Local saw miller says decision to cease native logging is pure politics at play
BETTER protections have been given to the Greater Glider possum as part of an announcement by the Premier Daniel Andrews to phase out native logging throughout Victoria by 2030.
Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio (MLA, Mill Park) launched the Greater Glider Action Statement in Creek Junction recently, which will provide a roadmap to protect the species, which is prominent within the Strathbogie Forest.
“(Areas protected) go from parts of the Central Highlands, through to East Gippsland and of course these wonderful Strathbogies,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.
“The Strathbogies represents one of the most significant strongholds for the Greater Glider and (the species) will have a much stronger future from this day onwards.”
Mark Blackwell, who is a fifthgeneration saw miller based in Strathbogie, said the decision to phase out logging will mean forests will become poorly managed.
“Logging is a good way to manage this forest, and it will protect it from feral weeds – Vic Forest has done a stellar job of it in the past,” Mr Blackwell said.
However, Ms D’Ambrosio said there will be processes in place to manage forests for feral animals in the Strathbogie Forest through ongoing community consultation.
“We’ve set aside $7 million that will go into managing these areas that have been set aside for immediate protection,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.
“We understand what needs to occur to protect the biodiversity here, and we will do that with communities.”
Mr Blackwell believes the decision to phase out native logging was an overreaction and that logging in the region can be managed.
“This is purely a political decision and has nothing to do with the logging industry,” he said.
“I did not see any decline of Greater Gliders in this region when logging was allowed to be managed correctly.”
In early 2018 logging resumed in the Strathbogie Forest after a hiatus, with VicForests, the organisation conducting the timber harvesting, rejecting protesters’ assertions that timber harvesting would do irreparable damage to the forest and the species living within it
Bill Paul, who is a community forestry manager at VicForests, said at the time that only 0.1 per cent of the Strathbogie Forest was being harvested, directly supporting around 25 jobs in the region.
In May the Minister for Agriculture, Jaclyn Symes (MLC, Northern Victoria) announced all logging in the Strathbogie Forest would be stopped, after releasing the government’s Timber Release Plan, showing the removal of all logging coupes from the forest.
Research was also conducted by Victorian Government scientists in 2017 that found the Strathbogie Forest was home to at least 69,000 Greater Glider possums.
Many other threatened species including the Leadbeater Possum are also protected as part of the action statement, with 96,000 hectares of forest across the state being mapped out as exempt from logging.
Chairperson of the Save Our Strathbogie Forest Group Bertram Lobert said the local campaign to stop logging had grown in support over the years.
“What has been happening in this forest is really just a microcosm of what was happening across the state,” Mr Lobert said.
“We can now put our energy into really positive and constructive work around the forest.”
Leader of the Nationals Peter Walsh said the announcement will mean jobs will be sent offshore.
“Today is a dark day for our regional communities and the industries that underpin us,” Mr Walsh said.
“Daniel Andrews should be supporting and promoting Victoria’s sustainable industry, not shutting it down.”
Mr Lobert, however, rebuked this, saying that around 90 per cent of all jobs and economic industry in Victorian forestry was already in plantation.
“Native forest logging is a really small part of the logging industry and the logging industry will not notice one iota,” Mr Lobert said.
“It will certainly affect local people and they have to be taken into account and transitioned, whether it is financially or contractually.”
“But it’s also about the potential to create more jobs and long term sustainable economic activity.”
The announcement by Premier Andrews on Thursday will also see an additional 90,000 hectares of Victoria’s remaining old growth forest be protected along with the 96,000 hectares protected as part of the action statement.
AT A GLANCE: Already established softwood plantations in the Strathbogie Ranges.