Thursday, November 17, 2011

Logging East Gippsland old growth forests destroys wildlife refugia in a warming climate

Environmental activists have been out in old growth Forests in East Gippsland this week attempting to stop more rape of our natural environment and protecting important refugia habitats for endangered species. Logging operations on Survey Rd on the Errinundra Plateau were halted by a tree-sit attached to five logging machines and suspended 40 metres up in the tree canopy.

"In the face of recent Baillieu government moves to weaken the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act, conservationists have again taken their message to logging sites where important wildlife habitat continues to be logged for woodchips", said Ms Amelia Young, spokesperson for the conservationists of the Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO) (Facebook).

"This site on Survey Road is another controversial logging coupe, in precious, ancient forest right on the border of the national park. Forests on and around the national park have been identified as key refugia – a safe place - for threatened wildlife; that they continue in 2011 to be targeted for short-term logging projects, is inexcusable."

"The future of the logging industry lies in sourcing saw and pulp logs from plantations. Government assistance should be procured immediately to support the industry to make this transition out of our publicly owned high-conservation value forests."

"With waratahs in flower, individual trees expected to be in excess of 500 years old and endangered spot-tailed quolls detected in the area, there’s no question this old-growth forest is worth more standing", concluded Ms Young.

Both sides of traditional politics have supported the logging of old growth forests, even though native old growth forests are so important to preserve for a raft of reasons that rise above the economic exploitation for wood pulp and timber:

Earlier this month the State Government quietly announced Logging contractors will be able to seek exemptions from state environment laws protecting endangered species under proposed changes by the Baillieu state government. The Secretary of the Department of Sustainability and Environment would be able to exempt a logging project from the requirements of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act. Goodbye endangered species habitat!

The Supreme Court of Victoria last year banned VicForests from logging old-growth forest at Brown Mountain in East Gippsland after activists released a video of a long-footed potoroo filmed in a logging coupe on Brown Mountain.

More recently, the Victorian Supreme Court has stopped logging of old growth forests at Sylvia Creek in Victoria's central highlands because it threatens the habitat of the endangered Leadbeater's Possum. A court injunction presently prevents logging old growth forests in this area till 2012, while the case is heard. The changes by the State Government seek to undermine the Supreme Court rulings to protect endangered species.

The Wilderness Society has attacked the Baillieu Government for undermining Victoria's environmental laws.

"Decades of overlogging and three major fire events in Victoria's forests have pushed many species closer to extinction. Our unique wildlife, including Victoria's endangered faunal emblem, the Leadbeater's Possum, need their native forest homes protected, not betrayed to the Baillieu government bulldozers. It is not too late to turn this decision around." says the Wilderness society.

The State Government has no electoral mandate for making these changes. Liberal MP Mary Wooldridge told an environment forum held at Melbourne Town Hall on 18 November 2010 during the Victorian state election campaign, of the importance of protecting forest that contains threatened species such as Leadbeaters Possum.

"Some concerns we can address are issues about pre logging assessments and making sure the areas we are logging don't have protected species or different issues with the Leadbetter's possum in relation to in terms of the catchment areas. Making sure we are doing those assessments, making sure if areas are logged they don't have those assets, insuring those assessments are done and those areas are protected before hand." said Mary Wooldridge MP.

It seems this is just another broken promise from a Government marching backwards on climate and the environment, as well as general social conditions in public hospitals and health, and in education in Victoria.

Background: Coalition’s 2km wind farm veto sets a risky precedent | Retreating on climate policy - Victorian Government stops discussions on Hazelwood closure | Victorian Government needs to come clean on plan to achieve 20 percent emissions cut by 2020

Image Source: GECO - Logging machinery, awesome cabling and trees that once stood tall - Survey Rd blockade November 2011