Report reveals true value of Victoria's unprotected forests

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

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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.

Only 34% of these forests are in protected areas such as national parks.

The Victorian Environmental Assessment Council report looked at the conservation value of forests east of the Hume Highway. The area encompasses all of Victoria's most controversial logging areas, including East Gippsland and the Central Highlands, now the focus of a push to create the Great Forest National Park.

Data in the report created by analysing areas by habitat types (ecological vegetation classes) and grouped as forest types targeted by the forest industry - 'ash' and 'mixed species' - clearly shows Victoria's state forests contain more than double the timber found in existing protected areas such as national parks:

  • For ASH species there is about 314,000ha in protected areas (30% of public land) and 658,641ha in state forest (64% of public land).
  • For MIXED SPECIES there is about 128,075ha in protected areas (23% of public land) and 353,662ha in state forest (66% of public land).

Wildlife threatened

Of the 79 forest-dependent species looked at in the report, 12 are listed under Victoria's threatened species laws. Timber harvesting is a recognised as a threat to all but one of the 12, including the state's faunal emblem, the critically endangered Leadbeater's Possum.

Given the vulnerability of Leadbeater's Possum habitat to large, intense bushfires, the report warns it would be prudent to conserve all populations, rather than just those considered as "most important".

This assessment report starkly illustrates the conflict between logging and conservation in Victoria, especially in the maps showing areas that while making the highest contributions to forest biodiversity conservation also overlap with some of the most productive forests for timber harvesting.

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