Logging to devastate: researcher

Speaking to a meeting at Mirboo North last week, Australian National University researcher Dr Chris Taylor compared clear-felling critically endangered mountain ash forest to bulldozing the architectural history and culture of Paris and putting "a suburb like Berwick or Pakenham in its place".

The meeting was organised by Preserve Our Forest, a group that was formed after VicForests last year announced its intention to log about 50 hectares of state forest around Mirboo North.

One of the coupes earmarked for logging in early 2019 around Mirboo North contains a stand of mountain ash and some old growth forest, however, the rest is largely mixed species.

The Preserve Our Forest steering committee strongly opposes the proposed logging and has been actively campaigning to save the mountain ash forest surrounding the town.

Dr Taylor said logging in Victoria was particularly concentrated in the ash forest ecosystem and clear-felling, which he described as the dominant logging technique in the state, destroyed "biological legacies".

"The understory elements can be very, very old, and so they can survive successive fires, but they don't necessarily survive mechanical damages that clear-fell logging imposes onto the landscape," he said.

"Whilst logging as a whole has decreased in past years, we've seen an increase in the clear-fell logging of the ash forests."

Dr Taylor said the Forest (Wood Pulp Agreement) Act 1996, an agreement that guarantees Australian Paper pulp wood supplies from the state government, needed to be reviewed.

"Given the 2007 fires [and the] 2009 fires as well, given that the [supply] allocated to the mill has sustained a significant amount of damage in parts, there could be an avenue legally, and I am not a lawyer so I'll leave that to the lawyers, but there is an opportunity possibly to argue that ... it gives the government a way out to say 'hang on, we can't supply that amount of wood'," he said.

"One of the primary drivers for the wood demand has been the need to meet this legislative supply.

"In the Forest Pulp Agreement Act of 1996, there are political grounds for the government to suspend this supply if it chooses to do so. It needs to be legally investigated.

"There is opportunity for other sources to be utilised without one job having to be lost at that mill."

Fauna ecologist Ed McNabb spoke about how a number of animal species, including the powerful owl, could be impacted by the proposed logging.

Business owner and member of Preserve Our Forests Ian Cornthwaite said Dr Taylor discussed the potential for increase in wildfire intensity during the period of 8 to 15 years after any initial regrowth of a logged forest coupe.

"This phenomenon also applies to Mirboo North’s forests, a large portion of which is still in a state of recovery from the wildfires of 2009," he said. 

"Dr Taylor said that the wildfires of 2007/2009 had burnt about 200,000 hectares of ash forest in the central highlands.

"Despite salvage logging of burnt timber, this has added significantly to VicForests’ scarcity of available timber resources and is pushing " 

Mr Corthwaite said the community was determined to protect its' native forest with "its' remnant diversity in tact".

"[This is] for the future ecological, social and commercial stability of the area and in acknowledgement of the wonderful, ancient environments we now have only small remnants of, and in respect to the original inhabitants in our region, the Gunai/Kurnai and Bunurong Nations." 

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