Logging bans of forests compared with moves to improve practices - where is the future?, Greens, NFA and Forest and Bird in Queen-street coffee-culture? Forest preservation slated, sustainable forestry gets the chop? Kevin Smith on TV3.

Sustainable beech harvest gets the chop: a well-meaning step backwards for conservation?

    3 January 2000.

Op-Ed article by Chris Perley and another.

Open letter - 20 June 2000.

Sustainable beech harvest gets the chop: a well-meaning step backwards for

By Chris Perley and another; Chris is a natural resource consultant with special interests in sustainable land management, environmental philosophy and ecological economics.

Subject:           Logging bans of forests compared with moves to improve practices - where is the future?
Date sent: Tue, 20 Jun 2000 13:14:02 +1200

Dear all,

The post immediately below is from a list member (not a New Zealander in case someone wants to give it to Kevin Smith to start a witchhunt - and since I don't want to talk behind his back, I shall send this to him) who attended the Noosa conference on logging bans versus forest management improvement.

FAO obviously are concerned that bans are resulting in a shifting or even exacerbation of the problem - and classic unintended consequences. It remains the ONLY option for many.

I think it is necessary to get inside the heads of those preservationists that advocate ONLY bans over management improvement.

Integral, I believe, are the premises they hold:

(A) of "nature" as defined by structure (i.e. static) as compared with nature defined by dynamism and ecological processes.
(Note the Green's press release here on dead trees due to the contracts continuing for 2 years showed either a lack of ecological appreciation, or a willingness to play on and encourage public ignorance and urban myth).

That belief in structure and stasis makes it intuitive to the largely eco-illiterate urbanites

(B) that human use is mutually exclusive from protection of a forest in its "natural" state. If nature doesn't "change" the forest, then obviously human induced change is bad - a relevant book is Drury's "Chance and Change - Ecology for Conservationists" - also Botkin's "Discordant Harmonies: a New Ecology for the 21st Century".

I think the other problem that leads to this intuitive belief is

(C) their distrust of forestry generally - which stems from practices we all find abhorant. The 70s set the consciousness of the environmental movements, and it takes a special brain to move from an entrenched point of view.

Unfortunately the perpetrators of many abhorant practices that continue today - e.g. logging companies largely in the tropics (and some still operating in the SILNA lands) whose focus is to maximise financial gain rather than even a philosophy of sustainable yield - are put in the same boat as foresters who are trying to move forestry way down the spectrum of forestry management paradigms.

Even where people do accept that foresters are different than loggers and with a sustainable yield history of 300 years (and multiple use history that goes back to medieval times), they still see a predominance of utilitarian focus - and most professional forestry IS still in that camp. That is, they see the manipulation of an ecosystem to achieve utilitarian ends that are instrumental to people's wellbeing (profit, timber, soil and water, certain game species, "improvement" of anthropocentric ideas of "production" and "quality" through various means) and the reduction in those ecological "values" that do not have "instrumental" value or worth - also a general simplification of the diversity of a natural system.

The move to ecosystem-management in "natural forests", whose prime objective is to maintain ecological health (and which is ecocentric in focus, so the diversity and patterns - and uncharismatic bits - remain), is not known to them.

It is a manifestation of Aldo Leopold's essay "Think Like a Mountain" (keep ALL the parts, even the smelly distasteful "worthless" ones) and his Land Ethic "A Sand County Almanac" ( should be required reading for foresters - and those who call themselves environmentalists). But such a human/nature interface (use and protect) is also an impossibility in the eyes of those environmentalists who accept the static-structural view of nature. The fact that the philosophies behind this paradigm shift explicitly accommodates humanity - especially local community - is also an anathema to some environmentalists who are fixated on the belief that protection only comes from the removal of humanity (unless you are an observer - i.e. scientist or tourist - I won't dwell on the hypocrisy).

Which highlights another constraint -

(D) the fact that many preservationists isolate the environment from society and economy - i.e. analysis to the parts without reference (synthesis) back to the whole (our "education" system encourages this - most people are narrowed in some vocation too early perhaps).

The result is a decision making that is Nimby in the extreme and fraught with unintended consequences (like encouragement of unsustainable practices). A sustainable future means removing these constraints to environmentalism. But paradigms only change when something dramatic happens - and perhaps it won't change in this country until there is some crisis. That is the usual pattern in paradigm shifts in science.

I have discussed these paradigms of forestry management from
- mining
    -- "sustainable" cropping
        -- sustainable "yield"/Multiple use (professional anthropocentric forestry -
          with a focus on outputs to us)
            -- ecosystem management (professional ecocentric forestry, with a focus on
              how we leave the ecosystem)
                -- preservation (which still needs active management - so resources come
                  from elsewhere).

Much industrial plantation forestry moved back down the spectrum in the 80s (to cropping), but the RMA and overseas marketing concerns (certification trends etc) moved it back up to the sustainable yield/MU paradigm, and certification is providing an incentive to move toward the ecocentric perspective.

Interesting that F&B have shown some antagonism toward even certification with bodies associated with the Rainforest Action Coalition - it's preserve or nothing for some - and sometimes, through that inflexible attitude, it becomes "nothing" quite literally.

In our indigenous forests the move down to ecocentric forestry was due in no small part to the philosophies of (I think) two people - Ian James and Kit Richards. The Forests Act 1993 amendment does not quite make the leap - shades of utilitarianism remain. Ian James poignant epitaph to indigenous forestry (which I have copied at the very below so the Parliamentarians can read it - I hope you don't mind Ian) reflects how important it was for people to change their thinking. Values matter in environmental management, as Grumbine's 1994 Ecosystem management paper emphasised.

It is unfortunate that we have a mainstream of environmentalism that remains focused on problems and antagonism. We also have a media that (to varying degrees) goes after the headline and the ratings rather than perspective and truth.

TV3 last night had the extreme statements of a wide-eyed Kevin Smith from F&B saying in effect "no compensation for Maori forest owners in Southland. Just legislate".

I didn't see them interview Guy Salmon, who has been in the lead in raising this embarrassing issue, but recognises the social justice complexities of the 1906 compensation lands, and calls for swift resolution through compensation. His is the more reasonable, and the more just, message - not headline grabbing enough perhaps. (A minimum of social justice and the preservationists dogma are not logical associates.)

So the F&B extreme gets the say, and the broader balance is the bridesmaid. This sort of ratings focus does nothing to raise general awareness of the public - but it parallels the vacuousness of our political debate and policy making over the last 20 years - and hunting for ratings and hunting for votes have parallels.

If solutions to our environmental problems were the prime focus of preservationists (rather than a fanatical embrace of an environmental catechism), then they at least would have been willing to keep their minds open.

But Labour leadership never saw what was going on on the Coast, couldn't stop the resource consent hearing fast enough, and it became a political football for votes - ironically for well-meaning "green" votes (the road to hell is paved with good intentions). The consequent damage to environmental management is the irony - and the damage to community, trust in environmentalists and accords, trust in government, justice, ethical process, etc, etc.

The only hope is that in 20 years time the environmental mainstream becomes more understanding - of environmental issues here and abroad, and of possible solutions. Otherwise their problem-focus and antagonistic approach will once again dump on a solution when it comes along. Ian James eco-centric forestry was very much part of the solution.

We need to focus on premises A - D if there is ever going to be any change.

Chris Perley

Letter from sustainable forester overseas observing New Zealand's processes.

I saw Alan's Reid's presentation (at Noosa conference), but I didn't get to chat with him. I was only there for a day and found some of the "developing" nations representatives interesting to talk with. The newly emerged dragon nations and Pacific nations who have applied logging bans and controls were well represented. Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Filipines, Sri Lanka, PNG, Fiji and a few others

There were some success stories. I remember the Thai representative's responses to discussion best. Yes the logging bans have the support and backing of the government. They were successful in stopping logging in Thailand.

And as to what assistance or compensation the government supplied to the harvesting companies? "Oh lots of assistance....the government help them move their operations to Laos and Myanmar....."

Someone else put up a graph showing the countries where forest cover is actually increasing - there are a few - and there are countries where the forest cover is decreasing. Now which of these do you think are the "developed" and which are the " developing" nations????????

This push by capaccino greens in affluent nations, to close down logging operations in their own countries is nothing but elitist NIMBISM.

They Act Parochially but never learnt the other half of the old adage is:- to Think Globally.

Where are they when the Teak shipments come in.

Where are they involved in the education of consumers who buy up the Meranti?

Where is their support for Foresters whose practices of management would be seen as radically if not suicidally restrictive if attempt was made impose it in the countries from whom NZ and Australia buy timber?

Why should the Government take the risk of educating and telling the truth on this issue to the naive but well intentioned green voters when it has everything (a few votes and all the power) to gain, and it has nothing to lose.

It's not as though timber prices are going to skyrocket because of the decreased supply and the timber-buying voters emerge as a voting block. Places like the Solomons, Vanuatu, Fiji will take up the slack; supply unsustainably what our own countries can but are not allowed to.

Chris, it's enough of appealing to the Greens on terms of employment and lost lifestyle and pride and meaning for the WestCoasters.

The cafe set DON"T CARE.   Talk environment.  Talk green.  It's cool to sympathise with the poor oppressed and shafted of the third world countries as we sip at their coffee beans.

But when the children of affluence are shown how their own actions, tastes and protests directly contribute to the 1st/3rd world disparity, hopefully the awareness of the conceptual dicotomy will produce a leap in comprehension.

Good luck in your struggle. Use any of this above. It's yours.

Chris Perley is a Dunedin-based forest and natural resource consultant with qualifications in forestry science, agricultural science, and philosophy. He has a background as a practising forester and a policy analyst, with special interests in sustainable land management, environmental philosophy and ecological economics.

Rimu Decision Means 3,500 More Trees Get Chopped
6 June 2000, 3:05 pm
Press Release: Green Party

Rimu Decision Means Another 3,500 Trees Get The Chop

New figures released to the Greens by the Government predict that another 3,523 native trees will be logged by Timberlands after the Government's decision to continue logging until March 2002.

"These figures show that the logging is far from over," said Jeanette Fitzsimons, Green Party Co-Leader.
The new figures were given by the Minister responsible for Timberlands, Hon Pete Hodgson, in answer to written questions from Jeanette Fitzsimons.

The figures predict that between the date of the Cabinet decision on 15 May this year and the logging termination date of 31 March 2002, a total of 2,908 rimu and 615 miro trees will be logged, made up of:
  • 400 rimu trees from Orikaka Forest in the Buller Gorge;
  • 1006 rimu and 312 miro trees from Saltwater Forest in Westland;
  • 1502 rimu and 303 miro trees from North Okarito Forest, also in Westland.
The felled trees will yield a total of 16,736 cubic metres of rimu timber and 1,131 cubic metres of miro.

"Timberlands took 6,840 cubic metres of rimu - about 1200 trees - from the Orikaka Forest in just the first four months of this year. The Labour / Alliance government have missed their chance to save this forest, considered nationally significant as a habitat for kaka and great spotted kiwi.

"Every ancient tree that falls from here on in is definitely a Labour / Alliance tree."

Jeanette Fitzsimons MP, 04 470 6661, 025 586 068
Jonathan Hill, Press Secretary, 04 470 6719

Ends             But, see below.

The point that Chris is making is that, since the Timberlands harvest in Saltwater and Okarito forests is less than half of the trees that have been identified as actually dying, twice that number are going to die during that period anyway!   The forests are not static - in the dynamic process of their being, forest trees die and are replaced in a continual cycle of death and regeneration.

The felling of Orikaka forest is NOT part of the sustainable forestry management. Nobody honestly says that it is. Some people dishonestly pretend so however, as part of their general bad-mouthing of sustainable forestry management practices in general, and Timberlands in particular.

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