Plans to log native forests in western Victoria slammed
The Victorian National Parks Association has joined local conservation groups in slamming VicForests' proposal to return native forest logging to western Victoria.
"Plans to re-open state forests in western Victoria and south of Ballarat to logging will never be ecologically or economically sustainable and should be dropped," says VNPA Executive Director Matt Ruchel.
State logging agency VicForests began an Expression of Interest process late last year to re-open forests around Portland, the Pyrenees Ranges and Mt Lonarch to logging, a move that has angered local conservationists.
There are also fears some Forest Parks around the Otways and Cobboboonee National Park could be opened up to logging despite the current allowable uses being confined to firewood collection and 'minor produce'.
"It has been well documented for decades that the history of land use in Victoria has left a legacy of fragmented native vegetation with a high proportion of animal and plant species now threatened or extinct, especially west of the Hume Hwy," says Mr Ruchel.
Native vegetation in Victoria's fragmented landscapes supports the majority of the state's native plants and animals. Around 40% of our native land vertebrate species (mammals, bird, amphibians, reptiles) are virtually restricted to fragmented landscapes - 45% rely on fragmented landscapes across a major part of their distribution in Victoria.
Preventing habitat loss and improving the condition of native vegetation is, by many orders of magnitude, more cost-effective than revegetation and has significantly better conservation outcomes.
"It doesn't make any sense for the government to provide millions of dollars for revegetation of the most cleared areas in western Victoria, then to open up the last remnants of native forest on public land to logging," says Mr Ruchel.
"VicForests is obligated to maximise its profits and should not be involved in forestry in the west of the state, which will never be ecologically or economically sustainable."
Conservationists are now calling for VicForests' responsibility for western Victoria be reversed or dropped as soon as possible and that the current expression of interest process be cancelled and a full detailed ecological assessment of forested public land in the region be completed.
Portland Field Naturalists' Club Conservation Officer Doug Phillips says his organisation received government assurances as recently as 2015 that commercial logging would not resume in the Portland Forest Management Area.
"The region is home to a massive hardwood and softwood plantation forestry estate and the biggest export woodchip facility in the world. The proposed commercial exploitation by VicForests of local native forests sends all of the wrong messages," he says.
"While we have been told the proposed commercial logging would be 'low level' we know from past experience that low level harvesting can be very quickly altered to high level harvesting with, for example, a change of government.
"The reality is that the VicForests process was opened up to all comers including large-scale outfits and wasn't just confined to the extraction of sawlogs, but also included the harvesting of 'residual' which can be used for pulp."