Loggers lash out at claims

TIMBER industry representatives have lashed out at Clarence Environment Centre conservationist John Edwards over allegations lowland rainforest and old growth was illegally logged at Grange State Forest.

Mr Edwards' claims relate to a 15 hectare area, alleged to have been illegally logged in the forest 50km west of Grafton early this month.

The NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (DECCW) is now investigating.

However NSW Forest Products Association executive director Russell Ainley said Mr Edwards was "unqualified" to make the allegations.

"John Edwards and the Clarence Environment Centre are running a campaign of unsubstantiated trivial allegations to attack the good work of well-qualified and highly experienced forest managers," he said.

Mr Ainley said less than two per cent of the available area of State Forest was harvested each year. "That is after areas of old growth, rainforest, riparian zones and other special protection areas are excluded," he said.

He said Mr Edwards' allegations of harvesting of rainforest and old growth in Grange State Forest were "wrong".

"Such areas are carefully mapped, checked on the ground and excluded from all harvesting activity," he said.

Mr Ainley said the definition of lowland rainforest was "complex".

"It involves a full description, transitional forms, sub alliances and a great deal of scientific interpretation," he said. "Contrary to John Edwards' assertion, you do have to be a botanist to even start to understand the definition."

Spiro Notaras, owner of Notaras & Sons Timber Mill in South Grafton, backed Mr Ainley's comments, declaring he felt the public was being misled by an "instant expert".

Mr Notaras said more than one million hectares of State Forest was put into National Parks in 1996/1997, as per the Regional Forest Agreement.

"The industry paid dearly for the lock-up of the forest and the government did too," he said.

"We've spent millions to stay there and do the right thing.

"It doesn't matter what logging operation you look at, you could find little things you could pick on. Cutting trees down is emotional for anybody."

Mr Notaras said the Forestry Commission only logged 30 per cent of the actual area they mapped to log each year, "because of all the restraints".

He said there was a "plan of management" for every State Forest block, which had to have National Parks and Wildlife Service and DECCW approval before a contractor started logging.



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