What lies behind the forest protection announcement
The announcement by the Andrews Government on November 6th to immediately protect all old growth, some Greater Glider habitat and end all native forest logging in another 10 years came with great fanfare.
At first glance we were jubilant but also kept in mind we had heard similar promises many times in the past.
As we cautiously unpacked the wrapping and glitter, we found some worrying things.
- There will be 96,000 protected in eastern Victoria meant to protect threatened wildlife including the Greater Glider.
- Old growth, estimated to cover 90,000 ha, should be protected.
- Labor has an aspiration to stop native forest logging by 2030.
- The Strathbogies in the NE and a tiny patch of isolated forest at Mirboo North are mapped for protection.
The not so good:
- The zones currently being offered to Greater Gliders and other species in East Gippsland are mostly logged, have been burnt, are steep or are already in protection zones and unavailable for logging.
- Much of the richest habitat for many species is still available for clearfelling.
- The new ‘protection measures’ for the Greater Glider in logging areas is woeful. VicForests can still clearfell 60% of their forest in logging areas. For many reasons this is almost pointless, and will reduce protection for our EGipp Gliders.
- The forests of Victoria’s Central West remain on the logging schedule.
- The Strzelecki forests which have been on the urgent list for protection for 20 years remain unprotected..
- Mapping the old growth will take some time to refine and correct. How long?
- As old growth is now so highly fragmented and occurs in many small isolated pockets, it is proposed to protect it under logging rules. These are weak and regularly breached.
- There is no timeline for any of this or indication how the rare species zones will be protected. They certainly need correcting. We would prefer National Park status as this would ensure secure protection.
- A reduction in log volumes of 25% will start in 2024. But many in the industry say that there are not the saw logs even now to meet commitments to mills.
- The next 4 years could see a serious escalation in logging forests as a cut-out and get-out exit strategy. Larger areas could be clearfelled to obtain fewer sawlogs.
- This has all been designed around maintaining VicForests’ main customer’s needs; the Nippon woodchip and paper mill at Maryvale.
- East Gippsland, the Strathbogies, Mirboo North and the Central Highlands were the only areas to gain some protection zones. This leaves a lot of Victoria’s forests still earmarked for clearing.
- 2030 is far too long a time to continue logging our forests, especially the Central Highlands’ critically endangered ash forests.
- The opposition has said it will reverse this if it gets back into government.
A nasty case of entitlement
The industry has been promised hundreds of millions in compensation as part of the transition plan to plantations starting after 2024.
It has received untold millions over the years as it lobbied, bullied and threatened. It demanded greater access to even more public forests and with less oversight. For this it received tax-payer subsidies despite the evidence of over-logging.
The industry, its lobby groups, union and opposition are telling huge porkies. They are over-dramatising any impact forest protection might have. It’s also over estimating jobs by up to 22x the reality, claiming towns will suffer. Orbost is used as an example even though less than 1% of local jobs rely directly on logging now. We are being told that without logging, forests willl just burn. Industry has been chucking an orchestrated tantrum and felling truth after truth. This professional sign on a Heyfield sawmill is part of the media drama. It shows the ugly face of an industry with a nasty case of entitlement.
But as one ex-logger said to the ABC:
The reality is that I would love the timber industry to continue, but if the wood’s not there it’s just not there — it’s a finite resource and if the commercial volumes aren’t there anymore there’s nothing we can do about it.
We also need to make sure that native forests are protected right across the state, not just in the unwanted areas the industry has agreed can be painted as a conservation win and a terrible loss to them.
Industry and the union are pushing back hard against the announcement but it’s now the expected theatre that comes with every announcement.
If you’d like to take action, join the upcoming
Nature for Life Rally
at Parliament on Thursday 28th to call on the Andrews Government to protect nature where it’s needed. 12-2pm.
Place: Parliament steps, Spring St, Melbourne
Followed by: BYO picnic in Treasury Gardens
For more info, click here