MEDIA RELEASE 23 February 2021 |

A new report showing analysis of maps and data from the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires has revealed the significant areas of unburnt forests critical for bushfire affected wildlife are set to be logged, unless decisive action is taken by the Victorian Government.

The report was commissioned by the Victorian National Parks Association along with local East Gippsland conservation groups. The report titled After the Fires: protecting our forest refuges – critical areas for protecting fauna and flora affected by the 2019–20 bushfires reveals damaging plans by state-owned logging company VicForests to continue to log over 20,000ha of forest across ten key refuge areas identified in the report. These are critical for wildlife to recover and repopulate the vast areas where millions of animals were killed by the fires.

“Bulldozing of intact forests by the Andrews government is going ahead despite these areas and the animals that call them home needing meaningful protection, not business as usual,” said Chris Schuringa, spokesperson for Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO).

The 2019-20 bushfires burnt more than 1.25 million hectares of forest across eastern Victoria, pushing many ecosystems to the brink of collapse and threatening the survival of hundreds of plant and animal species.

There have not only been no reductions or substantive changes to existing logging plans since the bushfires, two additional logging schedules have been approved by state-owned VicForests in the last 12 months.

The ten areas focused on in the report include Errinundra, Cottonwood, Cabbage Tree, Far East Gippsland, Swifts Creek, Nunniong, Colquhoun, Mt Alfred, Sardine Creek to Bemm, and the North-East Alpine Region, but there are more across the state currently under threat from logging including Little Dargo River, Rubicon state forest and other areas across the Central Highlands.

The analysis adds to the chorus of leading scientists who have identified that key unburnt refuge areas should be the immediate and ongoing focus for conservation. The state government’s own risk assessment of threatened species and habitats carried out in October 2020 and released over the holiday break acknowledges the toll logging has on threatened wildlife(1). However, the government has not yet moved to provide any new protections for rare animals like the Greater Glider or Sooty Owl.

Some wildlife only found in East Gippsland’s forests had close to 80% of their home ranges burnt, much at high severity, and many rare plant species had over half of their known range impacted by fire(2). For most of the bushfire-affected threatened species focused on in the report, logging is listed as a major threat to their already precarious survival.

Despite being recognised under Victorian and Commonwealth threatened species laws, neither government has taken concrete action. Logging still threatens these animals in the small, fragmented areas where they’re found.

“Whether it was the threatened Greater Glider, or more common animals like lyrebirds and wallabies, all were hit hard by the fires. Thousands were killed directly by flames or the thick smoke, suffered burn injuries or died from lack of food and shelter,” said Jordan Crook, spokesperson for Victorian National Park Association.

“Victorian’s would be shocked to learn that after surviving the horrific Black Summer fires, these animals will likely perish or remaining home’s will be lost in logging operations. Logging and the risk of future fires will seal the fate of many of our already struggling wildlife,” said Jordan Crook, spokesperson for Victorian National Park Association.

“The Andrews Government must take decisive action to immediately protect these forests refuges and wildlife habitat and provide further funding for management and restoration of fire impacted areas,” said Jordan Crook, spokesperson for Victorian National Park Association.

The report also calls on the Andrews Government to rapidly bring forward the planned 2030 phase out of logging public forests.

Read the report After The Fires: Protecting our forest refuges here

Media Resources: 
Drone footage here
Photos here
(Photos and maps from the report can be made available upon request)

References:

(1) Threatened Species and Communities Risk Assessment, Victoria’s Regional Forest Agreements. October 2020. Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning https://www.environment.vic.gov.au/conserving-threatened-species/threatened-species-and-communities-risk-assessment

(2) Victoria’s bushfire emergency: biodiversity response and recovery Version 2 August 2020, Victorian State Government Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning https://www.wildlife.vic.gov.au/home/biodiversity-bushfire-response-and-recovery

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