Claims of forest wars are misleading and disrespectful!

Friday 26 Apr 2024

Recent claims by activists, media, industry advocates and politicians about the existence or emergence of ‘forest wars’ is completely misleading and disrespectful, claims veteran forester and conservationist Rob de Fégely.

The definition of War is a state of armed conflict between countries or groups of people. In the 50 years I have been studying and working in Australian forestry, there has never been any armed conflict in Australia’s forests!

To describe a contentious debate and/or protest as warfare is not only misleading but an insult to people in Ukraine, Middle East and any other parts of the world where communities are intimidated or threatened by armed force and conflict.

It is also a massive insult to our returned service personnel both past and present who have endured the horrors of real global conflicts, and we will never know what they have endured and suffered as a result of their bravery. However, I am in awe of how many carried their experiences stoically and bravely to make great contributions to build our wonderful economy and community on their return from active service. We owe them a lot he said.

Sadly, in my opinion, claims of ‘forest wars’ are designed to heighten outrage in our caring but often uniformed communities, he said. It is an abuse of our language!

Debate over how we use our natural resources to meet the twin demands of conservation and consumption for 8 billion living people on our planet is important, but it needs to be respectful of the range of opinions and knowledge. Everyone on earth deserves 3 meals per day, to be well clothed and housed, which means we need to produce food, clothing and housing materials somewhere on our planet.

Avoiding impact is impossible. 

The challenge, particularly with wood production, is to develop a natural system with minimal inputs that has multiple benefits including conservation, recreation and production. Australia’s trained foresters work hard to achieve this. Everyone loves wood which is the perfect renewable as we can grow, harvest and regrow it in perpetuity and unlike wind turbines and solar panels it does not require any mining of critical minerals to fulfil its functions.

Despite being the 6th most forested country in the world, Australia cannot supply its own demand for wood, so we rely on wood imports from forests overseas where harvesting standards are often far lower than ours. As we honour our returned service personnel this week and reflect on the armed conflicts past and present, I am tempted to say ‘shame on you’ but I will simply say show more respect!

A Rob de Fegely AM*

*Rob de Fégely AM is a Registered Forestry Professional, a Director of Margules Groome Consulting P/L, Chair of Sustainable Timber Tasmania and a Director of Forestry Corporation of NSW. The comments above are his personal comments and do not reflect the opinion of any entity he works for.

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