Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said the release of the Barrabup Forest assessment report marked the end of the review process, despite concerns warning against the new procedure used to identify old growth.
Documents, requested by South West MP Diane Evers, included emails between the director of the Conservation and Parks Commission and a bureaucrat in the Department of Parks and Wildlife.
The emails discussed draft procedures to determine which areas of WA’s native forests were ‘old growth’, and warranted protection from logging.
In the documents, CPC director Roland Mau warned DPAW acting director of forest and ecosystem management Jason Foster that the draft procedures would have, ‘profound ramifications for the mapping of old growth forest’.
Mr Mau further warned that DPAW’s new threshold meant that even an area that was unambiguously old-growth forest may not be protected.
South West MP Diane Evers said the documents confirmed that the new procedures would not accurately identify nor protect all of WA’s old growth forests.
“The new procedures were finalised when the Environment Minister had barely been two weeks in the job; the Minister says it was done without his knowledge,” she said.
“While this may absolve him from blame, it is essential he steps in now and goes back to the CPC for its unimpeded advice on how old growth forest assessments should be conducted.
“The Minister must also retract the old growth assessment for Barrabup forest that he released as it was done as a first ‘test case’ using the new procedures.
“It has produced the highly unlikely conclusion that less than 10 per cent of the proposed harvest area is old growth – a figure that falls well short of the expectations of experienced individuals who surveyed the area.”
Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said the fact that 43 hectares had been identified as old-growth was evidence the new processes was effective.
He also received advice the new procedure would identify similar or more old growth than CPC.
Barrabup Conservation Group spokesperson Ellie McKie said if the issue was assessed under the previous process more areas of old growth would have been saved.
Ms McKie said the Forest Product Commission started their operation months before the criteria changed and the old growth assessment should have been done by the CPC.
“The McGowan government made a promise to protect all high conservation forests so there are many people expecting them to honour this and declare Barrabup a formal conservation park.”