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RFA Areas Debate

MEDIA AND THE PUBLIC HAVE BEEN KEPT INFORMEON CONTESTED RFA AREAS SINCE 1997 - TUCKEY

Wilson Tuckey, the Minister for Conservation and Forestry today denied recent media claims of Government deceit,
stating that "the media and the public have always been informed about the inclusion of sandhill and swamp forest ecosystems in the extension to the reserve system."

"Documentation issued on the day of the signing of the RFA in WA to all journalists showed quite clearly that, of the 27 forest ecosystems defined in the RFA process, rocky outcrop; sand dune; shrub, herb and sedgeland, and swamp forest ecosystems, formed part of the overall forest reserve system.

"This information was specifically presented and highlighted in slide presentations during the media lock-up. Furthermore, the RFA documentation was couriered to all Stake holders and continues to appear on the RFA Internet site (specifically at http://www.rfa.gov.au/rfa/wa/index.html).

"Beginning with the JANIS criteria released to the public in early 1997, and which established the need to protect 15 per cent of all forest values that existed before European settlement, and later in the Comprehensive Regional Assessment (CAR) documents in January 1998, this aspect of the reserve system has been clearly indicated (see attachment).

"The reserving of these ecosystems is inherent to the RFA process, is consistent across all agreements, and well understood by all parties who take a serious interest in the issue.

"Put simply, forest ecosystems are not a classification system for tall trees (old-growth or otherwise). Reserve systems based on forest ecosystems must include the full range of ecological variation within them.

"In determining the number and type of forest ecosystems to be applied for the Western Australian RFA, independent scientists were employed to provide advice and guidance.

"The final list of ecosystems for which the JANIS criteria was applied to create the CAR reserve system were made publicly available.

"There has been no attempt to hide the fact that the CAR reserve system is designed to protect the wide range of values that make up our complex forests, and in particular to protect those values which are potentially under the most threat. Far from it!

"In my own public utterances, I never fail to highlight and support the JANIS criteria that requires the preservation of 15 per cent of pre-1750 biodiversity.

"Those journalists who claim that the political process misrepresented this issue simply failed to do their homework and owe an apology to the dedicated scientists and public officials who researched and prepared the documentation they received.

"Claims, as made today, in the Sunday Times, that such ecosystems are 'not a forest' demonstrate another aspect of media opinion makers which is worthy of criticism, ie. considered ignorance.

"One of the more powerful and incorrect claims for protecting our forests is that forest harvesting results in the extinction of endangered fauna.

"Therein, according to the media’s new definition of a forest, these endangered species are all giraffes or birds that feed at great elevation. Clearly, it is those flora species now being criticised and undervalued that provide protection and a significant food source.

"The irony increases when one considers that the objection of the anarchists to the development of the Jervis Bay Marine Industrial Complex is to protect some sand, some low vegetation, some limestone cliffs and sea grasses.
"In other words, what matters at Cockburn Sand does not matter in the south-west. And mangroves matter in the Kimberlies, but other forest ecosystems with species of similar height and value in the Perth Coastal Plain, or a south-west forest, do not.

"The inclusion of these equally important ecosystems is a matter of pride not deceit. In making these desperate and deceitful claims, the media and the protest groups have sunk to the lowest level of their deliberate campaign of misrepresentation.

"If they have one line of conservation ethic in their so flexible bodies, they must know that a forest ecosystem is not comprised of tall trees only, nor is it a monoculture of karri or tingle of great height and beauty. Furthermore, it is not timeless and static, never changing or never dying of old age.

"The National Forest Policy Statement was designed by the then Federal Labor Government in a bipartisan manner with the Coalition opposition. It was endorsed with the signature of every State Premier. The WA RFA is consistent with this policy.

"While the anarchists do not wish to be confused with the facts, it would seem reasonable in this situation that journalists such as Grahame Armstrong in No Science in RFA Illusions (WAN 16 July 1999), and the faceless editor of the Sunday Times might apply that old-fashioned ethic of journalism that said ‘read your brief before publishing’."

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