If You Think Native Forest Logging Has Stopped in Victoria, Then Think Again

Author

By Reese Halter

The Victorian Government claims that it has exited native forest logging on January 1 this year. However, it has not legislated this exit. And notably, logging is continuing through other nefarious and highly cynical means.

With the planned closure of the Victorian Government’s logging company, VicForests on June 30, their staff have either begun moving into jobs within the Victorian Government’s forest management agency, or into First Nations Corporations. The influence of foresters within these corporations is now sadly obvious.

One First Nations Corporation used an international forestry consulting agency to write a ‘Forest Gardening’ strategy. Forest Gardening is another way of saying ‘logging’.

Forest Gardening removes most of the trees on a site using heavy machinery. It leaves behind large amounts of debris (tree heads, bark, lateral branches), creates highly impacted areas with log landings and log snig trails, and takes the cut logs to sawmills and firewood yards.

Forest Gardening is as indistinguishable from logging as Country is from Western.

Lidia Thorpe2

In actual fact, the strategy for Forest Gardening makes it quite clear that it will use western forestry practices, but these will make forests more fire prone, generate massive extra Greenhouse Gas emissions, and destroy habitat for many forest-dependent species.

A First Nations Corporation has applied for a $14.47m grant from the Victorian Government (again written by a forestry consulting group) to expand Forest Gardening. Those cheering on Forest Gardening include the forestry union (CFMEU), and leaders of the professional forestry body, Forestry Australia.

Logging to thin forests may well commence in other First Nations areas, for example under a biocultural strategy that was written by foresters, including Michael Hansby who worked for VicForests for 6 years.

Logging is also continuing in other ways. Logs are now being cut from native forests under the guise of ‘post-storm recovery’. Post-storm logging is salvage logging which foresters know is highly damaging to native forests, and does not recover them.

The logs are being cut and hauled out of the forest for commercial purposes. Logs are also being cut from large areas of forest under the pretext of fire control. Yet, there is no evidence that it will be effective. Indeed, there is strong evidence that it will make forests more fire prone, not less. And these logs, too, are being sold commercially.

In point of fact, maps of the extensive fire breaks where logs are being cut and then on-sold include a legend that says this is about forestry transition. The log haulage contracts for this so-called ‘fire control work’ are for five years – even though native forest logging is supposedly at an end.

The rampant logging under the guise of Forest Gardening, post-storm recovery, and for fire control is poorly regulated with no transparency to the Victorian people. Regulation is by the Office of the Conservation Regulator, which is located within the same agency as the people doing the logging or those in partnership with those doing the logging.

Whilst the Victorian Government has said it has stopped native forest logging, all available evidence indicates the opposite. Victorians and Australians need to be aware that what the government says and what is actually happening are not the same thing.

Reese Halter is a distinguished Earth System scientist. His latest book is Unearthly Wails.

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