WAFA has been proud to support the peaceful and powerful defence of Challar forest.
WHY is Challar forest important?
Challar is a spectacular ancient karri and jarrah forest north of Walpole. It has the Deep River - the cleanest river left in WA - running through it and it forms an important link between two parts of the Walpole Wilderness Area.
Challar is a high salt risk catchment of the Deep River. Clearfelling the vegetation alongside the tributaries of the river, and within 200m of the river itself, will increase salinity and turbidity in the river system.
All of WA's native forests are important. They have their own value separate from our perception and interactions with them, and they are also valuable to us when we leave them to grow. They purify water and regulate the south-west's climate, they are beautiful and give us places to find peace and rest, they store massive volumes of carbon - far more than younger forests and plantations and they provide food and homes to many of WA's unique and endangered wildlife and plant species. They have great cultural significance to Nyungah people and those of us who haven't been around as long. The south-west forests are valuable in so many ways, and in different ways for each of us. They are without doubt more valuable standing than they are as woodchips, firewood, charcoal and railway sleepers.
Challar is important for all these reasons, and also because of the role it is playing in maintaining the purity of the Deep River. It is also home to flocks of all 3 of the south-west's threatened cockatoos - the Red-tails, Baudin's and Carnaby's, as well as Brush-tailed Phascogales, Western Ringtail Possums, Chuditch and an extraodinary number and diversity of invertebrates.
WHY did people decide to blockade Challar?
The first step that people took was to speak to the Department of Parks and Wildlife. It was hoped that DPAW would have sympathy for the need to protect the Deep River, the Walpole Wilderness Area and the Marine Park that the Deep runs into. Unfortunately DPAW was not willing to amend the logging plans to allow for a meaningful buffer around the Deep, or to create a protected corridor between the two parts of the Walpole Wilderness Area.
Challar was left out of the National Park when the Walpole Wilderness Area was created after the 2001 election when the ALP promised to protect all Old Growth forests. The definition of Old Growth was narrowed then so that karri forests which have had even one tree taken out per hectare, and jarrah forests with dieback or more than 5 stumps (trees chopped down) per hectare are no longer defined as old growth. This means that even when a forest's ancient ecosystem is intact and it has the full suite of native flora and fauna, and is plainly old growth to any impartial observer or ecologist, it does not necessarily meet the definition of Old Growth as defined by Government.
Challar is one of many forests that should have been protected when Old Growth forests were protected, but didn't meet the narrowed definition and can now be legally destroyed.
Walpole and Denmark locals, supported by people from around the south-west, decided to peacefully defend Challar, the Deep River and the many populations of threatened wildlife in the area when all avenues of negotiation had failed to secure protection for this magnificent forest.
Here are a few links to some of the news stories:
SO what's happening now?
The camp, and treehouse and strong support that the people defending Challar received have protected Challar for now. The treehouse went up in January 2014 and no logging there has happened since. Now that the rain has set in and there is a high risk of spreading dieback, plans to log the forest have been put on hold until the Spring/ Summer. For now the forest is safe. Stay tuned for Chapter 2.