Blockade on Mt Baw Baw tourist road enters third day

Logging has been stopped on the Mt. Baw Baw tourist road at Icy Creek for a third day. A conservationist from Forest Conservation Victoria (FCV) is suspended in a tree 25 metres off the ground on a platform tied to logging machinery.

The group is protesting the ongoing destruction of Victoria’s native forests across Victoria and calling for an end to the destructive practice.

“The Labor government continues to log Victoria’s forests, while the world is calling for urgent and progressive action on climate change. Post-logging burns emit huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, polluting the environment and suffocating local towns. These forests also play a vital role in storing carbon and mitigating the devastating effects of climate change,” said FCV representative, Sarah McConnell.

“Australia is on a fast track to climate catastrophe. You cannot have a serious federal or state climate policy without including the protection of forests. To continue logging what little we have left amid a climate emergency is suicidal,” Sarah McConnell said.

These forests are rich eco-systems which support many of Victoria’s unique and threatened flora and fauna, including the threatened Greater Glider which has been found in the area. The forest on the chopping block runs along the main road to Mount Baw Baw and is an iconic route to a treasured tourist destination.

“This particular coupe adds to the extensive clearing that runs along Ballantynes Ridge which has been decimated over the past 2 years. It’s devastating to see the ongoing destruction. Logging of native forests is completely unsustainable, and they will never recover. We need to see immediate and meaningful action taken to protect our natural environment,” said Hayley Forster of FCV.

“Logging has permanently scarred the landscape in this area and entire hillsides have been completely wiped out. It is appalling that the Victorian government logs these places which are home to threatened species and are the catchments which supply Melbourne with its water,” Hayley Forster said.

Forest Conservation Victoria is committed to campaigning for native forest protection. With climate emergency at the forefront of the upcoming federal election, forest protection and stronger environmental laws need to be a major priority. State and federal Labor and Liberal parties have no policy to bring an end to destructive logging of native forests, despite communities Australia wide wanting to vote for environmental protection.

Forest Conservation Victoria acknowledge the thousands of years of custodianship over the land by the Wurundjeri and Gunnai Kurnai nations. We pay our respects to elders past, present and emerging, and acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceded.

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About the author

Forest Conservation Victoria is committed to defending Victoria's native forests from the destructive clear-fell logging industry.

Forest blockade continues to stop logging of East Gippsland's old growth forests

Logging of old growth forests at Granite Mountain in East Gippsland has been successfully halted into the third day. The camp has been visited by logging contractors and VicForests representatives, but government authorities are yet to arrive on site.

Logging of old growth forests at Granite Mountain in East Gippsland has been successfully halted into the third day. The camp has been visited by logging contractors and VicForests representatives, but government authorities are yet to arrive on site.

A brave conservationist remains suspended 20 meters above the ground on a platform in a tree preventing access and logging in the area. They are determined to continue their efforts to save these last remaining stands of ancient forests, despite risking arrest and braving wet conditions.

“Up here in the tree sit I’m staying dry and in good spirits, from the tree I can see the clouds moving between the huge canopies of these giant trees. I’ll stay up here for as long as I can because I support the people willing to take action to defend our threatened species, water catchments and carbon storage for future generations,” they stated.

“If we don’t act fast to protect what’s left of Victoria’s old growth forests, we will lose a precious line of defence against the looming threat of climate change,” they said.

Across Australia the impact of climate change is having devastating effects on our natural environment. Unprecedented flooding events in Townsville, the mass fish deaths and ecological collapse of the Murray-Darling Basin and the catastrophic fire events rampaging across Tasmania. Meanwhile in Victoria, the so-called progressive Labor government continues to log some of the world’s most carbon dense forests. When these forests are logged and burnt the stored carbon is released into the atmosphere, which accelerates climate change.

Scientific evidence shows that logging old wet forests increases fire risk. A young regrowth forest burns much hotter and more intensely than an old forest. Studies undertaken by the Australian National University have found that logging dries out the forest floor and in time creates a more fire prone landscape due to the dense thirsty regrowth (1).

“Native forest logging in Victoria has no place in the twenty-first century. Our planet desperately needs leadership and action from our state politicians to mitigate the disastrous effects of the current climate emergency.” says Christine Schuringa of Forest Conservation Victoria.

Logging in Victoria has no social license, a recent leaked study by Forest Wood and Products Australia (FWPA) found the majority of people in regional Victoria said native forest logging was unacceptable (2). In the last week alone, nearly 4000 people (3) have sent emails to the Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews demanding his government intervene and protect the old growth forest currently under threat of logging.

Forest Conservation Victoria acknowledge the thousands of years of custodianship over the land and waters of so-called East Gippsland by the Bidwell, Ngario and Gunnai Kurnai nations. We pay our respects to elders past present and emerging and acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceded.


About the author

Forest Conservation Victoria is run by people deeply concerned with the continued logging of Victorian native forests by the Andrew's state Labor government. We protect forests by carrying out peaceful direct action in some of Victoria's highest conservation value forests.

Good news for East Gippsland's forests, forty years coming

The Darego Tree, a gaint eucalypt in Goongerah, East Gippsland, a heavily logged area

On 12 May, logging company VicForests announced that the Eden based woodchip giant South East Fibre Exports will stop buying woodchips and logs sourced from East Gippsland's forests at the end of this year. This is momentous news after forty years of campaigning for the areas protection. Does it mean the end of logging in East Gippsland?

From the looks of VicForests' media release they've been blind-sided by this change and didn't have time to put in the positive spin – besides to say at least people now have certainty, about the industry’s uncertain future.

Industry players interviewed on ABC radio the following day all presented badly. SEFE's decision has clearly been a shock. But is this really the end of logging in East Gippsland's high conservation value forests?

When asked if SEFE will be taking any logs or sawmill waste from East Gippsland mills, SEFE General Manager, Peter Mitchell told ABC, “Not, not . . . from certain sawmills, we’ll be stopping their supply to us but others we’ll continue . . . perhaps." When asked when the decision was made, Mitchell responded, "Umm, that’s really something I’ll keep to myself actually. I don’t think this is worth sharing with anyone else.”

Reading between the lines it looks like this could spell collapse for the entire East Gippsland logging industry. Very likely, no alternative customers exist to buy the 200,000 tonnes of what the industry calls "waste" – wood that is not viable for saw logs. But VicForests are talking up possibilities to placate those remaining in the depressed industry. Woodchips and waste are the bread and butter of the East Gippsland industry. It seems pretty straight forward: no market = no industry.

No one from the logging industry could be drawn on how many jobs might be lost as a result of SEFE's decision (the fact is not many in the big scheme) and they claim there will still be an industry in East Gippsland, they just need to find ways to sell low grade wood. However, one mill owner has already stated he might have to close down if there were no markets for his waste.

The reason for the decision by Nippon’s shareholders (the owners of SEFE) to stop buying East Gippsland waste wood is due to: a structural shift in traditional markets and decommissioning of mills following the tsunami; increase in plantation chip supply from Vietnam and Thailand; and change in ownership of managed investment plantation schemes – ramping up export woodchips from Aussie plantations.

The biomass push

New South Wales has just passed legislation allowing the burning of native forests for electricity generation to be classed as "renewable”. This allows the logging industry's customers to gain financial credits, making the industry's continuation more viable. Logging companies will also be able to cut forests down that were previously unsuitable for paper making – such as the darker species. We need to keep ahead of this possibility.

Logging industry reps are yet to give a clear answer as to whether the Eden woodchip mill will continue to buy wood from New South Wales – the answer was "talk to SEFE about that". One operator admitted they have just seven months to find a large market for the woodchips and a lot of hard work needs doing.

The good news is, the biomass push has gone nowhere for the past 3 to 4 years. Two and a half thousand people have sent an online letter addressed to 30 or so energy retailers and fuel companies around the country letting them know they won't buy energy made from burning native forests. It's time to fire it up, please sign and pass it on as widely as possible.

The sawlog industry has been dying a slow death for the last 20 years as pine sawn timber has now taken over the building market. Woodchipping has provided more employment to Asian paper factories than in our own region since 1970. It looks like this could be the end, if we can knock out biomass.

SEFE's announcement has huge implications right across eastern Victoria. Nippon also owns the Australian Paper factory in the Latrobe Valley, the makers of Reflex Paper. This lost $26.5 million in 2013 and $20 million in 2012. Native forest logging is becoming a millstone around the neck of this company. Let's make it as heavy as possible.

  • Find more information about the campaign to end old growth logging in East Gippsland on Environment East Gippsland's website.
  • Follow the Biomassacre campaign to end biomass burning before it begins.
  • Check out all the groups across Australia campaigning for the protection of our native forests, old growth and rainforests.
  • Follow the tags below for more articles on similar topics.

About the author

Jill Redwood is a long time environmental campaigner and the coordinator of Environment East Gippsland, the longest running community forest group working solely for the protection of Victoria's last and largest area of ancient forest and surrounding natural environment. Jill has lived on her self built self sufficient property in Goongerah, East Gippsland for 30 years.

If a tree falls in the forest and no one's around, is it illegal?

Why must it take a tiny environment group to force a government to obey its own laws on threatened species? Jill Redwood wonders what happened to the Victorian Government's morals.

As I write, the bulldozers and chainsaws are brutalising another superb stand of ancient forest not far from where I am just out of Orbost, south-eastern Victoria.

Those trees have stood for 600 years, sheltering and feeding generations of greater gliders and powerful owls; the lush understorey of ferns and blanket leaf have kept delicate lichens and mosses damp and cool in the hottest summers over the millennia. Liquid eyed marsupials will be huddling terrified in their hollows as these giants crash and splinter in a sickening thud that shakes the earth and shocks the heart.

After this brutality, the remaining vegetation is deliberately incinerated with a ring of intensely hot fire. Nothing escapes. It's all part of the 'sustainable forest management' lie that our governments feed us, hoping to hide the reality with a curtain of pleasing language.

We now have the absurd situation where our various governments acknowledge that many native wildlife and plant species are teetering on the edge of extinction, but the assistance offered is little more than recognition and shallow sympathy, laced with lip service and PR spin. The relentless winds of development and logging exploitation blow tough on these exquisite wonders of nature and evolution.

East Gippsland is a prime example of this situation. It has been described by Professor David Bellamy as "the most diverse area of temperate forest I know of on Earth". This small ark — just four per cent of the state — supports seven to ten times more threatened species than any other area of the state, making protection measures here vastly more effective and urgent.

The Victorian state government has been sued four times in recent years over environmental issues. Environment East Gippsland has initiated three of these legal actions and not lost a case, although one has been settled out of court and another is likely to follow suit. The government and its logging agency VicForests agreed to abide by their own laws after being forced to the steps of the Supreme Court.

Why, in a developed country should small regional volunteer groups, which run on a meagre budget, be forced to take on the behemoth monster that is the government? The answer is that our democracy is a façade behind which vested interests and large exploitative corporations call the shots.

Our latest court challenge has resulted in the government committing to prepare plans for saving a small sample of four species that are diminishing as their homes are logged and burnt. But there remains 370 others struggling to survive an endless onslaught from land clearing, logging, development, burning, grazing and mining. We don't know their numbers, whereabouts or condition as the government is taking no responsibility for monitoring their situation.

The Auditor General's report of April 2009 was scathing of the way the state's Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act is administered. It said: "At the current rate of progress, with existing resources, it will take a further 22 years for the department to complete action statements for the 653 items currently listed as threatened".

That was before Victoria's Coalition Government sacked eight tram-loads of scientists and biodiversity staff and axed $130.6 million from its environment department.

Yet Department of Environment and Primary Industries senior minister Peter Walsh's media department tells us they are working hard to protect species. Minister Walsh's meaningless reassurances are just that. They have no legal teeth. The biodiversity and land management sections have been reduced to an ineffective shadow of what it once was — an overworked handful of token staff remain.

As a result of EEG's legal challenge, the beautiful glossy black cockatoo finally had a draft action statement drawn up last month after waiting 18 years on the threatened species list. But Minister Walsh's staff have found a loophole — we now learn that although the plan itself is a legal obligation, it doesn't need to have concrete protection measures. The language does not bind anyone to do anything. For example, to 'protect identified nesting trees' won't ever happen if no one is given that task of looking for them. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

The 18-year delay in producing an action statement allowed continuing clearfelling and burning of the glossy black cockatoos' habitat. This has almost certainly meant its Victorian population is even more precarious. Its population could in fact now be critically endangered in this state. Its belated action statement must be unambiguous and clear as to what actions must be taken to protect it; how it is intended to do this and with what resources.

We do not live in a debt-ridden developing country. We have one of the strongest economies in the world and a most remarkable and diverse array of Australian plants and wildlife. There is no excuse to be flicking them into the extinction pit for the sake of a muscle bound industry's profit margins or the political expedience of a government devoid of morals.


About the author

Jill Redwood is a long time environmental campaigner and the coordinator of Environment East Gippsland, the longest running community forest group working solely for the protection of Victoria's last and largest area of ancient forest and surrounding natural environment. Jill has lived on her self built self sufficient property in Goongerah, East Gippsland for 30 years.

Logging halted near Kinglake: locals say no to business as usual

For the second week in a row, local residents have walked into an active logging coupe and disrupted operations to bring attention to the ongoing destruction of Victoria's forests.

Logging is occurring in some of the last remaining forest in Kinglake in Victoria's Central Highlands that has not been logged or burned in bushfires. Forests like these fragments left in Murrundindi in the Kinglake area are critical refuges for threatened species including the Greater Glider, that has been identified within logging coupes. The Victorian government is yet to release an Action Statement outlining how the Glider will be protected. This Statement is required by law under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.

Of even greater concern to local residents is the fact that logging continues in these forests in a climate emergency. While scientists around the world are highlighting the importance of protecting forests and carrying out massive scale revegetation to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change and address the sixth mass extinction, the Victorian government continues to allow logging in some of the most carbon dense forests on the planet to fulfil contracts with Nippon Paper to make copy paper. Around 80% of Victoria's forests end up at the Australian Paper manufacturing plant (owned by Nippon) to make Reflex and other brands of copy paper.

"There is no time left for the Central Highlands," said Gayle Cole from Toolangi. "The forest ecosystem is critically endangered. One percent of old growth forest remains".

"The government's hands are tied by unions and vested corporate interests. We have to think creatively and bring an end to this horror immediately." she said.

Following intense public campaigning, Officeworks agreed to stop stocking Reflex copy paper by 2020 if it was found to be sourced from unsustainable logging. Bunnings has made the same public statement in regards to its native wood products. Time will tell if these retailers are true to their word.

In the meantime, Kinglake locals say they will continue to disrupt business as usual (unsustainable logging) in their forests as long as the Victorian government continues to ignore public opinion and the science on logging native forests.

Kinglake residents will hold a public meeting to discuss what can be done to save the last of their forests on Sunday 20 October at the Kinglake Community Centre, corner of Whittlesea-Kinglake Rd and Extons Rd, 2 to 4pm.


About the author

Eco-shout is a catalyst to action for environmental and social justice.

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