To designate Ben Bullen, Wolgan and Newnes Plateau ‘State Forests’, as viable timber production areas is a stretch of the imagination. These areas consist mainly of open woodland with extensive heath lands, swamps, bare rock, cliff and steep rocky slopes. Logging operations are associated with the isolated pockets of iconic Blue Mountains Ash (Eucalyptus oreades). The logging of scattered Silvertop Ash (E. sieberi), Mountain Gum (E. dalrympleana), stringybark and peppermint eucalypt trees is causing further environmental damage for very small returns.
The 1900 hectare radiata pine plantation in the centre of Newnes Plateau requires tremendous inputs of nutrients and a large fire break to preserve the investment. Without huge fertilizer inputs and over-burning the surrounding bush the plantation could not be viable. Sewage sludge has been spread over the plantation at a rate of 30 tonnes a hectare, which causes significant pollution of the adjoining Newnes Plateau Shrub Swamps and the World Heritage Areadownstream. The pine forest sits over an Aeolian dunefield of deep, permeable, acidic sand and is the last place to dump sewage sludge. Even with these efforts, it is a very slow growing plantation.
Continued retention of these unproductive state forests is difficult to justify on ecological and economic grounds. To stop the economic and environmental losses, the pine plantation should be clearfelled, ripped and the affected areas allowed to recover by fostering native regeneration as well as some revegetating with native plants of local provenance.