For the last few months there have been sustained, decentralised protests happening against logging operations in Victoria. Check here for some notes on previous actions. It has continued today (June 29) with protests in the Black Range, Toolangi, Lakes Entrance Mt Disappointment and the Pyrenees State Forest, with a symbolic connection to protests being held in NSW.
Logging continued in many places around the country during the COVID-19 lock down. Environmental activists and locals concerned about logging operations were disciplined and largely stayed at home during the pandemic.
Now, this long wait has overflowed into action. In Tasmania, people have occupied trees in forest being cut near Mt Field. On the south coast of NSW, the community of Manyana is opposing the destruction of unburnt forest for a housing development, and now actions have happened across the Central Highlands of Victoria. This follows sustained action by locals at Big Pats Creek near Warburton.
The ABC is reporting that ‘fire-affected communities in eastern Victoria are calling for a permanent firebreak running 170 kilometres along both sides of the Princes Highway to the New South Wales border’.
While we are all patiently sitting at home in order to do our bit and ‘flatten the curve’ of COVID-19 infections, logging continues at full speed in the forests of Victoria. And Tasmania has just signed over up to 356 000 hectares of forests that should be in reserves to now be available for logging.
Following this summer’s devastating fires in East Gippsland, it has taken enormous effort by the authorities to get roads re-opened and made safe. Removal of many thousands of fire affected trees is essential for the safety of road users. However, the scale of the clear felling of large habitat trees occurring along thousands of kilometres of East Gippsland’s roads has disturbed many people.
Residents describe ‘unprecedented clearing’ occurring around Buchan, Black Mountain, Combienbar, Orbost, Goongerah, Cann River, Mallacoota, Cape Conran, state forests inland from Bairnsdale, along the Great Alpine Way and many other fire affected roads in East Gippsland.
Community members from Warburton are attempting to stop the proposed logging coupes on and surrounding Mt Bride.
They say that “logging this area will reduce water security as the proposed coupes are within water catchment areas and it has long been recognised that logging has a negative impact on water yield”.
They also say that the coupes will increase fire risk, “as the micro climatic conditions will dry out the understory and the regrowth saplings will create more fuel”.
In November, the Victorian government announced that logging native forests will end in 2030. The government also committed to state-wide protections for 90,000ha of old growth forests, and 96,000ha of new protected areas, 48,500 of which are in East Gippsland. An action statement for the threatened Greater Glider was also finally released.
An ongoing issue has been the question of how and when the Old Growth would be protected. The state government has now provided details on how this will occur, and this has confirmed fears by environmental groups that protection will be watered down through the methodology that will be used.
East Gippsland based activist group Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO) has issued a call for members of the public to engage in the process around Old Growth modelling.
Public conversation about the recent announcement of an end to logging of old growth forests in Victoria has so far focused on the implications for East Gippsland, where large areas of ‘Modeled Old Growth (MOG)’ is expected to be protected, and the Central Highlands, where there will be very little protection. Given this announcement covers forests right across the east of the state, what does it mean for the High Country?
The short answer, at this stage, is ‘we don’t really know’. While the government map that has been circulated shows considerable areas of MOG throughout the foothills and valleys of the High Country, and even what looks like older Snow Gum Woodlands, we are yet to get the details on what the protection of these areas will look like.
In 2016 and 2019, large areas of Tasmania were burnt by wild fires, including vegetation that is normally too moist to burn. Last year it happened in rainforests on the Lamington Tablelands in south east Queensland. It is a highly unusual event for these areas to burn, but one that appears to be occurring more frequently in recent times. Now the same thing is happening in northern New South Wales.
This loss and destruction of ancient fire sensitive ecosystems is heartbreaking. Sending much love and solidarity to our friends in the North who are facing these terrible fires.