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Wombat Forestcare: Logging continues in Western Victoria

Written by Gayle Osborne, Wombat Forestcare (excerpt from Wombat Forestcare June 2023 newsletter)

We were astounded that the undertaking to end native forest logging by 1 January 2024 did not mean all native forest logging in Victoria. For the many forests in western Victoria, it is business as usual, and threatened species remain in peril. These already damaged forests will continue to be treated just as a resource. The announcement that native forest logging will end in six months is celebrated as a monumental win for our environment, however, we now learn that this does not apply to the west of the state.Logging at Barkstead Road. Credit: Wombat Forestcare

It was only following questions in the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee by Greens MP Ellen Sandell to the Agriculture Minister, Gail Tierney, that the true position was revealed. We now know that Community Forestry operations, which are outside the 1.8 million hectares of public land currently subject to the timber harvesting allocation order, are not subject to the decision to end native forest logging.

The majority of these licences end mid-2024 and the Victorian Government is still deciding what to do with them. Forestry operations in the west are managed by VicForests and are called “Western Community Forestry”. The western region includes public land around Portland, Horsham, the Logging continues in western Victoria mid-Murray, Bendigo, the Otways (the section that is not a National Park), Mt Cole, the Pyrenees and the Wombat.

What are the threats?

There are over 600 coupes listed on the Timber Utilisation Plan (TUP), covering approximately 51,000 hectares. The harvesting is mainly for low value timber such as firewood, however, at Mt Cole coupes are clear-felled for sawlogs. There is some harvesting for specialist timber such as Blackwood from the Otways. Although the amount of logging is small compared to other areas in the state, it is significantly damaging due to the highly cleared landscapes that surround these forests. These areas of public land contain important habitat for many threatened species.Erosion caused by logging machinery in the Cobaws. Credit: Ben Gill (VNPA)

In the last 10 years, the logging of these forests has almost doubled and is almost completely state-subsidised. There is an outrageous disregard for the protection of the environment and the species it contains. The Victorian government has committed to creating two new National Parks at Mount Cole and the Pyrenees but only after large areas have been clear-felled for timber. It seems that forests in the west of the state will continue to be subjected to further degradation until native forest logging ends in 2030.

Surveying program kicks off in the Wombat

There is some good news. We have been informed that surveying for the Wombat-Lerderderg National Park is well underway, and we expect the park to be legislated next year. It is now two years since the government’s commitment to create the National Park. VicForests will continue to have access to salvage coupes in the Wombat Forest until the end of the year.

Commercial firewood coupes, designated by the government in their response to the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council recommendations, will continue to be harvested until 2024 and 2030. The Forest Fire Management storm debris program is not classed as logging and will continue. There is no independent oversight of these works, and they have considerable impact on the ecology of the forest, particularly the removal of nearly all the storm fallen logs.

While the rest of the state celebrates, we in the west need to campaign to protect these important refuges for flora, fungi and fauna.

Read more about rogue logging in the west on the Victorian National Parks Association website and support groups like Wombat Forestcare fighting for protection of forests in the west still under threat from logging


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