Victoria has taken the dubious title of being the largest logger of Australian native forest by volume, accounting for around a third of all native forest logged in the country over the past year.
The state government agency VicForests logged more than 1.3 million cubic metres of wood from Victoria’s native forests, almost 100,000 cubic metres more than the year before.
In comparison Tasmania, the next largest logging state for the year, cut down 1.1 million cubic metres of native forest.The trend continues, on October 17 VicForests released its 2016 Timber Release Plan, identifying approximately 67,000ha of publicly-owned state forest as available for logging over the next three to five years.
On the chopping block
The timber release plan is alarming. It opens up at least 10,000 hectares of high conservation value forest in the central highlands to logging. In East Gippsland it targets 12,000 hectares of forest that has been identified by conservation groups as of high priority for interim protection from for logging.
These areas need to be protected from logging as the core of future national parks and reserves and to protect threatened species.
It is obvious that VicForests, on behalf of the Victorian Government, is unwilling or unable to make a serious effort at protecting conservation values and that the state suffers from a serious lack of remaining intact forest.
Conservationists have long argued that the industry is ecologically destructive and not sustainable. The latest logging plan, and the inability to avoid even relatively small high conservation value areas, shows just how little forest we have left after decades of logging and the impacts of wild fire (see map).
The map above of proposed logging in the Central Highlands, home of the Leadbeater’s Possum, shows planned logging of Ash forest in yellow and previously logged areas in red. Click the map below for a larger view.
What’s at stake
If VicForests is allowed to complete its latest logging plan it will significantly undermine the ecological integrity of a new Great Forest National Park and other new national parks and protected area networks in eastern Victoria.
It will also jeopardise many of our forest species and put at huge risk the future survival of our faunal emblem, the critically endangered Leadbeater’s Possum.
While a forest industry taskforce involving industry, unions and conservation groups has been established, negotiations with VicForests to avoid high-value conservation areas have floundered and failed.
In its 2014 election commitment the Andrews Government said it would “consider any reasonable recommendations and proposals reached by consensus of the major stakeholders through the Industry Task Force, but will not impose solution”.
‘Business as usual’ in Victoria’s native forests imposes an outcome on conservation interests that is not acceptable. Once the forests are logged their habitat and conservation values are gone, at least for century or so, if not for ever.