FSC supports illegal forestry in Australia

The following constitutes my submission to SCS Global Services as part of its assessment of Sustainable Timber Tasmania for FSC Certification.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2019/04/10/public-notification/

FSC2

https://au.fsc.org/en-au

https://www.sttas.com.au/

http://www.scsglobalservices.com/

The idea that public native forestry in Tasmania is “environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable” (FSC’s very own criteria!) is complete and utter fantasy.

Just the history of the industry over the last 5 years demonstrates the hypocrisy of this idea, never mind the forestry wars of the last 40+ years!!

The above image is taken from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) website. Unfortunately none of these three titles on the FSC website are live/linked. You can’t click to find out what the FSC means by “Environmentally Appropriate” or “Economically Viable”. So I typed “Economically Viable” into their search box and I got this result:

EcoVia

FSC “could not find any results”!!

I think the FSC has got some issues to resolve.

Luckily I have a clue as to what the FSC means by “economically viable” from the last time Forestry Tasmania attempted to gain FSC certification. The following quote comes from SCS Global Services website:

Can a company that operates at a loss achieve certification?

The FSC certification standard requires that a forest management entity have sufficient financial resources [taxpayer subsidies] to manage the defined forest area in conformance with the full scope of the standard.  The standard does not require that the certified forest is managed at a profit provided that other sources of working capital [taxpayer subsidies] are available and sufficient [$ billions] to enable management in conformance with the standard.

https://www.scsglobalservices.com/news/scs-responds-to-questions-about-the-forestry-tasmania-fsc-forest-management-assessment

So the FSC defines “economically viable” as pretty much anything, including major loss-making public native forestry.

The problem is, under Australian law that is ILLEGAL!!!!!!!

It’s called Competitive Neutrality, and I wrote a blog about it back in 2016:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2016/10/17/competitive-neutrality-in-forestry/

It is Tasmania’s view that all the State’s PTEs and PFEs, together with its GBEs, are significant Government businesses for the purposes of the CPA. Accordingly, in applying the competitive neutrality principles, significant Government business enterprises are defined as those enterprises which are classified as PTEs, PFEs and/or GBEs.

https://www.economicregulator.tas.gov.au/Documents/Competitive%20Neutrality%20Principles%20Guidelines%20June%201996.pdf

This includes FT/STT.

In 1995 Australia’s governments agreed to the National Competition Policy (NCP) and Related Reforms.

http://ncp.ncc.gov.au/pages/home

The problem is many of those reforms have never been implemented, or have since been watered down.

FT/STT is a classic example!

It was corporatized according to NCP policy, but it has never been run as a commercial business. And yet it competes in the marketplace against private tree growers.

FT/STT has never publically acknowledged that it is a Government business competing in the marketplace against private forest growers both here in Tasmania and on the mainland

FT/STT has never publically acknowledged the need for it to behave in a competitively neutral manner.

FT/STT has never had any Competitive Neutrality Policies and objectives…..ever!

And every week that FT/STT gets another taxpayer handout is another breach of Australia’s Trade Practices Laws.

The fact that FT/STT has never been prosecuted illustrates the broken nature of Australia’s political system, and a conflicted forest industry.

The NCP does not discuss what should be done with Government businesses that cannot survive in a commercial world, businesses like FT/STT.

The FSC does not say where these “other sources” of money may come from or place any limits on the extent of subsidisation.

I wonder what economists think of this idea?

I wonder what private forest owners who compete in the marketplace against loss-making, forest squandering Sustainable Timber Tasmania think of this idea?

So Sustainable Timber Tasmania passes the FSC “economically viable” criteria with flying colors! What a joke!!

Never mind the long suffering Tasmanian taxpayer, or the lowly paid Tasmanian public servant!

The last 20 years

Last year this article appeared in a major Australian news media site detailing the extent of commercial losses from public native forestry in Tasmania:

JL

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/29/tasmanian-forest-agreement-delivers-13bn-losses-in-giant-on-taxpayers

And that analysis was using FT’s own accounting methods!

If FT had to do its accounting like a private forest grower (ie. Competitive neutrality) the losses would be far greater. What private forest grower can value its entire land estate at $0.00??

No doubt the FSC would see this article as glowing praise for world class forest management!!

Greenpeace

The environmental organisation Greenpeace was one of the founding partners of the FSC. In March last year Greenpeace resigned from the FSC citing ongoing and significant issues with the way the FSC was being managed:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2018/03/30/greenpeace-leaves-the-forest-stewardship-council-fsc/

With Greenpeace gone it now seems that the FSC is moving towards becoming another forest industry rubber stamping organisation like the PEFC.

Buying FSC certified wood products does not save the world’s forests.

New Zealand

Imagine if this response on economic viability was given within a New Zealand context, where the forest industry is fully commercial and profitable?

“Yeah we just waste taxpayers money to grow trees and give them away! Who cares about farmers?”

New Zealand farmers would be marching on their Parliament House to bring down the Government!

Here in Tasmania? Not a whisper of protest!

Bunnings

Bunnings, Australia’s largest timber retailer, is threatening to stop selling public native forest products next year (2020) unless the products achieve FSC certification.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2018/08/04/bunnings-finally-takes-a-stand/

The marketplace is finally saying “enough is enough”!

For both Vicforests and STT this is crunch time!

Wind up

Four years ago former State politician Sue Smith called for the winding up of FT/STT. How she described the forest industry then is still the same today, but worse.

https://www.themercury.com.au/news/politics/former-mlc-sue-smith-urges-forestry-tasmania-windup/news-story/50272c2ae1798a9358999278b5563073?fbclid=IwAR2YxZMeGSksYF7eI5NxmEmnPxYe2BQ3a8vUdCmr38t1hclWC7tS3JqC-xc

How in anyone’s imagination can this agency achieve FSC certification?

Blackwood

Who is going to grow commercial blackwood when the Tasmania State government and STT waste taxpayers money giving away public native forest blackwood, supported by taxpayer subsidies and the Forest Stewardship Council?

Nothing has changed

Sustainable Timbers Tasmania does not have a business plan, nor does it have commercial objectives.

Neither does it apologise every year for its continuing waste of Tasmanian taxpayers money.

“This is the number of teachers and nurses you missed out on this year thanks to our activities. But don’t worry! We are sustainable!!”

Nothing has changed.

But from my perspective it is the failed economics of public native forestry that is the primary reason that Tasmania will never have a Tasmanian Blackwood Growers Cooperative.

If the FSC “Economic Viability” criteria are so easy to achieve, one must assume the other two criteria – “Environmentally Appropriate” and “Socially Beneficial” – are just a walk in the park!

As a forester I believe this is about the worst possible outcome for the forest industry. It is certainly the worst possible outcome for the Tasmanian community.

  1. And finally, who gets to pay for STT’s FSC assessment? That’s right! The long suffering Tasmanian taxpayer. Show me a private forest grower who has their FSC assessment paid for by the taxpayer. Answer! NONE!!

PPS. STT is just the forest manager. The State Government owns the forests! The same State Government that wants to log the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The same State Government that IS logging ancient rainforests in Conservation Reserves. For the FSC to certify STT would be an even bigger act of hypocrisy than that of the Tasmanian State Government. The Tasmanian Government determines Forest Policy NOT Sustainable Timbers Tasmania!!

When will Tasmania get a real forest industry based on profitable private tree growers?

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Taylor Presentation Series (PS) Tasmanian blackwood

Taylor PS12ce

The first of the Taylor Presentation Series Tasmanian blackwood models are starting to appear after they were announced in the latest Wood & Steel magazine back in January.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2019/01/29/tasmanian-blackwood-makes-it-to-the-top-of-the-taylor-tree/

They still haven’t appeared on the Taylor website yet:

https://www.taylorguitars.com/

These are top-of-the-line guitars for people with deep pockets and a love of bling.

Here is a PS12ce with V-class bracing currently at Empire Music in Mt Lebanon, Pennsylvania, USA:

http://empiremusiconline.com/products-page/acoustic-guitar/taylor-ps12ce-first-article-v-class-adirondack-blackwood-18131/#!prettyPhoto[58454]/3/

I like the fact they have given the blackwood the edgeburst effect. I just wish they would use flamed blackwood for the headstock facing instead of ebony.

As I said in my January post for Tasmanian farmers to get their product into the top of the market should be an occasion for recognition and celebration.

Unfortunately that is not how wood markets operate.

Is this extraordinary market achievement resulting in more blackwood being planted by Tasmanian farmers?

Surely it should!

Utilising market forces (price, supply, demand, achievements, etc.) to help drive the future of the blackwood industry should be the backbone of industry and Government policy.

Instead market demand just helps the Tasmanian Government/Parliament justify logging public native blackwood forest in our Conservation Reserves!

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2017/10/23/tasmanian-rainforest-plunder/

Thankfully this is not where Taylor Guitars source their blackwood timber, which comes from Tasmanian Tonewoods salvaged from Tasmanian farms.

https://tasmaniantonewoods.com/

Congratulations to Taylor Guitars and to Tasmanian Tonewoods!

What a great achievement!!

We just need to complete the story….

The burning of Notre Dame and Tasmanian Special Timbers

NotreDameFire

The burning of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on 15/4/2019 provides the perfect metaphor for the continuing destruction of Tasmania’s natural heritage.

The world was horrified that the 800 year old World Heritage Listed cathedral was on fire. How could humanity lose such a treasure?

But here in Tasmania 800+ year old heritage is destroyed every single day!

Here in Tasmania 800+ year old trees are cut down every day, at taxpayer expense, to provide a lowly subsistence for the rent seekers in the Tasmanian special timbers industry; sawmillers, furniture makers, luthiers, craftsmen, shop keepers, etc..

Trees such as Celery Top Pine (Phyllocladus aspleniifolius) and Myrtle (Nothofagus cunninghamii) live within Tasmania’s cool temperate rainforest and can live for 800-1000 years, germinating long before Bishop Maurice de Sully commenced the construction of Notre Dame in 1160.

Some of these trees are even in designated Conservation Reserves that were specifically established to protect these very same ancient trees and forests.

Such is the perverse corrupt nature of public native forestry and politics in the island State of Tasmania.

https://www.stategrowth.tas.gov.au/energy_and_resources/forestry/special_species_timber_management_plan

The public response to the damage at Notre Dame has been nothing but extraordinary. €100s millions have been pledged by individuals to rebuild Notre Dame and restore this international treasure.

Meanwhile in Tasmania these 800+ year old trees are destroyed with no process transparency, no FSC certification, at considerable public expense and no thought for the heritage that is being destroyed.

These people are the Notre Dame arsonists of Tasmania:

http://livingwoodtasmania.org.au/

https://www.facebook.com/TasmanianSpecialTimbersAlliance/

and many, many more. They number in the thousands in Tasmania!

Rosewood log gets record price

RosewoodLog

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kozhikode/rosewood-log-gets-record-price/articleshow/66172798.cms

This recent article in the Times of India caught my attention. That’s not surprising given my interest in log markets and prices.

The Indian Government has tight controls over the harvesting and sale of logs. These logs were Government owned. The Government retained the rights to the trees when the land was subdivided and sold.

The various State forest agencies in India conduct regular log auctions with the objective of improving market transparency, reducing corruption, and maximising the value adding for its forest products.

That’s right! Unlike here in Australia, the Government of India is not interested in subsidising sawmillers, boat builders and craftspeople.

East Indian Rosewood (Dalbergia latifolia) is a high value timber, and these numbers certainly confirm that.

Species: East Indian Rosewood (Dalbergia latifolia)

Log Class: I

Girth (cm): 246

Diameter (cm): 78

Length (m): 3.1

Volume (m3): 1.49

Unit price ($AUD): $14,400

Total price ($AUD): $21,500

No comment is made about the wood grain of the log, whether it was straight or feature grain.

I’ve converted the Indian prices to Australian dollar prices.

The log was purchased by Gemwood a company that amongst other products specialises in supplying the international tonewood market.

http://www.gemwood.com/

I wonder what impact such transparent competitive log prices have on the planting of trees in India? Do Indian farmers really plant rosewood trees knowing that in 100 years time someone will make money harvesting the trees? Do they appreciate that the rosewood trees they harvest today are due to the far-sighted benevolence of people 100 years ago?

In my 40 years as a forester I’ve never seen a newspaper article like this in Australia. That is because the forest industry in Australia believes that log prices and competitive transparent markets have no part to play in the industry’s future.

Across the Tasman Sea the very successful New Zealand forest industry has the opposite viewpoint.

Will we ever see prices like these for Australian logs?

And if we did would it have any impact on the tree-planting behaviour of our farming community?

When will Australia get a real forest industry?

PS. Just discovered this earlier news article about the harvesting of these rosewood trees. Certainly makes for an interesting story.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kozhikode/centuries-old-rosewood-trees-in-wayanad-face-the-axe/articleshow/63791118.cms

Public Notification

To:          Interested Parties

From:    SCS Global Services

Date:     8 April 2019

Re:         Notification of Planned FSC Certification Evaluation of Sustainable Timber Tasmania

Summary:  As part of an upcoming Forest Stewardship Council™ (FSC®) certification evaluation, SCS is currently seeking stakeholder input regarding the forest management program and practices of Sustainable Timber Tasmania.  Please comment via email or contact our offices (contact information below).

In pursuit of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) endorsed forest management certification, Sustainable Timber Tasmania will be undergoing an audit on the full weeks of 20 and 27 May 2019.  The audit will be conducted by SCS Global Services, a FSC-accredited certification body. The Forest Stewardship Council is a non-profit organization devoted to encouraging the responsible management of the world’s forests. FSC sets standards that ensure forestry is practiced in an environmentally responsible, socially beneficial, and economically viable way.

Sustainable Timber Tasmania (STT) is a Tasmanian Government Business Enterprise responsible for sustainably managing  public production forest (Permanent Timber Production Zone land) and undertaking forest operations for the production and sale of forest products from these forests.

The 812 000 ha PTPZ land is approximately 12% of the Tasmanian land area. PTPZ land includes 375,000 ha of native forest that is available for wood production. It also includes 120,000 ha that contributes to Tasmania’s Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative Reserve system and a further 200,000 ha of non-production forest. STT manages 28,000 ha of plantation, comprising both hardwood eucalypts and softwood.

STT is seeking FSC certification for approximately 713,000 ha, the remaining PTPZ land area is managed either by third parties or is not eligible for FSC Forest Management certification due to its plantation conversion history.

Scope and Certification Evaluation Process

SCS Global Services (SCS), a FSC-accredited certification body based in California, will conduct this FSC Main Evaluation.

Performance will be evaluated against the The FSC National Forest Stewardship Standard of Australia (v1-0; 2018).  A copy of the standard is attached to this message.

The evaluation process includes the following components:

  • Public notification: distribution of the standard and solicitation of comments on the certification applicant; Audit planning and document review;
  • Field assessment: A representative sample of field sites and operations within the defined forest area are inspected by a team of auditors;
  • Stakeholder consultation is carried out prior to and during the field assessment;
  • Synthesis of findings: conformity to the standard is ascertained and the certification decision is formulated;
  • Reporting: a draft report describing the evaluation process, findings, and certification decision is produced;
  • Peer review: the draft evaluation report is peer reviewed by 2 independent natural resource professionals;
  • Finalization of the report and conveyance to the SCS Certification Committee for the final certification decision;
  • Certification decision: the final report and certification decision is conveyed to the applicant; a public summary of the certification report is released if certification is awarded.

Call for Public Participation

SCS is seeking comments on the forest management of Sustainable Timber Tasmania or other topics pertinent to their seeking FSC certification, such as whether Sustainable Timber Tasmania complies with the legal, social, technical, and environmental requirements of the standard or identification of high conservation value forests[1] within its managed lands.  Comments can be submitted via email to FSCConsultation@scsglobalservices.com, standard mail, or facsimile. All comments and sources will be kept in strict confidence at the request of the commenter.  Also, please feel welcome to forward this message on to other stakeholders that you think may have an interest in sharing their perspective on this assessment.

Date of the Evaluation

The field evaluation is scheduled to start 20 May 2019.  When possible, SCS will make arrangements to meet with interested parties during the evaluation if appropriate, but it is preferred that comments are submitted before the field evaluation commences.

Dispute Resolution Procedure

As provided by the FSC Interim Dispute Resolution Protocol and the SCS Forest Conservation Program Quality Manual, dispute resolution procedures are in place and available to interested parties at http://www.scsglobalservices.com/your-feedback.

Additional Information

More information about FSC and SCS can be obtained from www.fsc.org and www.SCSglobalServices.com. Information about Sustainable Timber Tasmania can be found athttps://www.sttas.com.au/.

Please Contact Us
Robert Hrubes Brendan Grady
FSC Lead Auditor SCS Director of Forest Management
2000 Powell St, Suite 600; Emeryville CA 94608, USA
Tel +1 (510)452-8034, Fax +1 (510) 452-6882
FSCConsultation@scsglobalservices.com

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  

Evan Poirson | Program Associate, Forest Management Certification

Landowner opinion on trees

PFT2

This message arrived in my email recently:

Private Forests Tasmania, Institute of Foresters of Australia, Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association and the Forest Practices Authority seek your opinion on growing trees on your property, the benefits and barriers that you face.

Could you please assist us by participating in this 5 minute survey.  If you would like to know more, please consider attending a field day.  Please complete by 7th March 2019.

https://www.pft.tas.gov.au

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MCVC72B

I’m heartened by the presence of the TFGA in the above list, but disheartened by the absence of FIAT/TFFPN.

I’ve copied the survey questions here:

Question Title

  1. Do you currently, or have you in the past, had a tree plantation or native forest growing on your property? Y/N
  2. Do you know that trees can benefit your overall farm production? Y/N/Some
  • Livestock – welfare, weight gain, survival rates, milk yields, shelter.
  • Crops and pasture – pasture production, drought protection, water evaporation, wind.
  • Biodiversity – soil erosion, wildlife habitat, climate change.
  • Financial – trees are money in the bank.
  1. If any, what do you consider are the barriers to planting and growing trees on your property?

(You may select more than one answer).

  • No barriers
  • Time poor
  • Establishment costs
  • Not enough benefits
  • Lack of incentives
  • Management costs
  • Harvesting costs
  • Lack of information
  • Loss of agricultural land
  • Risk
  • Time it takes trees to grow
  • Market uncertainty and low returns
  • Other (please specify)
  1. Do you plan on adding trees to your property in the future? Y/N/Maybe
  2. Would you consider planting trees if you had any of the following?

(You may select more than one option).

  • Financial assistance
  • A Joint Venture with a forest company
  • A better understanding of how trees can contribute to your overall farm profitability
  • A better understanding of how trees can benefit your livestock, crops and pasture
  • You could receive carbon credits
  • You had access to good tree planting advice and assistance
  • Other (please specify)
  1. What are your overall thoughts on tree growing?
  2. Would you consider attending field days to learn more about planting trees on your property and the benefits to you? Y/N/Maybe
  3. What would you specifically like to learn about at field days?
  • (You may select more than one option).
  • Livestock benefits
  • Crop & pasture benefits
  • Shelter and windbreaks
  • Financial benefits
  • Carbon credits
  • Plantation establishment
  • Management
  • Design
  • Other (please specify)
  1. Please provide any additional comments or feedback.
  2. Would you like to join our mailing list to receive up to date information on private forest matters in Tasmania? Y/N
  3. Your details
  • Name
  • Company
  • Address
  • Address 2
  • City/Town
  • State
  • Postal Code
  • Email Address
  • Phone Number

 

As a forester I read this survey and think – NOTHING HAS CHANGED! The forest industry thinks exactly the same way today as it did 50 years ago!!

How is that humanly possible?

Given what has happened in Tasmania over the last 50 years how can people NOT change?

This is just extraordinary.

The forest industry has spent the last 50 years lurching from crisis to failure to crisis. The forest industry today is a mere shadow of yesteryear, but still the attitude and thinking remains unchanged.

I could just as easily write a survey for members of the forest industry to respond too, because for me the weight of inertia and lack of vision lies not with Tasmanian farmers, but with members of the forest industry (most broadly defined).

Firstly let me state plainly:

Tasmania will never have a proper forest industry while we continue to log public native forest! The past 50 years proves that beyond any doubt whatsoever!

Secondly:

Growing trees for wood production is business. Not politics! Not community service! Not ideology! Not subsidy!

Many/most people in the Tasmanian forest industry choke on either or both of these statements.

And therein lies the problem.

Progress with Tasmanian farmers in building a new forest industry is not possible whilst the old mindset remains.

And I see no indication of such change.

Private Forests Tasmania, and its predecessor the Private Forestry Division within the old Forestry Commission, has been around for almost 50 years!!

PFT should have been doing these surveys every 2-5 years since it formed. I know there have been farmer surveys in the past but obviously nothing came of the results.

Here are two examples of how the New Zealand forest industry engages with farmers:

https://nz.pfolsen.com/market-info-news/

http://www.laurieforestry.co.nz/Monthly-Newsletter

I don’t know ANY company in Australia that behaves like this.

And does this survey mean that no one in the forest industry including retailers, manufacturers as well as sawmillers, has any ideas on how to engage with farmers? No ideas at all on how to motivate, recognise, reward and encourage Tasmanian farmers to grow quality timber?

If that is the case then it is little wonder that the forest industry is in such dire straits. There is no mental capacity there whatsoever!

If the forest industry wants to genuinely engage with Tasmanian farmers it doesn’t need an opinion survey. Let’s see some real honest genuine engagement!!!

When will Tasmania get a fully commercial profitable forest industry?

I wonder if that’s a Tasmanian record?

blackheart

At the recent January 2019 IST log tender a single black hearted sassafras log sold for $10,100!!

I wonder if that is a record price for a native forest log in Tasmania?

https://www.islandspecialtytimbers.com.au/

The log had the following measurements:

Length: 5.2 metres

Small end diameter: 71 cm

Large end diameter: 85 cm

Volume: 2.48 cubic metres

Unit Price: $4,075 per cubic metre

Black hearted sassafras is a slow growing rainforest tree native to Tasmania and Victoria.

Most black heart sassafras timber comes from unsustainable, taxpayer funded, public native forest logging in Tasmania, including the Government approved logging of Conservation Reserves.

Most Tasmanians and Australians don’t seem to care about Tasmanian forests!

Anyway it is an extraordinary price for a log.