IT IS time to accept science.
Early this month, University of Tasmania scientists published new research that shows logging increases fire severity.
This study joins an overwhelming body of Australian research which shows this link.
There are now 11 Australian research papers and reports that show logging increases the risk of fire, plus numerous studies from overseas.
There are no scientific studies from Australia that show that logging forestry decreases the risk of fire, and no robust studies that show that there is no link. The science could not be clearer.
Despite this compelling evidence, there are still some people within the forestry industry that continue to deny the link between logging and fire.
The opinion piece entitled "Timber harvesting opposition based on poor science, beliefs" (The Examiner, September 13) is a perfect example of this problem.
That piece was ironic, as they have based their arguments on two pieces of flimsy evidence.
Why are mainland scientists like [Kevin] Tolhurst and [Jerry] Vanclay, who represent the powerful lobby group the Institute of Foresters of Australia, writing to Tasmanian newspapers?
The 2016 study that they refer to doesn't even analyse timber harvesting.
The second article they reference has been heavily criticised by experts as fundamentally flawed because their conclusions do not logically follow from their data - data that actually shows younger forests burn at a higher severity.
Science is not difficult to understand.
Regenerating forests are usually drier and contain young, highly flammable eucalyptus trees growing closely together.
These young trees create a fuel ladder which allows a fire to easily travel to the canopy of the forest, where it can become very difficult to control.
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Old forests, in comparison, have a wet understory which contains rainforest species.
This moist understory environment means that the forest is less likely to burn.
It's not rocket science, it's a phenomenon that every person can see for themselves when they visit these forests.
To continue to deny the impact that logging has on fire severity is absurd.
The authors of the opinion piece, forestry researchers Kevin Tolhurst and Jerry Vanclay, are turning a blind eye to an overwhelming body of evidence.
But the big question that remains is why. Why are forestry researchers and the forestry industry continuing to deny the science?
Opinion poll after opinion poll shows that the majority of Australians do not support native forest logging.
A poll last month by the Australia Institute found that two out of three Australians support an end to native forest logging.
Even a study commissioned by the pro-forest lobby group, Forest and Wood Products Australia, found that 65 per cent of people from regional Australia said native forest logging was unacceptable.
The reality is that native forest logging has no social licence.
People want our forests protected.
And the forestry industry knows this.
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Western Australia has just announced an end to native forest logging by 2024.
Victoria has called for an end by 2030, but due to unprofitability will likely wrap the industry up early.
Logging in fire-ravaged southern NSW will probably cease soon too. That means all eyes will soon be on Tasmania.
Why are mainland scientists like Tolhurst and Vanclay, who represent the powerful lobby group the Institute of Foresters of Australia, writing to Tasmanian newspapers?
Why has there been an increasing number of pro-forestry opinion pieces in recent months? Why are we seeing a massive social media push by the Tasmanian Forest Products Association promoting forestry?
There is mounting pressure for Tasmania to follow the other states and the industry is panicking. The industry appears to be on a well-funded campaign desperately trying to cast doubt on science and change public opinion.
However, the denial of science is dangerous. If we continue to log our native forests, we are making the landscape more flammable.
Do not be fooled by claims that only a small proportion of forests are logged every year, it's the cumulative impact that matters.
Between 1997 and 2016, 33 per cent of Tasmania's southern forests were logged.
That means that vast areas of the Huon Valley are now up to seven times more likely to have high-severity fires. This is putting our communities at great risk.
It is now time to accept the science and it is now time to act. We need to do what's best for the safety of our communities.
We need to put an end to native forest logging in Tasmania.
- Dr Jennifer Sanger is a forest ecologist and co-founder of The Tree Projects.
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