The Andrews government logging agency VicForests have written to Goongerah Environment Centre outlining plans to log thousands of hectares of forests affected by the 2019/2020 bushfires in East Gippsland, despite the known devastating ecological impacts of salvage logging. The government's own regulator is working with VicForests to give them the green light to salvage log, despite overwhelming scientific evidence that this will cause severe ecological harm. The Age have reported here.
Logging is well underway in fire-affected forests south of the Alpine National Park
Wildlife threatened with extinction that survived the bushfires will not survive salvage logging. It will be the final blow for bushfire affected threatened species if logging continues, but the government can still take action to stop the senseless destruction planned for thousands of hectares of precious forests in and outside the fire extent.
The Premier must step in and stop the logging in fire-affected areas and protect critical unburnt forests across Victoria. A rapid transition out of native forest logging is urgently needed, send Premier Andrews an email here.
Sensitive fire-affected alpine forests scheduled for logging in the coming months
Post fire logging is the most damaging form of logging, and is known to have potentially irreversible consequences for recovering forests and wildlife and increases the severity and future risk of bushfires. Research also shows that bushfire-ravaged soil can take up to 80 years to recover. Allowing so-called salvage logging will have devastating impacts on already damaged soil conditions and halt the recovery of critical understorey species which protect the soil and stop erosion.
The letter from VicForests downplays the unprecedented impacts of this summer's bushfires, they claim that past major bushfire events have informed their policies and that there is no need to change their outdated practices. The government is ignoring the science and rushing to smash-and-grab burnt forests, acting as if the bushfires didn't happen.
Fire-affected wildlife habitat in Rich Forest, still scheduled for logging
Given the severity of the recent fires and their impacts on biodiversity, logging plans in fire affected areas and in forests that survived the bushfires must be abandoned. Many areas across East Gippsland, both unburnt and burnt, will provide critical refugia for threatened species. Further disturbances from salvage logging will greatly impact on remaining populations of wildlife, some animals are likely to already be extinct, with many more threatened with extinction.
The Environment Department have released a preliminary document identifying species heavily impacted by the fires, the report also highlights the importance of refugia and the need to protect areas from further disturbance. One of the key responses for fire-affected species as outlined in the report is “Identification and protection of key unburnt refuges within the fire extent”. But the department is working with VicForests to allow logging in forests recovering from the bushfires. There is no feasible way salvage logging won't impact on refugia within fire affected forests, which will recover if left to do so.
Despite calls from the scientific community, and Victorian's to rule out salvage logging, the government is rushing in to log forests which urgently need to be protected. This is an appalling response from the Andrews government to the bushfire crisis.
Scheduled for logging; recovering forests still provide important habitat for threatened species
The letter from VicForests also denounces the scientific contributions and work of Professor David Lindenmayer, one of Australia’s leading ecologists and a renowned voice in the scientific community regarding forests and land management. He has conducted extensive research on the impacts of salvage logging on bushfire affected forests and wildlife. VicForests are wilfully ignoring scientific evidence to justify continued logging in native forests across Victoria.
Professor Lindenmayer responded in the Age story saying;
"This is the Victorian department of ostriches who want to put their heads in the sand," he said.
"Somehow I'm not the world expert on salvage logging even though I've written the only global textbook on the topic. Comments like this reflect an organisation that is unscientific and is baseless in terms of how it manages its forests."
In the Central Highlands, key areas of unburnt forests are still being logged. Our friends at Wildlife of the Central Highlands represented by Environmental Justice Australia have launched a landmark court case against the government logging agency over the continued destruction of bushfire affected threatened species habitat. The case has temporarily halted logging in 26 areas of forest, community members have been forced to step in and take action where the Andrews government is failing to protect wildlife severely under threat of extinction.
Fire-affected forests scheduled to be logged that urgently require protection to recover
Goongerah Environment Centre spokesperson Chris Schuringa says;
“VicForests is a science denier, they do not accept the science that sending bulldozers into fire damaged forests to log them will damage the environment. Their blatant rejection of peer reviewed science proves their proposed approach to log in fire damaged forests has no scientific credibility and will wreak destruction on the environment.”
“Logging in fire damaged areas will have devastating consequences for soils, waterways, forests and wildlife. There still hasn’t been comprehensive assessments into the impacts on bushfire affected threatened species, logging before an assessment is complete is grossly irresponsible.”
“Victorians don’t want to see fire-affected forests ransacked when they need to be left to recover. The government is continuing business as usual as if the bushfires didn’t happen by allowing their science denying logging agency to destroy forests that have already taken a massive hit.”
“Last November the government announced a plan to transition logging out of native forests and into plantations by 2030 and Premier Daniel Andrews acknowledged that Victorian logging was so unsustainable it would only take one fire event to collapse the whole industry. Four months after the most devastating fire in Victoria’s history, unsustainable and destructive logging continues.”
“Premier Andrews must bring forward the 2030 transition plan in light of the devastating impacts the fires have had on forests and wildlife and immediately protect what's left of Victoria’s forests while supporting workers into sustainable employment.”
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