The old growth forest of Kuark is (I can’t bring myself to say ‘was’) a jewel in the wild landscape of East Gippsland. It provides habitat for threatened species such as the Sooty, Masked and Powerful owls, Greater gliders and Long footed potoroos, and is a rare rainforest type where warm and cool temperate rainforest blend together in an ‘over lap’ assemblage.
There was a long campaign, led by Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO) and The Wilderness Society to see the Kuark protected. It had considerable success, and was scheduled to be fully protected under a Bill in parliament to include Kuark in the Errinundra National Park.
Then this summer happened. I watched in horror as parts of the legendary Errinundra Plateau burnt and the rainforests of Martins Creek were devastated. I hadn’t heard news of the Kuark until now.
Ed Hill led the campaign to protect the Kuark forest. He has been up there recently. This is his report.
Mt Kuark now. This was some of Victoria’s most magnificent old growth wet forest and rainforest.
We slogged our guts out to protect Kuark forest from logging. After thousands of hours of citizen science surveys, lengthy and expensive court cases, direct action blockades, five years of political lobbying and campaigning by Goongerah Environment Centre GECO, we won!
Then we lost everything.
Lily D’Ambrosio MP declared Kuark a magnificent wilderness and protected the best of its old growth forest in 2017.
That protection was expanded in November 2019 in a protection zone that linked the mountain forests of Errinundra to the coast.
A bill was introduced into parliament to add Kuark to the Errinundra National Park.
We designed a 120km sea to summit walking trail through these forests that the government backed and announced funding to establish.
I was so emotionally involved with this forest called Kuark, a Gunnai word for Kookaburra.
I knew it intimately. Some of its giant trees were like old friends. We’d been through so much together. Faced with adversity we’d come out the other side victorious and united. Hopeful for a future we’d created together.
Then in the final days of 2019, unprecedented climate fuelled mega fires wiped Kuark out.
The scale and intensity of the destruction is immense.
Rainforest gullies that never burn have burnt as hot as the Eucalyptus ridges and spurs. The fire burnt indiscriminately.
Record temperatures above 40 degrees, a severe drought and a legacy of industrial logging has created a more fire prone landscape. These factors combined to wreck havoc on an unimaginable scale.
With more fires likely in the coming decades as our planet warms it’s very unlikely the Kuark forest will ever recover.
I’m devastated with grief, anger and sadness and incensed that governments are still not taking meaningful action on climate change.
Both the federal government and the Dan Andrews gov in vic are still giving the green light to new fossil fuel projects that will make climate impacts even worse.
Logging is also continuing in unburnt forests.
We need serious and drastic action on climate change, we need to stop logging these previous environments.
The Victorian government must urgently bring forward their transition plan for the native logging industry which currently won’t start scaling back wood volumes until 2024 with a complete cessation by 2030.
That’s too late. We don’t have time to wait.
Andrews can bring forward the plan now and immediately provide assistance for impacted workers and businesses. What remains of our unburnt forests needs to be protected and workers supported into jobs that can be sustained long term.
We can’t despair though. We must hold onto hope. What else do we have if we don’t have hope?
We need all hands on deck in this crazy time to fight for environmental justice and show solidarity with people facing harder struggles.
We need love, friendship, solidarity, community, grit and determination to see this shit through.
So called East Gippsland is Gunnai / Bidwell / Ngarigo / Yuin country who cared for this country a lot better than us, time to put them back in charge coz white fellas are fucking it up big time.
There is also a story from The Guardian, showing photos before and after the fires, taken by Rob Blakers. Available here.
SOME IDEA ON TAKING ACTION
Tell the VIC government to take serious action on climate change:
- set high emission reduction targets (they will be taking a decision on these soon). Petition here.
- rule out opening up offshore gas drilling in western VIC. Decision soon. Petition here.
- get on with protecting our remaining native forests. Petition here.
BEFORE THE FIRES:
(Check here for many more images from GECO).
Grieve. But stay active.