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Upper Catchment Issues Vol 1 No 2 Section 2a

Author: Tasmanian Community Resource Auditors Incorporated

Environmental Aspects and Significant Impacts

Hydrology

According to FT, (see appendix 2):
"class 1, 2 and 3 streams were classified by defining their catchment area on the 1:25000 contour map. The final classification for all streams including class 4 streams is made by the Forest Practices Officer, Planning, in preparing the FPP."

On this basis, 1 x class 2, 2 x class 3 streams and 7 x class 4 streams were identified on the plan and attached map. No streams of any nature were identified in the application for variation to the FPP. The FPP (D. 6) states "Some of the Coupe is within the catchment of the St Patricks River which provides water for the City of Launceston. Appropriate prescriptions are contained within the FPP to protect this value." (appendix 3).

Mismatches with MAEMG Audit relating to hydrology:

The MAEMG sought the advice of Associate Professor Brian Finlayson regarding hydrology of the area. Due to lack of relevant data, he said the effect of conversion of such large tracts of land in the upper catchment was unknown. He said that any claims by FT that water yield and quality would not be adversely affected could not be verified on the basis of scientific research. However, on the basis of the only available data, (smaller scale clearing of similar, but significantly different eucalypt forests in central Victoria) Assoc. Prof. Finlayson made the following predictions: (see appendix 4)

Assoc. Prof Finlayson concluded that there had been:

1. Inadequate assessment of impacts of forestry operations on water yield and quality.
2. Incorrect classification of streams.

The FPC January 1993 states:

2.1 The area defined by the variation to the FPP.

Using topographical survey, Assoc. Prof Finlayson found that the catchment area for the two headwater tributaries to Shepherd's Rivulet identified them as class 3 watercourses (appendix 5) although FT had classified both as class 4. Assoc. Prof Finlayson identified several small permanent running streams across an area extensively harvested on the top side of Mt Arthur Road, with catchment areas ranging from 13ha to 44ha (appendix 5). Photographic evidence was taken (Photo section. photos 1, 2, 3, 4). Although these streams had minimal evidence of defined banks and boundaries Assoc. Prof Finlayson stated that topographical survey was sometimes inadequate for identification of these types of streams typical of upper catchments. He pointed to the vegetation cover as an indicator of this type of stream stating "That they existed, should have been evident by the vegetation, which was rainforest with no eucalypts" (appendix 4). Both aerial photography (used by FT to determine forest type - see appendix 6) and on-site survey revealed this difference in flora (the stumps in this section of the harvested area are all of rainforest species, differing from surrounding vegetation - Photo section. photo 5) but had been ignored by FT in classifying streams. MAEMG identified 11 streams/springs in this area.

2.2 The area defined by the original FPP.

According to the 18/5/01 FPB report: (at section 2.2)
"One stream … was classified as a class 4 stream within the variation to the FPP, but its reserve was upgraded in the field. An upgrade was appropriate given the incised nature of the channel and the large water flow." (see appendix 7). Using these same criteria, a tributary to Patersonia Rivulet in another section of the original coupe should have been upgraded to a class 3 at least, because of the incised nature of its channel and its quantity of water flow (Photo section photo 6). This same watercourse in the neighbouring coupe LI 126A was treated as a class 4 for much of its length, but according to Assoc. Prof Finlayson, its catchment area was 57.7ha, making it a class 3 (appendix 4).

3. Absence of Machinery Exclusion Zones in the Variation

4. Insufficient Buffer Zones to afford adequate protection of water from contamination.

Scenic Values

According to the FPC Jan 1993, section C 6.2.6 Special Values a) Landscape point, 4 states: "District planners will consider, to a distance of up to 25 km, the visual effects of harvesting on the view fields of specific identified view points in remote natural bushwalking areas. When planning individual logging coupes, visual management of an entire view shed should be considered."
According to the FPP, appropriate Landscape Management states:
"Coupe boundary will be marked in the field to exclude area of skyline visibility." (appendix 3).

Mismatches with MAEMG Audit relating to scenic values:

1. Within 25 km of logging operations on Mt Arthur, there has been inadequate provision for scenic protection.

Soil

Mr Peter Bird (Acting Forest Manager FT - Dorset) advised MAEMG regarding Erodibility and Soil Type in Coupe LI 126C via letter (15/3/01) that.
"The soils in LI 126C were mapped as part of the 'soils of Tasmania State Forests, Pipers Sheet, 1995.' By Mike Laffan, John Grant and Reece Hill. The mapping indicates that the soils in LI 126C are derived from Silurian - Devonian mudstones and sandstones ("Mathinna Beds") and are of low erodibility. The soils in the extension area are derived from Jurassic Dolerite and are also of low erodibility." (see appendix 2 point 3).

Mismatches with MAEMG Audit relating to soil:

1. Erodibility

MAEMG sought advice from Dr Owen Ingles (see appendix 10) who affirmed that the soils of the area were derived from "Mathinna Beds". However, Dr Ingles also refers to two Government studies that contradict the above scientific opinion regarding the soils' erodibility. He states:
"I have to conclude that the Government's own experts (other than Forestry ones) recognise a serious erosion problem ... if such an area is clearfelled, especially at the wrong time of year." (appendix 10).
In areas adjoining Coupe LI 126C, where clearing and plantation establishment had occurred 12 months before, erosion is already evident. This is most graphic on the steep slopes where deep ripping of the ground runs up and down the slope (Photo section photo 9). In certain places, the erosion channels are over 30cm deep and 80cm wide (Photo section photo l0). Assoc. Prof. Finlayson concluded that the ground preparation including deep ripping of soils up and down the slopes in adjacent coupes was tantamount to artificially creating a myriad of class 4 streams, which in wet conditions would pick up the loose soil and small particles and deposit them directly in the stream at the bottom of the gully "contributing significantly to a deterioration in water quality" (appendix 4).

2. Permeability

Dr Ingles expressed concern regarding the carriage of highly soluble chemicals associated with plantation establishment, in this soil type. He states:
"…I would have some concerns (as a chemist) about the use of 1080 on such soils. 1080 is highly soluble, and very toxic to humans as well as animals. If any were to enter the soil and the soil water..., then as little as 2 to 10 milligrams per kilogram body weight is lethal" (appendix 10). Assoc. Prof. Finlayson concurs with this opinion that poisons would enter the water if applied on this soil (appendix 4).

3. Fertility

Soil Suitability for Plantation Establishment
Dr Ingles cites The Department of Primary Industry, Tasmania, 1991 publication "Pipers Land Capability Survey" describing the areas' soils as:
"infertile, strongly leached, and require high fertiliser inputs to maintain good pastures for grazing... poor soil structure, low fertility soils and steepness of slope make these areas more suited to a forest cover..." (see appendix 10). MAEMG contends that tree-cropping on such leached, infertile soils will result in poor growth rates. Indeed our group contends that tree-monocultures are not "forests" in that there is little return of humus and nutrients to the soil, unlike the native forest.

Although the area is a high rainfall area, the effects of prolonged heavy rain cannot yet be fully ascertained, given the ongoing dry conditions. On the basis of the above advice, MAEMG is gravely concerned that in periods of heavy rain, the clearfelled areas on steep slopes will substantially erode and the watercourses will suffer severe siltation.

Fauna

Mt Arthur Burrowing Crayfish

Within undisturbed rainforest sections of Coupe LI 126C the burrows of threatened species of burrowing crayfish Engaeus orramakunna are easy to locate. Although occurring in other nearby locations, Mt Arthur is considered to be prime habitat at the centre of its very limited distribution.

According to both the FPC 1993 and FPC 2000, it is the responsibility of the Forest Practices Officer (FPO) to consult appropriate texts to ascertain whether threatened species are likely to exist in the area planned for operations. The FPC 1993 section D2.1 states:

If it is found that a threatened species is likely to exist in the planned coupe, the following procedure must be followed according to the particular FPC:

According to FPC (1993, p.57):

Or, according to the FPC 2000, p.64;
"notify the appropriate specialist within the Forest Practices Board… obtain an endorsed management prescription for the operational area and incorporate this prescription into the FPP. This may involve further consultation between the FPO, the landowner and specialists within the FPB and DPIWE."

The FPB's report regarding the presence of Engaeus orramakunna in Coupe LI 126C (including the area described by the variation to the FPP) states:
"The district planner correctly identified habitat for the Mt Arthur burrowing crayfish. Notifications were sent to the Forest Practice Board. Management provisions endorsed by the Threatened Species Unit of DPIWE were contained within the Forest Practices Plan. The provisions have been fully complied with." (see appendix 7).

Mismatches with MAEMG Audit relating to Burrowing Crayfish:

Inspection of the Coupe, in particular the top side of Mt Arthur Road, defined by the variation to the FPP, revealed approximately 20 ha that had been clearfelled, which contained many unidentified streams, springs and permanent wet areas. These areas were identified as E. orramakunna sites, or potential habitat (appendix 11).

The questions MAEMG therefore ask are:

1. Were the appropriate procedures for dealing with threatened species in planning for Coupe LI 126 C

(particularly the variation) fully followed?
Given the FPC Jan 1999 prescriptions page 55 "During planning at this level, areas proposed for logging will be checked against the register for rare and endangered species known to depend on the site…" the appropriate register current at the time of planning for coupe LI 126C was the Forest Practices Board publication Threatened Fauna Manual for production forests in Tasmania1998. According to this manual, the procedure for dealing with threatened species is as follows:
  1. "Look up the relevant 1:25000 mapsheet in Part 1 of the Manual…
  2. If the plan area includes a known locality of a threatened species, consult the information on management recommendations for the species concerned (Part 2 of the manual) and then notify the FPB Senior Zoologist using the notification form.
  3. If the plan area includes listings of habitats that may contain threatened species, check the habitat descriptions in Part 2 of the manual and assess the coupe for potential habitat. If there is potential habitat notify the FPB Senior Zoologist.
  4. After notification of a known locality …a decision will be made by the FPB Senior Zoologist in consultation with the Parks and Wildlife Service on the specific action required, following the procedures outlined on page 57 of the FPC…
  5. The latest recommendations should be incorporated into any operation Please seek advice on the currency of recommendations prior to operations."

Although the FPB report states that "Management provisions endorsed by the Threatened Species Unit of DPIWE were contained within the Forest Practices Plan" (appendix 7) this statement mismatches with MAEMG findings, because the latest recommendations prescribed for management of E. orramakunna in this area were not adhered to (see following dot point). This is verified by Mr J. Nelson (Engaeus Project Officer with Launceston Environment Centre) who expressed dismay in a letter to FT 15/5/01, that proper protection for E. orramakunna did not occur in Coupe LI 126C (appendix 12). He suggested that because the operations within the area defined by the variation to the FPP were so destructive of E. orramakunna habitat, the correct (current) planning procedures (which refer to current prescriptions for the species) had not been adhered to. In a letter 22/5/01 to Mr R. Brereton (Threatened Species Unit, DPIWE) Mr Nelson claimed that the FPB's statement that "the provisions (for E. orramakunna) have been fully complied with" (appendix 7) was "very much a half truth" (appendix 13) ie although there had been some compliance (recognition of potential habitat of E. orramakunna) obligatory current prescriptions for the species had not been implemented indicating that the Board's statement "Management provisions endorsed by the Threatened Species Unit of DPIWE were contained within the Forest Practices Plan" (appendix 7) was untrue.