In 2017 debate has raged about forest policy in Gippsland, centred around the prospect of the closure of a mill in Hayfield because of reduced contracts.
The facts are that logging of Victorian forests has always been at an unsustainable rate. And bushfires have further reduced the amount of timber for logging.
The PR machine for the mill is working hard to convince decision-makers and the public that there is a resource out there that they are being ‘locked out of’ – there isn’t. Here are the facts.
The trees aren’t there to log
- When VicForests was created in 2004, the allocation order granting it access to the forests over the 15-year period from 2004 to 2019 assumed there would be 80,400 hectares of harvestable ash forest available.
- In 2007, of this harvestable area, 19,600ha had been killed in the 2006-07 fires and 1,200ha killed in the 2003 fires.
- A further 7000ha was incinerated in the 2009 (‘Black Saturday’) fires, reducing the total area of harvestable living ash forest to 52,600ha.
- 20,800 ha of ash forest has been logged between June 2004 and June last year, including salvage logging of fire-killed stands (4000ha), and 1400ha is being logged this season.
- There is now just 34,400ha of ash forest remaining for logging.
- Of this 3,000ha is now in buffers to protect colonies of Leadbeater’s possum. This is equivalent to two years logging at current rates.
- Much of the remaining area —31,400 ha —is now uneconomic to log.
(Source: Nick Legge, Forest advisor, The Weekly Times, 3 April 2017, http://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/news/opinion/heyfield-timber-mill-time-to-face-forest-facts/news-story/d13074b3b8e70ea1bc4292b6386dde6b)
Don’t be conned about arguments that millable timber is ‘locked up’ in national parks. The national park boundaries have always been carefully drawn to exclude the coupes that the loggers wanted. Thats why Erinundra National park outline looks like a donut – the boundaries were drawn around prime logging areas.
The logs aren’t there. So its time to back off the forests! They are more than just tree farms. They are needed to help us survive climate change because they give us water, and retain our biodiversity.
The photo above is people learning about the values of intact old growth forests at the 2017 Forests Forever Camp in East Gippsland.