Vicforests recently removed 90 scheduled logging
coupes in East Gippsland from the Timber Release Plan
(aka WUP Wood Utilisation Plan) and added 137 new
coupes. Therefore this year 47 new coupes have been
allocated ranging from 18 hectares in size to 120
hectares in size. The coupes are classed as either
Seed Tree Regeneration (this means clearfell) or a
Thinnings coupes in the past have
been scheduled in forest that has been previously
clearfelled. They clear part of the forest to give
more room to their crop (their crop being our state
forest). Of these 137 new scheduled coupes however
there are no thinnings coupes in previously
clearfelled or regenerated forest. They are all
scheduled in mature forest otherwise known as
old-growth forest and forest that has been
selectively logged or burnt by wild fire (in this case
the 39 fires).
One may ask how do you thin an
old-growth forest, answer you can’t which means we are
now seeing 120 hectare clearfells in East Gippsland.
So maybe this is why VicForest were not too effective
in informing the public about these changes.
With the corporatisation of our forests comes an even
further breakdown of public accesss to input and
knowledge of what is going on in our state forests.
When forestry was under the Department of
Sustainability and Environment there was a public
consultation period each year where it was advertised
that the public could view changes in the log harvest
schedule and make submissions. This process was
advertised in newspapers and on websites. It wasn’t
very useful for those who wished to conserve high
conservation forests as comments on submissions were
generally ignored but at least it was a transparent
process. The information was more publicly accessible
and anyone who was concerned could have their say.
These recent VicForest changes however, dropped this
process. They informed local environment groups by
mail and said if we wished to make comments we could
but there ‘amendments’ are fool-proof anyway. The
word ‘amendments’ has carefully been used for
VicForest as the Environment minister signed an
approval of any future amendments to the Timber
Release Plan last year.
They passed one of the biggest
changes we ’ve seen in the last 7 years to the timber
plans yet this is still classified as an "amendment" for
local foresters to decide what gets logged and what
doesn’t. Should it be part of a more formal process?
The fact that VicForest classified these
changes as just ‘amendments’ leads to them not
needing to post it on their website for public comment
as no-one but those few local environment groups are
actually interested in the fate of Victoria’s
On 1 August 2004 the Department of Sustainability and Environment
will be overhauled, and the commercial forestry arm will become
a new commercial entity called Vicforests. They will be a statutory
body responsible for managing timber harvesting, including marking
of coupes and managing logging coupes which will be leased from
the DSE. It remains unclear who will be responsible for monitoring
coupes for breaches, other than the EPA, who are unable to do
comprehensive auditing of all coupes. The new entity will rely
solely on royalties alone and will not get any government funding.
The DSE will be responsible for fire, roading, recreation, biodiversity,
pests and weeds and the Forest Management Plan. They will now
create the Timber Resource Plan, which will be a 15yr plan of
the areas that VicForests can harvest. Vicforests will then creat
five year Wood Utilisation Plans based on this. This will now
be area based, not volume based.
It appears that the government will still be subsidising logging
by being responsible for roading. Much of the areas that do not
create revenue, such as endangered species protection, research
and monitoring, have been left out of the new entity which means
that they are likely to remain chronically underfunded and inadequate.
The level of public consultation required by the new entity is
also likely to be low, and access to information by the public
restricted by commercial in confidence requirements.
GOVERNMENT DECLARES MORATORIUM ON GOOLENGOOK
Wednesday 30 October 2002
The Bracks government has announced a moratorium on logging in Goolengook while a study takes place into the viability of protecting the area. The newly formed Victorian Environment Assessment Council has been told to work out a way to protect the area, but may suggest that other areas in Special Protection Zones be swapped with Goolengook if it is protected.
The announcement has been treated with scepticism by environmentalists and logging industry alike, who see it as a pre-election stunt. Obviously, we would not accept other important areas of forest being logged in order to save Goolengook. The government has been offering these types of deals for years and have been rejected.
Logging boss Garry Squires (who has changed his spots yet again and is now head of AHF, not EGL) has called for the logging of national parks if Goolengook is protected. More later...