The state and federal governments have finally agreed to conduct a Major Event Review into the impacts of the 2019/2020 bushfires, but a confidential document obtained by GECO through Freedom of Information reveals the Environment Department has already told state-owned VicForests to postpone all logging in East Gippsland. The hushed up recommendation was given more than 6 months ago, but logging has continued in East Gippsland in and outside the fire extent.
In the document the Department identifies specific areas where they've said VicForests shouldn't be logging which fall in the top 20% of habitat remaining for priority species impacted by the fires, some of which have already been logged in the last few months. We worked with The Guardian to break the story, read and share the coverage here.
Logging in key unburnt forests in the Colquhoun state forest on the doorstep of Lakes Entrance, East Gippsland
The confidential document states; “The Conservation Regulator believes that the precautionary principle is currently triggered by risks of serious and irreversible damage to Victoria’s biodiversity posed by timber harvesting operations in light of the 2019/20 Victorian bushfires, and the significant scientific uncertainty about the status of Victoria’s biodiversity from these operations in this context. The Conservation Regulator believes that VicForests is therefore required by law to implement precautionary measures in response.”
“As component 1 of the package of integrated precautionary measures to meet VicForests’ obligations under the precautionary principle, the Conservation Regulator advises a continued postponement of timber harvesting (salvage or unburnt) in East Gippsland FMA.”
“Failure to apply the precautionary principle will form the basis of Conservation Regulator action in accordance with our Compliance and Enforcement Policy.”
In the last few months as logging has ramped up again in East Gippsland, GECO has been on the ground documenting current and scheduled logging within the areas identified by the Department as important habitat for bushfire impacted species. One area in the Colquhoun has already been logged where Greater Glider, Yellow-bellied Glider and Masked Owl had been recorded. Multiple Long-flower beard-heath, a plant species protected by law, was also found by GECO citizen scientists bulldozed throughout the coupe.
Long-flower beard heath surrounded by logging debris
State and federal government's have announced they'll be conducting a Major Event Review into the impacts of the 2019/2020 bushfires. But the recommendations aren't legally enforceable and the state government is under no obligation to act on any of the findings. The review will take 6 months to complete and even longer to put in place changes on the ground to protect wildlife. Meanwhile logging is still going ahead with hundreds of areas across the state slated for destruction.
The government have already acknowledged the devastating impacts of the bushfires and that continued logging will spell disaster for our most unique and endangered wildlife. It doesn't make any sense for logging to continue while they assess the impacts of the bushfires on forests and wildlife. The government has the power to protect forests in and outside the fire extent and make exit packages for workers available now so they can rapidly transition out of native forest logging. At the very least a moratorium on logging should be put in place until the Major Event Review is complete.
It's been nearly a year since the bushfires, and we can't wait around for a review when the government already knows logging should stop. You can take action by emailing by emailing key decision makers here, the government isn't following their own advice and are still logging precious wildlife habitat.
Logging on Mt Jersey in fire-affected forests threatening the survival of the endangered Large Brown Tree Frog
The impacts of the bushfires on forests and wildlife have been devastating, and yet logging is continuing in some of the last unburnt fragments of threatened species habitat. The recommendations made by the Department suggests that logging in and outside the fire extent in East Gippsland is unlawful.
The Department have made recommendations that logging be postponed in East Gippsland which the government's logging agency VicForests is ignoring. If the Department were serious about safeguarding Victoria's precious wildlife from extinction they would take a stronger stance and actually enforce their recommendations.
Logging in the Colquhoun state forest, one of the few unburnt areas left in East Gippsland after the fires
Statement from Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO)
"It makes absolutely no sense to conduct a review into the impacts of the bushfires, while continuing to log forests which are critical to the survival of fire affected species. The governments own Environment Department is telling their logging industry to postpone logging, but they aren't following their own advice."
“There is a clear message here from the Environment Department that VicForests will be acting unlawfully if they keep logging in East Gippsland, and the government aren't doing anything about it. They have the power to stop the logging until the review is complete, and take steps to rapidly transition the industry out of native forest logging."
"The Andrews government are bending over backwards to keep destroying critical wildlife habitat almost a year after the worst bushfires in living memory. They can't keep stalling on this issue, they need to act now to protect these precious forests."