Government owned logging agency VicForests have finally released the results of their 2019 Forest Stewardship Council audit, revealing they've failed to achieve FSC certification. This is the fifth try to get the green tick, the audit report reveals major non-conformances for failure to protect threatened species habitat and high conservation values, continued logging of old growth forest, as well as poor stakeholder engagement.
Remarkably, a few months ago when VicForests announced they were abandoning their efforts to get the green tick, they made a desperate attempt to shift the blame for failing to meet the standards, pointing the finger to the FSC board itself, who have nothing to do with the audit process or the outcome. They also blamed the bushfires and COVID, events which happened after the audit in 2019.
Failed regen, Mt Delusion, Swifts Creek
In early April this year VicForests were kicked out of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) after failing to satisfy membership requirements. Logging companies who join the economic chamber of the FSC must achieve certification for their operations by meeting environmental standards to prove sustainability. For more than a decade VicForests has failed to achieve the green tick from FSC and is now ineligible for membership.
GECO has been emailing VicForests for over 6 months requesting the audit report and results, the report is dated for 25 of June, when we put in multiple Freedom of Information Requests to access the report (for which VicForests charged us $200) after this date with no outcome. VicForests repeatedly dodged questions and ignored our emails, sometimes taking months to respond.
Logged habitat trees, Mt. Delusion, Swifts Creek
Since the 2019 audit the Federal Court handed down a scathing judgement of VicForests operations which found they have failed to comply with state and federal environment laws. FSC has a strict policy against illegal logging. This also follows a recent announcement from Bunnings that they will not be selling products from VicForests after they were found to be in breach of the law.
GECO has been extensively involved in the FSC process exposing VicForests logging of old growth forest and failing to regenerate forests essentially turned into paddocks around Mt. Delusion in Swifts Creek. GECO campaigner Ed Hill took the auditors to Granite Mountain an area of old growth forest that was being logged, in the report they conclude:
"Although harvest of this ecological mature forest, with no history of harvest activity was justified by use of an approved field identification guide and review by state ecologist, the damage to a large number of high quality habitat trees constituted a failure to safeguard, or conserve, known habitat values used by protected species and triggered heightened attention by key stakeholders. Additionally, the audit team, after careful review questioned the determination by VicForests that this was not old growth forest."
Old growth forests in Granite Mountain, logged after the old growth announcement November last year
Goongerah Environment Centre statement:
“Government agency VicForests has once again proven it has zero social license for its unsustainable and environmentally destructive logging operations. For over a decade it has been unable to meet the lowest bar of green endorsement offered by FSC, and can’t comply with the law. VicForests have failed for their logging of old growth forests, and numerous breaches which threaten high conservation values, and threatened species habitat.”
“First Bunnings, and now FSC, no one wants to be associated with an agency that logs in contempt of the law and destroys critical threatened species habitat after the most catastrophic bushfires we’ve seen to date. All companies with links to VicForests now need to follow suit, or seriously risk selling products tied to illegal logging that can’t meet the lowest bar of FSC certification.”
“This should be the final straw for the Andrew government. Its just another sign they need to bring forward the transition out of native forest logging now. Wildlife and forests have suffered enough after the bushfires, and won't survive another decade of unlawful and unsustainable logging.”
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