Putting VicForests as the overseer of these trials has discredited the trial’s integrity right from the start.
Trials are currently underway to assess ‘mechanical fuel reduction’ in our public forests. The details are sketchy but seem to be based on a US practice of using heavy machinery with mulching/shredding capacity to run through native forests turning everything in the lower and mid story into mulch or shredded material. Trees are taken out and sold to mills. In the US this method of ‘fuel reduction’ is driven by the commercial need for bio-char, but is dressed up as ‘fire-safety’. In Australia, burning forests as a method of ‘fuel reduction’ remains an unproven science as a method of keeping communities safe, despite its wide spread use. However there is much research that shows it can be useless to counterproductive and extremely damaging for the natural ecology and wildlife of areas.
In 2009, 75,000 ha of Victoria’s forests were burnt in the Black Saturday bushfires. Over a 3rd of that was forests earmarked for the logging industry. The prospect of bushfires are never calculated into long term planning or log contracts with mills. Couple this situation with other bushfires and a history of overlogging and the result is unprecedented environmental destruction and habitat loss, but also a huge shortfall in the logs available to the logging industry.
In 2013 the Heyfield mill knew their supply would be cut back in 2017.
How ironic that the timber industry chose March 21st, International Forest Day, to barricade Parliament with logging trucks and demand accelerated logging of the dwindling mature forests of the Central Highlands! When the rest of the world was reflecting on the benefits of forest wilderness for people, for economies and for the planet itself, we were confronted with a macho display calling for conservation regulations to be weakened. Both industry and union are pushing for increased clearfelling of alpine and mountain ash forests, already devastated by decades of intensive logging and catastrophic bushfires, to keep the Heyfield timber mill profitable.
Logging near the Ada Tree has highlighted tensions between conservation and the forest industry. Photo: Sarah Day
An independent scientific assessment into the conservation value of Victoria's most-loved tall forests reveals almost half are unprotected and open to logging.
The report debunks industry myths that more than 90% of these forests are somehow protected, they are not. The report reveals that, based on tenure alone, the forest industry has access to at least 42% of Victoria's eastern forests.