the mill door'" (2009, p. 7). The overwhelming majority of logging operations continue to take place in Tasmania's native forest production areas rather than on plantations, clearly pointing to the need for sustainable practices in these regions. To determine whether the practices in place are sufficient for this purpose, these issues are discussed further below.

Current State of the Environment and the Impact of Continued Logging on Biodiversity

By some accounts, time is of the essence in formulating sustainable practices that will ensure the long-term biodiversity of Tasmania's forests, particularly in view of more recent research that indicates the threat is greater than previously believed. For example, according to McGhee (2004, p. 26), "There are now more and more impacts on those high conservation value forests that were recognised some time ago but weren't protected" in reference to areas that should have been protected by the Tasmanian Regional Forestry Agreement (RFA) but were not. The grassroots initiatives taken to date, though, may be inadequate to counter the persuasive assertions by the logging industry that it is not only conforming to all laws and regulatory requirements, it frequently exceeds them while pursuing research into ways to further improve its efficiency and reduce its impact on the environment. The assertions are all-the-more persuasive because many of them are true, even if they fail to include all of the facts or the context in which they are presented. In this regard, Owen (2003) cites the case of the controversy surrounding efforts to protect the so-called "Tasmanian tiger." Based on the agreements between the national government and each of the states, if Tasmanian tigers were discovered at any point, a sufficient amount of land would be set aside to protect them. According to Owen, one aspect of the otherwise-laudable agreements was to potentially unjustly enrich the Tasmanian logging industry. Moreover, there is a well-entrenched perception on the part of many Tasmanian citizens that current logging practices are adequately responsible. For instance, Owen concludes that, "Conservation issues remain highly emotive in Tasmania because there is seen to be a close correlation between one form of environmental extinction and another. For many Tasmanians, old growth logging has been so comprehensive for so long that it differs little from the thylacine slaughter in which their forebears indulged" (emphasis added) (Owen, 2003, p. 160).

Forestry Tasmania cites a number of initiatives and investments it has made in recent years to retain and promote biodiversity in its areas of operation. Forestry Tasmania has also engaged in a number of other sustainable initiatives that are intended to improve its efficiency and reduce its environmental impact. Likewise, the country's largest timber producer, Gunns, insists it engages in a number of activities that are intended to preserve the biodiversity of the forest areas in which it operates (Gunns Limited, 2010). The company cites a long history of commitment to the development of Tasmania's forest-based industries, and that it subscribes to the "internationally recognised definition of environmentally sustainable development as the underlying management principle; i.e., development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" (Gunns Limited, 2010, para. 2). Gunns also emphasizes that is subscribes to third-party independent verification of its activities to ensure compliance with relevant laws, regulatory guidelines and the above-stated commitments (Gay, 2009). Taken together, it would seem that everything is hunky-dory in terms of ensuring that a sustainable and biodiverse forest industry is provided for the future of Tasmania, but there are some other forces at work that have important implications and these issues are discussed further below.

Major Players and the Wood Chip Industry

One of the most glaring issues facing the Tasmania logging industry and its major players is the concentration on a single, relatively low value-added product: woodchips. According to Green and her associates, "Rather than encouraging diversification in forest products, Tasmania is almost entirely dependent on woodchip exports" (p. 95). Because there are few value-added opportunities available that would help to… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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