The Victorian state government has announced they're bringing forward the 2030 transition out of logging to January 1 2024. What does this mean for Victoria's native forests?
Thanks so much to all our wonderful members and community groups, and to all you forest defenders across Victoria for your extraordinary work over so many years to achieve this monumental outcome! We couldn't be more proud of everything we've achieved together. But our work is far from over.
We now need to keep vigilant while logging can continue over the next 6 months, strengthen the alliance to fully participate in the transition out of native forest logging, end destructive “fire management” practices and so-called "salvage logging", and begin the long campaign to regenerate forests that have been terribly impacted by logging for so long. Our work will continue to be critical to ensure the best outcomes and protection for forests, First Nations sovereignty and transitioning communities.
Here's what we know about the state government's announcement so far:
- There's an additional $200 million in transition money available, bringing the total package to $875 million
- The government has flagged that logging contractors may move into bushfire mitigation works (which could be very problematic)
- They'll be establishing an advisory panel to consider and make recommendations to government on what will happen to the 1.8 million hectares of public land that won't be available for logging past January 1 - this will include opportunities for management by Traditional Owners
There’s been no word about what will happen to state-owned logging company VicForests, and whether they’ll be disbanded. We must keep a close eye on this. It is imperative that the decision-making process around what will happen to the 1.8 million ha of native forests and it's future management is led by First Nations groups and communities, environment groups, and independent scientific experts – not the logging industry.
There are large swathes of forest which have been severely impacted by logging which will need to be regenerated, including the need for critical funding for deer and pest control. We want to share and be a part of this regeneration work – which has adversely impacted water quality, wildlife, species diversity and ecosystems like Mountain Ash and Alpine Ash for decades.
There's also been no news on whether the government will scrap the Wood Pulp agreement act which has locked in forest destruction for so long. There's also the devastating Regional Forest Agreements, which give logging a special exemption from federal environment laws.
We must keep the pressure up to make sure the state government abolishes these dodgy agreements. We know there’s talk of reforming federal environment laws and there’s certainly a need for this. We must keep pushing the federal government to get rid of all the regional forest agreements – particularly since we know Tasmania and NSW are still logging native forests, with no end in sight.
Ongoing threats – the next 6 months and beyond are critical
Logging will continue to threaten forests over the next 6 months, and is still continuing in various forms right now. We know that so-called salvage logging, or “disaster logging” as we call it, is one of the most damaging forms of logging there is. Disaster logging can and has occurred within National Parks and proposed National Parks in the Wombat State Forest.
A lot of “fallen product recovery” and hazardous tree removal has been done by the Environment Department, and VicForests. This is then used for commercial purposes. There’s currently "hazardous" tree removal happening at Mt Pinnabar in the North East in forests recovering from the impacts of fire. Logging under any other name (disaster logging, or "fallen product recovery") must not continue after Jan 2024.
The Court Cases
Right now community groups Environment East Gippsland, Kinglake Friends of the Forest, and Gippsland Environment Group are waiting anxiously for the results of an appeal to the greater glider court case.
Community groups argued that VicForests had failed to survey for and protect the endangered greater glider, and threatened yellow-bellied glider and the Supreme Court agreed. Holding the government accountable to state environment laws has halted logging across eastern Victoria for over 6 months and has been one of the key pressure points to help achieve the historic announcement last Tuesday that native forest logging will end. But VicForests have appealed the decision. If VicForests win the appeal, it could mean that logging starts up again and we see a smash and grab operation to log as many forests as possible before Jan 1. We’ll be doing everything we can to stop that from happening.
So what’s next for us?
We’ll continue to bring the grassroots groups together to talk strategy, and work together for the next 6 months and beyond. Our citizen science program will be particularly important while logging can continue. We’ll keep holding community events, meeting with decision makers, and we hope to be part of the process of what happens to the forests. We'll continue to advocate for the proper protection of forests, for the long overdue cancellation of the Wood Pulp agreement and Regional Forest Agreements and to make sure logging doesn’t continue under some other name.
It’s really hard to express the gratitude we're all feeling right now for all the hard work and many years people have been campaigning for forests, particularly to all the groups who took on legal challenges, and all the evidence and work that goes into that, including the work of citizen scientists. It feels so surreal to have these results after so much hard work, and we can’t thank you enough.
There's still so much to do, and our work is more important than ever. Our movement is built on the generous support of people like yourself. Please give now so we can continue the fight for permanent protection and the restoration of our native forests!