Many astute observers are starting to question the fires that have enveloped Victoria's east since 2003. This may sound like a conspiracy theory but the evidence seems to be mounting. Many of these areas were deliberately left to burn for a day or two before fire-fighters were sent to attack them or that the back burns were deliberately positioned to include large tracts of the most sought after forests. The ash forests in particular have been heavily targeted by unchecked salvage logging operations after large areas were either lightly or heavily burnt.
The Victorian Government classifies logging the bejeezuz out of killed or semi-scorched ash forests recovering from fire as 'bushfire recovery'. As part of its 'Bushfire Recovery Package', it has handed over $34 million of our taxes to help the logging and woodchipping industries fast track so-called 'salvage' logging of ash at ten times sustainable rates.
Let's clear the smoke on the claim that fire is as damaging as logging.
Carbon is stored both above and below ground. Forest parts above ground lose roughly 800 tonnes per ha when logged and burnt. Using figures both Federal and State governments have been quoting in parliament, the recent fires sent less than 40 tonne/ha into the sky.
There were 233 bulldozers out there pushing our forests, streams and mountainsides around during the peak of last summer's fires.
The bulk of these massive clearing operations did naught to slow or stop the drought-fuelled fires, but it did give the impression that something important was being done by lots of blokes on big machines.
Two hundred years ago the Sooty Owl was abundant and fed on 18 ground species of prey in Gippsland. Today they have two or three to choose from. Other wildlife's ability to thrive is similarly threatened by decades of habitat change.
At the time of going to print, there are FIVE CREWS working on a GOVT SANCTIONED 70 mts x 256 kms CLEARING that cuts across the Thomson catchment.
The DSE claimed it learnt from the squandering of the Yalmy Road and the Snowy National Park in the 2003 fires. Now we understand how! The Minister has approved an even longer broad and lifeless band of dirt to encircle the entire Melbourne water catchment! And hey - just look at those logs coming out of the Yarra Ranges National Park!
Of the million-plus hectares of forest that burnt in last summer's fires, DSE's Chief Fire Officer, Ewan Waller, admitted they lit up 100,000 ha of that area in back burns. Many of which got away and threatened the towns of Bruthen, Tambo Crossing and Swifts Creek.
A recent scientific survey of the impact of the 2003 fire in the upper Snowy River on Tiger Quolls calculates a reduction in the quoll population of between 67.5-90%. The impact of this loss on the state population (without taking into account the impact of the 2003 fires from the north-east through the Alps and Gippsland) would be between 33-45% reduction.
Given the ongoing decline in range and abundance of quolls in Victoria a sudden decline of this magnitude should be sounding the sirens.