Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Trust us

Simon’s plaintive cry suggested, inter alia, environmentalists are operating in “a knowledge vacuum” away from “the harder reality” of a true understanding of ecology and conservation.

Maybe but what’s worse is that forestry issues continue to be discussed in an economic vacuum away from the harder reality of dollars and cents. I’m not suggesting the latter should be the only criteria but to ignore them completely will lead to an unrealistic analysis and erroneous conclusions.

Simon laments that “professional foresters and conservation biologists have been largely disenfranchised”. Welcome to the Club.
Accountants and economists have likewise been largely ignored.

To single out ENGOs as employing spin doctors and wordsmiths to hijack “the language of forestry and conservation” adding words to “our lexicon” which may not have “any scientific basis whatsoever” was a little silly.

Forestry Tasmania doesn’t do the same?

There wasn’t a sound accounting basis for FT to claim on September 7th its “underlying profit” for 2010 was $1.2 million.
It was a misleading claim.

Another term, underlying profit, added to our lexicon.

I could instance lots of examples where FT has been just as rash and misleading as Simon claims ENGOs to be.

The media struggle to write about complex issues and they usually resort to writing about an adversarial battle. But to suggest the mainstream media is complicit in normalising “greenspeak” when it’s pretty easy to instance just as many examples of pro development Gunnspeak shows a little paranoia.

It is surely incumbent on professionals discussing these issues to properly and thoroughly canvas our predicament. It is not sufficient to declare your deep conservation convictions. I understand your frustration at being labelled a vandal but to date acknowledgments of past mistakes and wasted opportunities haven’t featured prominently in foresters’ confessions. This may partly explain some people’s sceptical attitude towards foresters’ views.

Take the case of Great Southern. From 1994 professional foresters selected sites to satisfy their projected yield of 250 tonnes per hectare after 10 years. When the full truth was revealed in 2008 only a few paddocks in Bunbury had grown to expectation, just a few hundred hectares. It also came to light that foresters’ models were able to calculate yields with sufficient certainty that allowed future harvest commission income to be recognised after only 4 years of tree growth.

But they didn’t bother telling investors.

It’s a little trite to dismiss Great Southern’s difficulties by pointing the finger at the paper shuffling Directors. The Independent Foresters signed off on their own projections.

Professional foresters need to be heard in any discussion about forestry. But in the same way as independent accountants and economists need to be heard - separately to the accountants and economists in the employ of the institutional players.
The current forestry discussions shouldn’t be seen as being bilateral. They should be multilateral. And for that to be achieved foresters should stop acting as footsoldiers for their discredited institutions and start giving a more honest, independent and professional appraisal of why we are where we are. Not just the GFC and how the Greens whiteanted Asian markets, but the full story of the failed woodchipping and MIS sectors which have generated over 90% of profits to the major players over the last 10 years, and which has left the industry in such a parlous state.

Then perhaps tell us how FTs new version of sustainable forestry will allow FT to operate sustainably but also profitably with positive cash flow. How does the proposed version differ from the existing? Not a complete plan, I understand you’re foresters not bean counters, but at least give us some idea of the products you will be producing.
I have been fairly critical of many forestry institutions and their past practices. But I support continued logging of suitable native forests and the continuation of suitably located plantations provided the costly and disastrous MIS mistakes are not repeated.

However it’s a little premature for ENGOs to leave domestic forestry to the current crop of foresters and move on to tending other worldly concerns as Simon suggested.

Trust us.
Not yet.

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