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Green groups baulk at tackling bauxite

A TRIED and true political tactic to slip a controversial decision under the door is to announce it when the press is preoccupied with bigger news such as the coming Federal election.

   While Premier Mark McGowan was going down a treat in Toodyay last month where he presented a $1.79 million sports precinct grant, he incurred the wrath of environmental groups who are incensed that on March 29 he quietly renewed WA’s 20-year bilateral Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) with the Liberal Government.

   WA Forest Alliance Group convenor Jess Beckerling said it was “a dodgy agreement which provides the logging industry with a special free pass from Federal environment laws (which) have been rushed through in the dying days of the Morrison government to avoid scrutiny and lock in protection for the logging industry”.

   “Five unique forest-dependent birds and mammals have become endangered or critically endangered since the RFA was signed (in 1999) and 195,000ha of forests have been intensively logged without Federal oversight,” Ms Beckerling said.

   While AHMAG backs conservation groups such as the WA Forest Alliance and Conservation Council’s campaign to protect old-growth and high conservation value forests, it remains concerned that the rampant destruction of the south west jarrah forest by bauxite mining goes unchallenged by the government or peak body environmental groups.

   Retired forestry worker Karl Kelers wrote to The West Australian on March 14 that the real enemy of the jarrah forest is bauxite mining, which has been operating since the 1970s.

   “Logged areas regenerate because the basic ecology of the jarrah forest has not been destroyed,” said Mr Kelers.

   “The removal of alumina ore changes the ecology forever.

   “Yes, mine sites are rehabilitated but often with other species. Rehabilitated areas will never be a jarrah forest.

   “By all means protect the forest. But let us look at the real threat.”

   Three days after Mr Kelers’ letter was published, Frank Batini echoed Mr Kelers’ opinion in The West.

   “I am amazed that individuals and conservation groups who vociferously oppose timber harvesting and prescribed burning are so silent when it comes to the 25,000ha of jarrah forest that have been cleared for bauxite mining by Alcoa and mining company South32,” Mr Batini said.

   Former General Manager of CALM WA, Roger Underwood, believes there are two possible reasons why environmentalists have baulked at tackling bauxite mining in relation to the destruction of WA’s jarrah forests.

   He does not believe they have been ‘bought off’ but that they recognise it is a battle they cannot win.

   “The alumina industry is well-established and prosperous, is fully supported by government agencies and has a superb public relations machine.

   “The environmentalists would be done over, and they know it,” Mr Underwood said.

   In the same week that Mr McGowan was signing the RFA agreement The Sunday Times reported that a key priority of the McGowan government was “ensuring we protect WA’s unique natural environmental legacy for future generations...”.

   Keep in touch at hills or write to PO Box 111 Gidgegannup WA 6083.

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