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'Beech branch' extended to dissident scientists


Pro-logging scientists critical of the new Government's decision to protect West Coast beech forests previously threatened by Timberlands logging proposals have been encouraged by conservationists to work with the government to achieve effective conservation management of the beech forests.

Responding to a highly critical attack by the scientists on the Government decision, Forest and Bird's conservation director Kevin Smith said that the scientists need to look to the future and accept that they have lost the argument over whether the forests should be logged or protected.

"Many of their academic colleagues, the public at large and the majority of politicians in the new parliament have not been convinced that native forest biodiversity can benefit from logging regimes as scientists such as Professor John Craig of Auckland University and Dr Henrik Moller of Otago University have argued. Rather than attempting to silence science as they claim, the government has simply decided to accept alternative scientific advice that native forests and their dependent wildlife have a more secure future in conservation reserves than by being included in a logging estate."

Mr Smith said that the dissident scientists may have lost one part of the argument but their knowledge and commitment to indigenous biodiversity was not in question and he hoped that they would now work with the Department of Conservation, with conservationists and with West Coast people to tackle the remaining threats to the beech forest ecosystems.

"Conservation Minister Sandra Lee needs strong public support from scientists for increased funding for DoC to enable it to actively manage all native forests for indigenous biodiversity. Further research is also required on better ways of reducing pests such as stoats, rats and wasps that menace the beech forest's native wildlife."

"The bitterness and rancour that has surrounded the beech forest debate for the last 30 years can now be laid to rest as a final decision on their future has been made. Forest and Bird has no wish to keep the old debates going. This is a time for rejoicing and we look forward to working with everyone concerned for the forests' future to ensure the decline of native bird populations is arrested and the forest biodiversity is restored."

'There is also a need to ensure the management of the forests for conservation, recreation and tourism brings the greatest benefits to the West Coast communities that live near the forests. North Westland and the Buller need to seize the new opportunities as enthusiastically as the South Westland people did after their forests were protected in the World Heritage Area.'

Mr Smith said an opportunity now exists to lift the profile of region's fine beech forests the way the South West World Heritage Area and the Paparoa National Park lifted the profile of other West coast forest areas.

'The Victoria Conservation Park on the doorstep of Reefton should be known to all New Zealander's but few have heard of it - this park can now be extended to include some of the newly saved beech forest areas and it can then become one of the country's great forest reserves.'

...........end

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