Wednesday, March 24, 2010

more logging coupes for central highlands

report from the roundtable – 23 mar
In my role as chairperson of the Yarra Ranges Environment Advisory Committee an issue was raised by a YREAC member concerning the proposed harvesting plan amendments in VicForest’s Timber Release Plan 2010.

Once alerted to the amendments I moved the following motion:
That council forwards a submission to Vic Forests with regard to the proposed Harvesting Plan Amendments in the Timber Release Plan 2010 before the 8th April, 2010, expressing its concern about the proposed 148 additional coupes and road lines within the central highlands region.

And that copies of the submission be forwarded to The Hon. Gavin Jennings MP, Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Mr Greg Wilson - Secretary DSE, Mr Kevin Love - DSE Deputy Secretary, Public Land Stewardship and Biodiversity, Mr Michael Crutchfield MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Water & Environment Ms Tammy Lobato MP, Member for Gembrook and Mr Ben Hardman MP, Member for Seymour.

Vic Forests are currently applying for an additional 148 new couples and road lines in the central highlands of Victoria. This is a matter of some urgency as public comment is invited up to the 8th April, 2010 and that’s why I moved quickly to bring it before council.

The locations of the proposed new coupes affect the areas of Powelltown, Toolangi and Marysville. Council is already opposed to logging of Melbourne’s water catchments and in talking to the motion I raised issues around these proposed amendments to logging coupes as excessive and unsustainable.

Toolangi was hit hard by the Black Saturday bushfires yet it appears 25% of the available forest is proposed for logging in the next year or two.

The unsustainable nature of current logging of the Central Highlands is evidenced in the DSE’s Monitoring Annual Harvesting Report which shows that in the central region
there is an 87% backlog in coupe regeneration after harvesting, whilst there is a significant number of coupes that are overdue for stocking surveys. Regeneration is clearly not keeping pace with logging activities. Whilst a massive regeneration backlog exists additional coupes should not be approved. The massive backlog clearly indicates how unsustainable current logging and regeneration practices are.

With climate change, a changed lower rainfall pattern is projected. With diminished quantity and reliability of water successful regeneration of logged coupes cannot be guaranteed. Under these scenarios germination and establishment failures will be more commonplace.

The maps supplied by VicForests to indicate the proposed new coupes fail to show them alongside other coupes previously approved or about to be logged. When these new coupes are overlaid with the current coupes the amount of forest to be logged is substantial.
The proposed areas under consideration have not been properly surveyed, particularly after the Black Saturday bushfires and the extent of damage to wildlife, including endangered species, such as the Leadbeater’s Possum are unknown. The forests were significantly disturbed by the 2009 fires, time must be given to them to allow them to recover and regenerate naturally as far as possible, the compounding affects of logging these areas will create further disturbance in an already fragile environment.

Clarification needs to be sought as it appears that some of the proposed coupes include designated Special Protection Zones, where logging is not permitted.

Much work has been done on the economic recovery of these areas and it has been recognised that attracting nature based tourism activities will lead to the economic recovery of fire affected communities. Logging activities severely impact on the desirability of tourists to visit the region.

Already the water yield of the forests has been diminished in quantity and quality by the recent bushfires, logging these areas will exacerbate these water issues for decades to come. Recent research indicates that the industrial logging of wet forests has the potential to increase their susceptibility to more fires into the future.

Forests into the future will have a far greater value as a tool to mitigate climate change and play a key role as carbon sinks. Research has shown that the Mountain Ash forests of the central highlands have the highest carbon carrying capacity of any forest in the world.

Yarra Ranges is highly valued for its natural environment, it is of key importance to our community and comes up time and time again as one of the key reasons young and old alike love living in Yarra Ranges. Our natural environment attracts millions of visitors every year.

Responding to this request for public comment is an opportunity for the shire to articulate this vision and aspiration. Our forests have far more value left standing and intact than being logged for woodchips. The motion was won.

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