Lo­cal saw miller says de­ci­sion to cease na­tive log­ging is pure pol­i­tics at play

Mansfield Courier - - News - By PHILIPPE PEREZ

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.

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