As Victoria prepares to end native forest logging within weeks, conservationists, citizen scientists and lawyers are calling on the Victorian Government to get on with creating new national parks in the Central Highlands and East Gippsland.
The Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC) has just released a report on the need for immediate protection of critically important forests of the Central Highlands, home to forest-dependent Leadbeater’s Possums and Greater Gliders whose survival depends upon the secure protection of their habitat.
VEAC has recommended ‘a large protected area such as a national park is commensurate with the outstanding natural values of forests in the Central Highlands around Marysville and Toolangi and around Erica, Noojee, Powelltown in Gippsland.
The report says protecting more forests would link the existing Yarra Ranges, Kinglake, Lake Eildon and Baw Baw National Parks and the Bunyip, Cathedral Range and Moondarra State Parks.
Recent national polling shows 91% of Australians agree national parks and conservation areas are critical to protect nature.
Lawyers and citizen scientists are calling on the Government to protect and respect Victoria’s native forests including the creation of new National Parks as well as assessing the most outstanding of them for World Heritage listing, with place-based Traditional Owner management at their core.
More than three years ago, the Federal Court ruled that “Given the current Critically Endangered status of Leadbeater’s possum, and its predicted severe ongoing decline, including significant risks of extinction, all current and prospective suitable habitat is critical for its survival, and necessary for its recovery”, consistent with a draft of the species’ National Recovery Plan, yet none of its habitat has been formally protected since and no recovery plan made.
While campaigners congratulate the Allan Government on ending most native forest logging In Victoria from 1 January 2024, there are still concerns that logging will continue in other parts of the state under another name. More than 65,000 hectares of public land is still on the chopping block post 1 January, with logging centred around Benalla, Mansfield, Bendigo, Central and East Gippsland, the Mid-Murray and Western Victoria.
Attribute to Environmental Justice Australia Campaigns Manager, Luke Chamberlain
"Native forest logging will end in Victoria and Western Australia within weeks, which could mean a fresh start for nature and traditional owner care of Country.
It's a momentous turning point, but the Victorian government still has work to do to restore and protect forests and close loopholes to make sure logging doesn’t continue under another name.
Let's get on with creating new national parks to save gliders, owls and other precious animals and plants from extinction, protect our drinking water, and safeguard our climate.
It's time to get on with supporting traditional owner management and regional communities to develop the industries of the future, instead of big businesses destroying habitat of endangered species. With the Australian Government rewriting our national environment laws, there's an opportunity to end the reckless destruction caused by Regional Forest Agreements over more than two decades."
Attribute to VFA Campaign Coordinator, Chris Schuringa
“We’re counting down the days till most native forest logging in Victoria will end. The state government must now put in place lasting protections for these globally-significant forests and wildlife. This will help tackle the climate and biodiversity crisis by preserving some of the most carbon-dense forests in the world.”
“There’s still plenty of work to be done to restore forests severely damaged by long-term logging, using the best available ecological science, and First Nations knowledge. There are so many opportunities with the end of logging in sight, and all forests must be urgently protected from ongoing threats, to ensure they’re still standing for generations to come.”
Attribute to VNPA Parks and Nature Campaigner, Jordan Crook
“Soon we’ll be living in a state that protects native wildlife habitat instead of smashing it up for pulp, paper, pallets and firewood. While this is a milestone to celebrate, we’re concerned that the work forest fire agencies are doing is often indistinguishable from intensive logging practices.
The government must not drag their feet in the creation of new national parks like we have seen in the Wombat Forest and legislate the parks as soon as possible. It’s now time to talk about restoring and recovering what we’ve lost and putting in place permanent protection, resources and oversight, for our forests, woodlands and landscapes.”
Jem Wilson, 03 8341 3110, [email protected]