PARK WATCH September 2018 |

Do you know the extent of logging at Mount Cole? Matt Ruchel reveals what is going on out west.

Mount Cole has long been a popular bushwalking, camping and picnic spot for generations of people from Ballarat and Melbourne. But its amenity, ambience and ecology are being wrecked by an industrial logging trial.

It is also currently being assessed as part of the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council’s Central West Investigation.

Just off the Western Highway, Mount Cole State Forest is 25 kilometres from the township of Beaufort and an hour west of Ballarat. This small patch of forest (around 9,000 hectares) rises to almost 900 metres.

The Beeripmo Walk is one of Victoria’s most popular walking tracks. It can be done as a day or overnight walk, and rewards walkers by winding through cool fern gullies and tall forests, taking in views across the surrounding hills of both Mount Cole and Mount Buangor. Lying on the edge of the Pyrenees wine region there is potential for increases in tourism.

Mount Cole State Forest was identified as having high conservation values under VNPA’s Small Parks Project in 2010. There are 130 species of birds, nine threatened fauna species and thirteen threatened flora species occurring in the forest.

87 per cent of Ecological Vegetation Classes (EVCs) in the forest are under-represented in the Central Victorian Uplands bioregion. Mount Cole contains small patches of three endangered and two vulnerable vegetation types.

Timber harvesting with axe and cross cut saw began during the mid-1840s. It was closed to logging in 1918 due to over-harvesting. Timber harvesting was reopened from 1947, by the Forests Commission, until it was merged with the environment department in 1993.

According to the 2012 Department of Sustainability and Environment (now Department of Land, Water and Planning): “… in the 2000’s timber harvesting was significantly scaled back and is largely a by-product of land management activities.”

This is certainly not the case six years on.

In 2014, on the eve of the Victorian state election, the former Napthine government controversially gave the government logging agency VicForests control of logging operations in the west of the state, including Mount Cole. VicForests licensees are currently harvesting around 1,000 cubic metres in Mount Cole as part of it ‘community forestry’ program.

The Timber Utilisation Plan released by VicForests in mid-2017 identified 47 logging coupes at Mount Cole. Of the 36 used for timber production coupes covering 1,267 hectares, 19 are flagged as ‘multi-staged management’, which is a type of selective logging. 17 coupes covering 330 hectares are flagged as ‘evenaged management’ – essentially clearfell industrial logging. This is the equivalent of 186 MCG football grounds being razed to the ground.

See the photos here.

A team of VNPA staff recently travelled to the site to assess the situation. We found at least five of the 17 clearfell coupes have been logged in the last few years, assumably as part of VicForests three-year trial – two had been logged in the past six months, with at least one just finished. Some of the future areas flagged for clearfell logging have significant conservation values. They need to be retained to ensure long term ecological health of the area.

The VEAC recommendations for Mount Cole fall short, with much of the area left open to intensive logging, and the Wimmera River headwaters lacking any protection.


Photos of Mt Cole logging operations

Background information

Download map of Mt Cole showing waking tracks and logging areas

Read our breakdown of VEAC’s recommendations in ‘Forests of the Central West‘ in the September 2018 Park Watch.

You can stay up to date on developments and support our campaign to protect the central west forests here.

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