The opportunistic logging of a 70 km slice of the Snowy River National Park in late February outraged more than just environment groups. The normally compliant Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) is so disgusted by this shameless act of vandalism, it is carrying out an investigation.
The plan was to brush up an almost adequate control line from which to back-burn ahead of the eastern fire front. The job was given to a familiar private logging company CEO, and industry spokesperson, Garry Squires, who was paid by the Government to help manage the fires. His interpretation of the original plan blew it out into a massive logging operation. Strangely, no one checked on the works until two weeks later – when the carnage had been done and truck loads of Park trees taken.
The logging operation cut a shocking swathe of devastation through the Park along the main access road and was over an area 60-70 km long by about 50 mts wide making it the greatest lineal logging coupe in history! That’s equal to almost 300 ha or 10 coupes. Not bad for two weeks frantic work while everyone had their backs turned.
This grab for sawlogs came at a time when the industry was trying to gain public support for their bulldozer drivers as fire fighters (some say on $250/hr !). The business partner of Garry Squires and the loggers were boasting what high quality logs the Parks service supplies!
These once magnificent forests dwarfed cars as they drove along the Yalmy Rd – but now won’t for another 300 years as it has all the visual attractiveness of a highway.
People may remember media from an East Gippsland logging industry mouthpiece (and business partner of Squires), complaining what a waste it was to not use trees cut down in fire break operations. As soon as Steve Bracks gave the nod, this lot were off on their rampage.
A back burn line only needs to be 2 bulldozer widths of bare earth, which the Yalmy Rd was. As if to emphasise that this was not a back-burn line, the loggers pushed the debris into the fire side of the line making it extremely dangerous for crews back burning.
Senior management admits this has been a terrible mistake. Many people are watching the outcome of this investigation closely. If there can be a crime proven, prosecutions must be the outcome. If those who perpetrated this audacious act profit from it, it lifts the level of the tragedy even higher.