DSE logging plans still in disarray

Despite last year’s 43% cutbacks, there was still a serious overcutting by the industry – with the full approval of DSE foresters. This year is supposed to see a reduction to make up for it. However, this year’s draft logging plan (called Wood Utilisation Plans or WUPs) has shown again how slap dash the whole planning system is.

Still overcutting
With the 43% ‘cutbacks’ it should have reduced the total sawlog take to about 160,000 m3. Despite this and the need to account for the overcutting last year, the volumes add up to 237,000 m3 of sawlogs! (that’s not even counting the much higher volumes of chip logs). We are told this will be reduced when the final plan is drawn up but we were told the same last year!

Planning system
Each year the government draws half jelly bean sized blobs on the East Gippsland maps. These are earmarked for clearfelling in the coming three years. Many of these areas are in contentious forests such as rainforest areas. The public is asked for its thoughts each year. Each year we express the same concerns. Each year more important old growth and rainforest is destroyed.

It is often impossible to make meaningful comments on a 1:100,000 map without detailed information; information which has been denied to the public in the past. The four week time frame given for the public to comment on thousands of hectares planned for logging in the coming year also shows how farcical the process is.

Hidden coupes
If a coupe has been listed on previous plans but was not logged, it does not need to be mapped again, making it extremely unclear as to what is due to go down and the total area combined.

Rainforest logging
Logging is planned within many Rainforest Sites Of Significance (RSOS) and is pre-empting the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act rainforest Action Statement. This will review the current inadequate protection measures. However, a precautionary approach is not being taken by the department for East Gippsland’s RSOS. The Code of Forest Practices (environmental logging codes) also states “The most important rainforest areas should be accorded highest protection”. It also states that Nationally significant stands should be given sub catchment protection except where full protection can be afforded by other local measures. ‘Local measures’ as designed by our local foresters amount to a reduced and unlawful 20 m buffer! The Department’s rainforest protection regime has been breached for years. We hope this year the plans will remedy this.

The EG RFA states that a rainforest “Technical Report (is) to be published by the end of 1997” which details a description of each site, and management plans to protect it. The DSE claims this has been done but they have been unable to produce this report when requested.

Dozens of RSOS areas would have been clearfelled since the Forest Management Plan was introduced in 1995 and this year, plans are to actually increased the level of logging inside Rainforest SOS as compared to previous years.

Boundary shifts
There have been many boundary alterations of protection zones over the years. This is allowable by the senior forest planner if new information justifies the changes. They aren’t required to take specialist advice to do this.

The Victorian Rainforest Network has made a very detailed submission to the Department on plans to log rainforest sites again this year. EEG (Jill) has found the time line for comment too short and the value of spending hours over maps and light tables and management plans has so far altered nothing over the past 10 years. However it is enlightening (and depressing) to see how each year, more and more ‘overmature’ forests are tagged for clearfelling; how promised lower volumes are instead increased and logging areas doubled. There are at least 7,330 ha mapped for logging in the next 12 months. That’s about 15 football fields each and every day.

Is such crooked incompetence endemic throughout all government departments or is the DSE a special case?

Jill / Victorian Rainforest Network

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