Two people charged at Helms Forest protest near Nannup

Protesters have been in Helms Forest near Nannup to protect it from logging. Image supplied.
Protesters have been in Helms Forest near Nannup to protect it from logging. Image supplied.

Two people have been charged and will appear in the Busselton Magistrates Court for preventing the Forest Product Commission from conducting work at Helms Forest near Nannup.

On August 3, 2020 one protester had locked them self onto a logging machine and another took to a platform 20 metres above the ground to stop foresters from chopping down trees in Helms Forest.

The area is located about 10 kilometres west of Nannup and has been the release site for endangered black cockatoos from the neighbouring Jamarri Black Cockatoo Rehabilitation Centre for the past 25 years.

It is a high conservation value jarrah forest and has been the subject of calls for protection from environmentalists and local residents for decades.

On August 4, 2020 police attended the scene and cut free a 27 year old female from East Victoria Park who was removed from machinery.

She has been charged with creating a nuisance on CALM Land and is to appear in court on August 18, 2020.

A 36 year old male from Spearwood who had suspended himself on a platform up a tree climbed down.

He has been charged with a breaching move on order, obstructing police and creating a nuisance on CALM Land and will also appear in court.

Forest Industries Federation (WA) labelled the protesters as "misguided" for disrupting timber operations at Helms Forest.

FIFWA stated that the operation at Helms did not include any areas of old growth forest.

FIFWA executive director Melissa Haslam said the extreme actions of protesters had done more harm than good by entering the operations dangerously, disregarding protocols and disrupting the local, family-owned logging contractor.

"The protest stopped local logging contractors from working for a full day, which meant two of their harvesters were not being utilised, as well as staff not being able to work," she said.

"Damage and vandalism caused on-site by protesters caused further delays after the protest had ended.

"This included two hydraulic hoses being punctured and offensive graffiti being scratched onto the windscreen of a harvester.

"The cost of this damage has yet to be fully realised but combined with the time lost from not being able to operate, the overall costs are expected to be significant."

Ms Haslam said the majority of the Helms operation was dieback infested, which was identified as part of the extensive assessment process required prior to approval.

"We have strict hygiene management practices that we must uphold to avoid spreading dieback, and we are seriously concerned that the protesters have no regard for these practices as they run around the forest," she said.

"Helms is a sustainably managed regrowth coupe and claims that it contains old growth forest are simply false, as again, we have strict formal assessments and any old growth forest goes straight into reserve, not to be touched.

"Our industry has no interest in harvesting old growth forest."

The Helms timber operation covers 741 hectares, of which 299 hectares is excluded from harvesting as it has been flagged for conservation.

The remaining 442 hectares will be harvested for valuable timber products, from an expected yield of 10,000 tonnes of jarrah sawlogs.

The harvested logs will be delivered to nearby Parkside Nannup mill, before being used to create high-value products such as flooring and furniture components.

To ensure there is no waste, the entirety of the resource is used, with lesser-quality or residue logs being used for other products.

Ms Haslam said any identified habitat trees at Helms would be retained during this harvest.

"Sustainable forest management practices ensure there is adequate habitat refuge for wildlife during these temporary disturbances," she said.

"Helms has been harvested before and will be selectively harvested now, then completely regenerated as it has in the past. We are a sustainable industry.

"Of the 2.25 million hectares of native forest, 1.4 million hectares is already in reserves. Only 1 per cent of the forest is harvested each year and all of it is regenerated."

Environmentalists hit back

Logging history of Helms Forest. Image supplied.

Logging history of Helms Forest. Image supplied.

WA Forest Alliance convener Jess Beckerling hit back saying that the FIFWA was simply wrong when it said that these forests in Helms and McCorkhill were regrowth.

"I'd encourage them to go out there and have a look for themselves, or at least to look more closely at the logging plans and documentation and the definitions of the various forest classifications," she said.

"A regrowth forest is a forest where all the trees are the same age and have grown up together after intensive logging or clearing.

"Generally in WA, this is the case for forests that have been logged sometime since the beginning of the woodchipping industry in the mid 1970's, or jarrah 'gap-creation' in the mid-1980's, so the trees in most regrowth forests in WA are 40-years old or younger.

"These areas under contention in Helms and McCorkhill retain their old-growth structure and functions. They were lightly, selectively logged last century, prior to the introduction of the current intensive logging methodology.

"The issue here is that the definition of old-growth in place in WA is failing. It is not in keeping with community expectations or the national definition and it disqualifies forests that are plainly old-growth on the most absurd grounds like the slightest presence of dieback.

"Every year, more than 85 per cent of the jarrah sold by the Forest Products Commission becomes firewood, charcoal and mill-waste. This information is publicly available in the FPC's annual reports and ABARES statistics.

"These are publicly-owned forests and they're worth far more standing than logged."

WA Police will continue to monitor and patrol the area and continue to support the right of any person to protest as long as it was done lawfully and peacefully.