PARK WATCH Article June 2022 |
VicForests are unleashed in the Wombat Forest, cutting up the proposed national park, writes Executive Director Matt Ruchel.
Last year we welcomed the Andrews Government’s commitment for a 24,000-hectare addition to create a new Wombat–Lerderderg National Park, and a number of nearby regional parks. While we were pleased there had finally been a commitment, we were also concerned about the areas identified for logging despite the future protections. The Andrews Government sanctioned continual logging in the proposed regional parks and in 17 existing areas in the proposed new national park (eight coupes up to 2029 and nine coupes up to 2024). We also remained concerned that there was no implementation timeline for legislation or specific funding for the new parks.
Now all that has been thrown out as VicForests rolls out the logging machinery for their “Forest Recovery Timber Utilisation Plan”: their plan to log large parts of the proposed Wombat-Lerderderg National Park and surrounds.
But this is not a clean-up operation – this is a smash-up operation. Under the guise of “salvage logging” rules, the state-owned logging agency has expanded its logging operations by hundreds of hectares. Some 175 new areas were tacked on to existing logging coupes – over 80 in the proposed national and regional parks – totalling 4000 hectares across Wombat Forest and surrounds (see map).
Logging in the Wombat Forest (red areas existing coupes, blue areas new Forest Recovery Timber Utilisation Plan coupes)
The release of the so-called “Forest Recovery Timber Utilisation Plan” is unprecedented. It purports to deal with trees damaged by storms last year, but goes much further in practice, entrenching logging coupes for up to three years. The fallen trees, if indeed this is the only target, will be used for sawlogs if they haven’t been on the ground too long already, otherwise they are destined for pulp and firewood.
Adding dozens of logging coupes to this popular forest is a clear breach of last year’s firm commitments by the Andrews Government to log only a small area of the soon-to-be protected areas. Even then, logging areas of proposed national parks was questionable.
We understand that this “Forest Recovery Timber Utilisation Plan” is in addition to plans being proposed by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and Forest Fire Management Victoria, which aim to clear logs up to 100 metres on either side of roads.
Logging has commenced in at least one coupe at Babbington Hill in the Wombat Forest. Local conservationists, including Wombat Forestcare, are extremely upset, with over 100 people inspecting the site as a protest on Good Friday.
While a highly targeted and sensitive clean-up operation after the storms was expected and likely needed in some places, this is essentially a snatch and grab, well beyond anything envisaged. This destruction needs to stop immediately, and any clean-up implemented should be only what is necessary, carefully thought through, and properly planned.
It’s a broken promise by the Andrews Government. And it is a gross abuse of our national park-worthy native forests.
Wombat Forest is an essential home for threatened wildlife, such as the Greater Glider, Powerful Owl, and Brush-tailed Phascogale, among many others. This move to exploit critical habitat conflicts with the Andrews Government’s recognition of the importance of protecting Victoria’s remaining native forests.
There is also concern about 500 hectares of new logging areas in Cobaw State Forest, which was proposed as a conservation reserve (see top right of map).
VNPA and Wombat Forestcare are calling on the Andrews Government to cancel the Forest Recovery Timber Utilisation Plan, and create the promised new parks immediately.
We’ve put together talking points so you can call Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio, to voice your disapproval.
The Dja Warrung, Wadawurrung and Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung are the Traditional Owners of areas of the Wombat Forest.
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