Save Forests, Bring Back Millers
Back in August 2002, as part of its campaign to increase the area of national parkland in NSW, the Western Conservation Alliance held a forest protest in the Tinkrameanah State Forest.
It said logging threatened the high conservation value of the forest, near Coonabarabran, because contractors were not supervised.
Tinkrameanah State Forest became a national park last year after former Premier Bob Carr locked up vast areas of the South Brigalow Belt Bioregion's Pilliga scrubland.
In the past week, more than 100,000 hectares have burnt in the Pilliga region, including the Tinkrameanah forest.
Volunteer fire fighters were hard pressed to stop the spread of a fire which started there because the National Parks and Wildlife Service were concerned about the environmental impact of a proposed fire break. Locals report how the fire subsequently spread and Tinkrameanah forest was "completely incinerated".
So much for stopping the grader to protect biodiversity.
This part of the Pilliga has a fascinating history. Early explorers described much of it as open woodland.
Flooding rains in the 1880s triggered a massive germination of native cypress and eucalyptus and gradually a forest industry emerged with timber workers who diligently thinned the cypress and managed the scrub regrowth.
The industry flourished until about 1967 when the State Government started converting the working forests to reserves and parkland, beginning with the 80,000ha
Pilliga Nature Reserve.
In May last year, Bob Carr banned logging of a further 350,000ha, stating the decision achieved "permanent conservation of iconic forests".As the timber workers were chased out of their forests, they protested that without active management there could be no conservation. Now the forests are burning and the Tinkrameanah is gone.
The Pilliga has an extensive fire history, with more than 350 fires recorded in the past 50 years, including a number exceeding 100,000ha.
The Tinkrameanah forest may have been incinerated even if it had not been converted to Nature Reserve, but there is a history of better fire management in State forests. Indeed, foresters have a vested interest in not letting their forests incinerate, and that interest has benefited barking owls and koalas.
I'm sure the Western Conservation Alliance, not to mention The Wilderness Society, are disappointed the Tinkrameanah is gone.
But the bottom-line is that while campaigning for national parks, they didn't budget for fire prevention, in fact, environmental activists have lobbied hard for
restrictive fire intervals for prescribed burning and heavilv conditional licensing.
The Tinkrameanah forest may grow back one day, but with timber workers excluded it will never be as biologically diverse and, indeed, if the cypress is not thinned it may just become a thicket.
The Western Forest Alliance was wrong to claim the biggest threat to the Tinkrameanah was logging, in fact the long term survival of biologically diverse healthy Pilliga forests may depend on sustainable conservation, such as bringing the timber workers back in.