- VicForests excused for illegal logging
- VicForests' 'safety zones' - iron curtain
- VicForests' new scientific discovery
- 197,000ha of fried forests
- Rethink burn targets - Comrie
- Burn plans – have your say by 29th Aug
- Planet Ark shenanigans
- New sugar cane paper
- Thugs attack environmentalists
- Logging road bend - $250,000
- Wood waste energy plans thwarted
- Logging stuffs irrigators
- Councils pay $2500 to logging lobbyists
- Gillard plans to weaken federal environment laws
- Benambra-Baillieu mine link
- Westpac finances rainforest logging
- Baillieu hides bull on the cows
- Duck rescuer trumped up charges dismissed
- Libs proudly pro-plastic bag
For your diary
- Environment East Gippsland AGM 22nd Sept
- Concert for Toolangi
- Must-see TV
1) VicForests excused for illegal logging
In the last E-bulletin Forest News Update we were anticipating the August 6th court case where Department of Sustainability and Environment was prosecuting VicForests for wiping out 8 ha of rainforest. After such a heinous crime, we were imagining VicForests being marched off in leg irons to the dungeon. But the DSE instead softened (to pressure from Baillieu’s mates?) and agreed to offer the accused – charged with 5 counts of criminal logging of rainforests - a 12 month try-a-bit-harder behavior bond. What citizen that destroys so much protected vegetation would ever be let off the hook so easily?
The agreement included making VicForests replant 22 ha of rainforest species (that should take 500 years to regrow), a promise to polish up their collective skills for identifying rainforest and to not destroy anymore for the next 12 months.
The implication was that it’s very difficult to identify rainforest species from gum trees – even a huge 8ha patch. For the past eight years VicForests has been caught destroying protected rainforests and its buffers in every audit of their logging operations. They have been warned, they have been trained by rainforest biologists, they have had a “Dummies guide to rainforest ID” picture book produced for them with colour photos – but still they say it’s - too difficult.
How ironic that DSE has let VicForests off from being prosecuted, while just days before, EEG’s lawyers served papers on DSE to appear in court to answer charges of not protecting rainforests themselves.
All going to plan, we should have both DSE and VicForests in the Melbourne Supreme Court in November. We are suing them for not protecting nationally significant rainforests here in East Gippy.
You can read the Age’s report on this DSE backstep here and VicForests take on it here (PDF)
2) Public Safety’ Zones – VicForests’ iron curtain
We know VicForests is pretty reckless, and log trucks tend to operate like they own our roads, but do they need hundreds of hectares to ensure we are safe from them? These zones are called ‘Public Safety’ Zones and are basically a legal force-field inside which anyone can be arrested for carrying out an activity – like bushwalking or camping – or witnessing logging.
These large rectangular zones are arbitrarily plonked on the map where logging is planned.
We have found that these areas total over 340,000 ha in the eastern part of the state i.e. a large percent of our public lands are considered illegal for our use when we are told VicForests logs less than 1% of public forests every year.
Some of these areas are enormous. Coupe 461-514-0010 is a 10 km roadline coupe. VicForests asked for a ‘stay-away’ zone that is approximately 10,000 ha!
This is not an isolated case; one 32 ha stand of forest proposed for clearfelling has a 'safety zone' of 206 ha. Many small coupes have ‘stay-away’ zones in excess of 200 ha.
There are at least seven coupes that have been logged and handed back to DSE yet these zones are still in place.
We have written to Peter Walsh and Ryan Smith asking why they uphold this strange situation which makes normal use of public land illegal.
3) New scientific discovery – VicForests
This one is too good to pass by. VicForests set up a project that a student of Creswick’s school of logging undertook. The outcome was extraordinarily predictable. Previously an employee of VicForests, Abby Carmichael placed infrared cameras in unlogged and regenerating logged forest.
The cameras detected more bush rats in regrowth and we assume less of other species. The report is not publicly available so we can’t analyse the results.
But the headline breakthrough news is that ‘native species utilise a combination of regenerating and unharvested forest’. Though there are many ways to ‘utilise’ degraded regrowth, passing through it is hardly a sign that a species is flourishing and surviving. The study was done with the very impartial help of VicForests’ Conservation Biologist and Forest Scientist.
The aim of this study was to determine how ground dwelling mammals used 1-6 year old logging regrowth, compared to intact mature forest next door. Two cameras were left in each coupe studied and two cameras were left in a ‘burnt control site’. We don’t know if this was a burnt mature forest next door, or a clearfelled burnt coupe. How many coupes all up? Two? Four? 20? We aren’t told.
They detected six native mammal species all up and we don’t know how many deer, cats or foxes.
The findings showed that bush rats were detected a bit more in logging regrowth, wombats more so in unlogged, and the other species they couldn’t reach any conclusion on. Ground breaking discoveries!
VicForests was clearly hoping to prove that poor regrowth was an essential habitat type for wildlife. Michael Ryan, their ‘Forest Scientist’ concluded their media release (click here to read it as a PDF) by saying that VF is logging sustainably and is trying to show how clearfelling and conservation can co-exist.
Jill / VicForests media release 16.8.12
4) 197,000 ha of fried forest
The largest area of forest since 1991 was burnt by DSE this last season.
DSE publicly celebrated a whopping 197,000 ha that they burnt last season out of their 225,000ha target for 2011-12. Wet conditions thankfully slowed down the East Gippsland burns. Next year DSE plans to torch a quarter of a million hectares across Victoria.
Weekly Times 11.7.12
5) Rethink burn targets - Comrie
Former Victorian Police Commissioner Neil Comrie who has the job of monitoring the response to the Black Saturday Royal Commission, says a target to burn 5% of Victoria's public land every year must be reconsidered.
Neil Comrie is now saying what we have for years - DSE should instead focus on protecting high-risk fire areas immediately around towns rather than simply meeting a target.
Scientific experts have said the burn plans based on an illogical figure of 5%, targets large uninhabited areas being burnt. This is having major destructive impact on many struggling ecosystems like the mallee, woodlands in central and western Victoria, coastal areas and forests – and of course the struggling wildlife like Mallee Fowl and other rare birds. Meeting these milestones does little to protect lives and homes and in fact can make the forests and woodlands more flammable and vulnerable.
Gippsland’s National Party Minister Peter Ryan said he can see the logic of this and would consider Neil Comrie’s advice.
The Age 31.7.12/Jill
Read the Age article here
6) New burn plans – have your say
Have your say on new burn plans for your region. www.dse.vic.gov.au/burns
This year’s draft Fire Operations Plan (FOP) is available for public comment from 1 August 2012 until 29 August 2012. The DSE say they want to hear from us, as individuals and communities.
The draft three-year FOPs are now on display and to see the draft plan for your area go to www.dse.vic.gov.au/burns or visit your local DSE or Parks Vic office. Email your comments to the regional fire officer. In Gippsland you can send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
We’re sure many of you have strong opinions on DSE’s burning regime.
7) Planet Ark sinks deeper
Since our last update, more news has surfaced regarding Planet Ark turning Judas.
They accepted $700,000 from the logging industry group Forest Wood Products Australia and then began running their ad campaign for them.
Founders of Planet Ark John Dee and Pat Cash sold the company/charity to new owners some time ago. They are now so disgusted by this capitulation with the logging industry they have resigned their memberships in protest and demanded Planet Ark take all reference to them off the website.
Planet Ark has also misquoted a university study on logging (part funded by FWPA), but which doesn’t appear in the study. Planet Ark claimed logging products are carbon-friendly to build with, and referenced an RMIT study. But the quote came directly from a FWPA "fact sheet''. Planet Ark admitted this after a Weekly Times journalist questioned them – however they went on to use this again in a TV interview.
Planet Ark probably thought they could escape scrutiny or at least weather this patch of bad publicity. Though this exposé of them jumping gleefully into bed with the logging industry for a handful of silver will not be quickly forgotten or forgiven.
Weekly Times 7.8.12/ Jill
Click here to read a PDF of the Weekly Times article.
If you missed the ABC’s 7:30 item on the Planet Ark story check the program website which also contains a transcript.
8) Cane Paper saves forests
Two of our members is bringing in a container load of sugar cane office paper from Columbia as an alternative to the native forest sourced paper, Reflex. Even with the shipping, it will be very competitive with the Nippon owned Reflex brand and still carry a very low carbon footprint.
Vikki and Trent Patten are looking for large orders from small or large businesses to be able to import this paper economically. If you know of a business or would like to order 50-100-1000 reams of paper, please help this initiative. It functions very well in high volume copiers.
The sugar cane waste is from land that has been in agricultural production for over 100 years, so no rainforest has been cut down to produce this crop and its waste. It will hopefully provide a real alternative to tree based paper that we are forced to use.
Please contact Vikki on 0413 229 790 or email Vikki@treezeropaper.com.au if you would like to learn more about this paper,
or go to the website www.treezeropaper.com.au
9) Thugs attack Toolangi camp
MyEnvironment managed to raise and lodge the $30,000 ‘security’ needed for their legal appeal that hopes to properly protect the Leadbeaters Possum in the Central Highlands (thanks to those of you who donated). This was on the 20th July.
Tensions have been simmering for months and a pro-logging Facebook page has been provoking violence.
Incident 1) Next morning in the early hours, a bunch of 10 logging vigilantes roughed up two campaigners who were camped at the Toolangi protesters’ base camp at Mt St Leonard. They also stole their camera equipment and smashed their car with a star picket. Click here to read The Age article.
Incident 2) On the 16th August, the next assault of conservation volunteers was during the dark hours of the morning as the loggers were loading their truck. The conservationists were capturing the night time activities on video when they were attacked. Police are investigating this incident. Meanwhile politicians have been making comment regarding ‘terrorism’ by environmentalists. The logging industry also put out media after this incident claiming the environmentalists terrified the poor loggers who feared for their safety. Click on this channel 7 News clip and see who you think are the aggressors.
This 'call to violence' seems to be spreading – especially since conservative wins in various state elections. We are hearing of similar expressions of anti-environmental machismo in other areas as well. This is either physical violence towards ‘greenies’ or the environment, or via internet sites. Do they now feel politically protected and bolstered by the ultra conservatives in power? As one person said - vilification precedes discrimination ... and worse.
We need to expose these trends and link them to anti-environment gangs and lobby groups and even political statements. Just read some of the comments in the on-line newspapers discussions lately on environmental issues. They are starting to flex their muscles, but if they don’t restrain their troops, this trend could seriously backfire on them, and their supportive politicians.
Jill / The Age 21.7.12
10) Logging road curve given quarter of a million upgrade
A logging road in South Gippsland is being given a quarter of a million dollar upgrade to help the trucks travel faster.
Deputy Premier and Gippsland South National Party MLA Peter Ryan said his government will widen a bend on Woorarra Rd, between Wonyip and Ryton Junction.
This road curve has inadequate passing space for vehicles larger than cars. This forces trucks to detour about 38kms via Yarram to the Latrobe Valley (the paper mill), adding an hour to their travel time each way (they’d have to be the slowest log trucks I’ve even seen). It appears that Nippon’s Reflex paper mill still pulls the government's strings.
Gippsland Times & Maffra Spectator, 24 Jul 2012
11) Wood waste energy plan thwarted
The Gunns mill at Heyfield in Gippsland was sold to a consortium of new owners recently. It is called ASH (Australian Sustainable Hardwoods) and remains Australia’s largest hardwood timber mill.
In mid-July it was complaining that it can’t gain financial credits to burn its ‘waste’ to generate ‘renewable’ electricity profitably, thanks to the Greens.
ASH’s chief executive Vince Hurley, was quite peeved that despite their operations being certified by the logging industry’s home brand certification system (Aust Forests Standards), Australian Safety Standards and a few other fairly meaningless tickets, the Federal government won’t accept how eco-sensitive this plan is.
ASH wants to burn native forest wood to supply electricity to Maffra, Heyfield, and other towns. They must have a lot of waste! They claim they currently use their sawdust to provide 85% of energy needs for steaming timber and kiln drying. It buys in 15 % of its energy in the form of electricity. And they are saying that they could also power the nearby towns?
Even if the price of brown coal electricity increases, Vince Hurley says that it would still be hard to compete as they’d need to invest in very expensive power generating equipment. If we didn’t know the logging industry any better we’d say they were angling for a government hand-out.
At their peak they can process 155,000m3 of native forest timber a year. This is over one-third of Victoria's native timber cut.
Read more here: Gippsland Times 20.7.12
Also here: The Age 13.7.2012
12) Logging gets free water but irrigators pay
How’s this quote - the forestry industry's water take is "worse" for irrigation communities than government buy-backs "because there's zero compensation for it". This is from a key irrigation spokesperson.
The Australian Conservation Foundation looked at the Goulburn catchment and found the river would lose almost 4 million megalitres in the next century as clearfelled native forests started to regrow regrow with the fast growing young trees using much more water than a stable mature forest would have.
In a similar finding, the Victorian Government’s 2008 Mein Mein report found that if logging stopped, water from the Thomson catchment (that feeds Gippsland's Macalister Irrigation District) would increase an extra 16,000 ML a year by 2050, or about 10% of total annual allocation.
NSW Irrigators Council chief Andrew Gregson said native logging and plantation companies were "getting access to free water while we have to pay for it and there's little or no limit on their usage".
Weekly Times 26.7.12 / Jill
Click here to read the article.
13) Councils pay $2500 to logging lobbyists
This link below lists the councils who pay $2,500 of our rates each year to a logging industry lobby group. The National Timber Councils Taskforce then goes to Canberra and chats with Rob Oakshott, Tony Windsor, Darren Chester, Sid Sidebottom, Richard Colbeck, Barnaby Joyce and Mike Kelly.
East Gippsland’s CEO – Steve Kozlowski sits on the Executive Committee.
The National Timber Council Members
1) Baillieu linked to mine debacle
A controversial mine site is seeking government approval from the Baillieu government to reopen at Benambra, north of Swifts Creek in East Gippsland. The original Benambra mine was operated by Denehurst - and now the connections appear - in which our Premier, Ted Baillieu was a shareholder. Click here for the news story.
The main deposits are copper and zinc, but it also contains gold, silver and lead. When prices dropped in the late 1990s, Denehurst walked away a few years later leaving a $6.9M mess for the government (tax payers) to clean up at the Benambra site. See the story
In 2006, Ted Baillieu’s $3.8 million share portfolio seriously compromised him as he stood for election that year. This collapsed mining company was responsible for one of Victoria’s most environmentally damaging mining operations. It destroyed a rare Montane Swamp Complex that was listed under the Commonwealth EPBC Act and the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act. The community is very rare in terms of the total area it covers, has a very restricted distribution or has been recorded from only a few localities.
Denehurst plonked its huge tailing dam bang smack on top of this 20ha endangered montane wetland. They only put a $150,000 environmental bond down but left a $7 million mess including a dam full of tailings laced with lead, zinc and copper, acid water leaking from the dam, a site littered with equipment and potentially hazardous materials, and destroyed the habitat of an endangered frog. Much of this still remains a huge disaster area and these toxic loads still overflow into the Tambo River in rain.
There is still a massive cleanup task to be done here but no authority is taking responsibility
The current company planning to reopen the mine is the Independence Group (took over from Jabiru Metals) and is now called the Stockman Project. See this link for more information and ‘Rising metals cause Benambra return’
Their fancy community consultation document (PDF) says it has consulted three local environment groups including EEG. Strange, none of us have been contacted by them or informed of their plans.
2) Westpac finances Solomon Island logging
The Greens recently called on Westpac to immediately withdraw from financing Solomon Island logging operations.
Westpac has become a guarantor for a new project to log pristine rainforest on Vella Lavella. This is at odds with Westpac promoting itself as a bank that takes the environment seriously and it claims to be reducing lending in the logging sector.
If you bank with Westpac, please take the opportunity to formally ask your bank manager (an email is formal enough) when Westpac intends to withdraw from funding the destruction of the planet’s forests? To date, we can only recommend Bendigo Bank as the alternative, which does not fund large planet plunderers.
Jill / Senator Lee Rhiannon, media release 15.8.12
3) Baillieu hides bull on the cows
In order to maintain its standing with certain beef farmers over the Alpine National Parks grazing issue, the Baillieu government took its legal challenge to the Federal Court in early August – at great cost to you and I.
Victoria’s current conservative coalition wants to overturn a decision by federal Environment Minister Tony Burke that ousted 400 or so beef cattle from the park. Baillieu claims they are part of a so-called scientific trial that was planned for 5 years, but Tony Burke rightly declared they would do unacceptable damage to the park.
The judge has reserved her decision and we hope to hear the outcome within a few weeks.
The national environmental laws that have enabled Tony Burke to override the Baillieu government on cattle grazing are now planning to be weakened by Julia Gillard, handing back responsibility to the states for managing important national environmental values.
Read more in this article The Age 2.8.12)
As this update was about to hit your inboxes, a new twist to this story emerged. The Victorian National Parks Association obtained a document under FOI, after a 17 month battle with the government.
This ‘scientific’ review was one of two that the government relied on and is a seven year old draft that ignores key scientific information from the CSIRO and others. The review of existing literature on cattle grazing and the possible effect on bushfires was not peer reviewed or published (ie – very limp and questionable as a scientific document). The DSE spin doctoring said the government was in the process of having this draft peer reviewed and published. But they were quite happy to stand by it as a solid piece of science earlier.
Read more here
4) Plans to weaken Federal environment laws
Under pressure from big business and the mining industry, federal and state governments have recently announced a hard line plan to wind back environmental protection laws. In the guise of cutting ‘green tape’ government and industry propose to hand important federal approval powers to the states and fast track approvals for large developments. If this goes ahead, there will be no Federal protection for threatened species. It will accelerate mining and coal seam gas developments.
What can we do?
A national coalition of environment groups is working to ensure that our Federal environmental laws aren't scrapped. It needs the support of concerned individuals and community groups across Australia.
In the past the Federal Government has stepped in to stop State governments allowing: • Oil rigs on the Great Barrier Reef • Cattle grazing in the Victorian Alps • the Franklin River dam • Sand mining on Fraser Island • A new coal port in pristine Shoalwater Bay • Traveston Dam blocking the Mary River • Major road through the Tarkine.
Visit the website http://placesyoulove.org where you can send an online letter to the Prime Minister, submit photos of the places or wildlife you love and find out more information about the campaign to defend our environmental laws.
5) Duck shooting – summary of the season
A duck rescuer, Tony Murphy, was charged by the Dept. Primary Industries for failing to kill a wounded waterbird he brought to shore. The charges were later dropped and Magistrate Gray ordered the Department to pay Murphy's legal costs of $8,687.52.
Tony said that euthanizing a wounded bird is a decision for a qualified veterinarian, not a rescuer.
Rescuers were targeted by the DSE and DPI on the final weekend of the 2011 duck shooting season. Yet hunters who started shooting too early and shot over their bag limits were ignored and not prosecuted. The government officers concentrated solely on duck rescuers, and slapped many trumped-up charges on them.
The good news is that after 26 years of campaigning to end recreational duck shooting, rescuers encountered fewer duck shooters on Victorian wetlands this year than ever before. For most weekends only around 10 shooters, or less, were seen - with 25 at Lake Buloke for Easter (compared with many thousands on this one wetland 20 years ago. The major shift in public opinion has helped discourage new shooters.
But in stark contrast to last year, bird numbers were extremely low, despite misleading media statements from Primary Industries' Minister Peter Walsh and Deputy Premier Peter Ryan that birds were in 'plague proportions'.
Campaign Against Duck Shooting update
6) Libs pledge to support plastic bags
The Canberra Liberals are promising to overturn a ban on free plastic shopping bags if they win October's election. Can you believe the Liberals consider this a vote-winner? Since last November free plastic bags have been banned in Canberra.
ABC 6.8.12 / Jill
1) Environment East Gippsland AGM
The Environment East Gippsland AGM will be held on Saturday 22nd September. If you are interested in attending please call Jill on 5154 0145 for details.
All members welcome.
2) Concert for Toolangi's Forests.
This Saturday at Monsalvat in Eltham; a great night of classical and folk music for the Toolangi forests.
For your diary
1) TV worth watching
This Friday at 7:30 pm the ABC is planning a report on the heavy metal pollution/discharge into our waterways and the lack of action by authorities
On Wednesday evening at 8:00pm Ecotopia on Channel 31 (digital channel 44) will be telling the Toolangi story - another must see.
Jill and the team.
Environment East Gippsland Inc.
FORESTS - our breathing space!