Helms Forest near Nannup to be logged

Western Australian Forest Alliance are calling for logging to stop in Helms Forest near Nannup, which is home to red-tailed, Carnabys and Baudins cockatoos.Image supplied.
Western Australian Forest Alliance are calling for logging to stop in Helms Forest near Nannup, which is home to red-tailed, Carnabys and Baudins cockatoos.Image supplied.

Community members have setup a blockade in Helms Forest near Nannup and a man has been arrested after it was revealed that the Forest Product Commission would begin logging 442 hectares this week.

Helms Forest is habitat to breeding pairs of endangered Carnaby's, Baudins and red-tailed black cockatoos. The forest has been the release site for cockatoos from the neighbouring Jamarris Black Cockatoo Rehabilitation Centre in Jalbarragup for the past 20 years.

Western Australian Forest Alliance convener Jess Beckerling said the area was one of the most significant bird areas in Australia.

"It is listed by Birdlife International as a globally Important Bird Area on the basis of the number of breeding pairs of Carnaby's and Baudin's cockatoos it supports," she said.

"Logging would have a direct and profound impact on the cockatoos and other wildlife living in Helms.

"The impact of logging and clearing in the region has been extensive and suitable habitat has been significantly depleted."

A protestor at the site David Rastrick said they FPC had already begun logging the adjoining McCorkhill Forest.

"Threatened cockatoos fly from Helms to McCorkhill with no passport. If habitat is degraded in one area it puts pressure on another," he said.

"This morning I was worker, FPC and police liaison as several community members hid themselves in the forest to stop logging.

"Community members are still in the forest right now. We are concerned that the FPC is not adhering to its safety guidelines, as machines are still being operated with community members nearby.

"Even though the FPC told us to leave, we can't because people are out doing their work in the forest, and are not here to pack it up or move their cars."

The area was identified in the Forest Management Plan 2014-23 as available for harvest.

Forest Product Commission director operations Gavin Butcher said of the total 741 hectares, 299 hectares have been excluded from harvesting to preserve cultural and ecological values.

"The remaining 442 hectares is proposed to be harvested for valuable timber products," he said.

"The sustainably harvested jarrah from Helms coupe will be delivered to a local processor in Nannup, providing economic activity and jobs to the local community.

"It will be used to create high-value products including flooring and furniture components.

"To ensure that all of the resource is used, and nothing is wasted, logs that do not meet the required specifications for these high-value products are used for other products such as charcoal for silicon production and firewood."

Environment minister Stephen Dawson said the FMP ensured forests with high conservation values were adequately represented in reserves and other areas set aside from timber harvesting, such as fauna habitat zones and stream and river zones.

"I have been advised that measures such as exclusion zones and retention of habitat trees ensure that important habitat elements of native forests are retained during timber harvesting," he said.

"This will ensure continuity of supply of mature habitat across the landscape."

A Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions spokesperson said located directly to the south of the harvest coupe was a BirdLife registered Key Biodiversity Area known as the Jalbarragup KBA.

"A small portion of this area, which extends into the Helms coupe, has been excluded from timber harvesting as an additional measure to assist with protection of black cockatoo habitat," the spokesperson said.

"Within individual timber harvesting coupes, there are a number of strategies that are put in place which assist to ensure the protection of native fauna, including black cockatoos."

The spokesperson said mature and senescent trees would be retained and excluded from timber harvesting to protect black cockatoo habitat.

Where there are five primary habitat trees per hectare or six to eight medium sized trees per hectare with a diameter of 30 to 70 centimetres, the trees would not be harvested, the spokesperson said.

"In addition to this, marri trees that are of large diameter (more than 70cm in diameter) are excluded from harvesting.

"Trees used by black cockatoos to nest and those that bear usable hollows are often large marri with a senescent crown."

Call to abolish native forest logging and the FPC

South West MLC Diane Evers said the idea of logging forests needed to be abolished along with the Forest Products Commission.

Ms Evers has issued a rallying call to South West forest protectors after the FPC signalled plans to begin logging Helms forest this week.

She visited a forest blockade at the site on July 19, 2020, which has been established in response to the logging announcement by FPC.

"Helms forest is under threat and our native forests won't be secure until we repeal the Forest Products Act," she said.

"I visited the Helms blockade on Sunday and remain buoyed by the fact that there is such a strong human response to the vandalism of our precious South West environment, with people activated to respond time and time again to this morally repugnant logging regime.

"Losing this beloved jarrah forest as a result of ongoing destruction by the FPC will result in reduced habitat and will continue to aggravate our extinction crisis.

"A further serious concern is the presence of dieback and the risk that this infestation could be spread further in the event of unnecessary logging practices.

"I'm asking the ever-growing community of South West forest protectors to call and email the Minister for Forestry and let him know that Helms must be protected.

"Native forests need to be protected so we maintain biodiversity, tackle climate change and ensure these precious forests are there for all to enjoy for generations to come.

"We need to let the Ministers for Forestry, Environment, Regional Development know that there is no social license for this destruction and we must demand an end to native forest logging."

Ms Evers will raise a bill in Parliament next month which would put logging in the hands of the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development to work with industry and landowners.

"They need to come to some arrangement that we can have a plantation industry, pine as well as the possibility of hardwoods," she said.

"But you cannot expect landowners to do it if the goal posts keep changing and they do not think they would get a reasonable return from it."