The future of the Barrabup Forest which is hailed as a “sacred area” for local Aboriginals is in question after Nannup residents became concerned about potential unauthorised logging.
The logging has stopped and is under review by the Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions.
According to Aboriginal elder Bill Webb and nearby residents, the forest contains old growth, habitat for endangered birds, Aboriginal artifacts and scarred trees which were used by Aboriginal people to mark ancient trails to Augusta.
Mr Webb said the trails were essential for moving across country.
“A lot of our sacred areas are being destroyed all the time displacing Aboriginal people and our culture, these things need to be maintained to pass onto our future generations,” he said.
“For me it is always sad to see these things happen for short term monetary gain.”
Mr Webb said he would like to see the forest saved and negotiate a land use agreement so future generations could be involved in tours to educate people.
“Through the Aboriginal Heritage Act and land use agreement they should be able to say, ‘we want to preserve that for future tour operations, campsites, school groups.’”
South West MP Diane Evers saidthe commission were losing money logging state forests and questioned why they were doing this in Barrabup.
Ms Evers said the commission failed to notify residents about their operation and put a road through the forest which started in an area known to have dieback.
She said before approvals and assessments were properly done the commission had also not adequately assessed for Indigenous heritage.
“It is a carbon sink, it is particularly special because it is close to Nannup and has recreational services to go along with that and a community of people very dedicated to saving the forest.”
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Ben Wyatt said it was appropriate that logging operations had ceased allowing for this claim to be assessed.
“A heritage consultation for this area is currently being undertaken with representatives of the South West Boojarah people,” he said.
“The results of this consultation will inform the FPC of their responsibilities under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972.”
A DBCA spokesperson said timber harvesting had not commenced and would only be approved once assessment for old-growth had been completed.
The spokesperson said initial preparatory work undertaken by the commission was done in order to gain access to the area.
“About 530 hectares of jarrah and marri forest within the coupe is available to harvest for a range of forest management objectives,” the spokesperson said.