In February 2022, VicForests released its proposed 2022 Timber Release Plan (TRP). The TRP outlines the forest areas it intends to log. Community groups are able to submit submissions to the process, but TRPs are generally then ‘rubber stamped’ despite calls for specific high conservation areas to be protected. The comment period for the TRP has now closed.
While there were very significant forests in the Central Highlands and South Gippsland scheduled for logging (such as at Tanglefoot picnic ground in Toolangi, the Wallaby catchment in the Kinglake National Park, Snobs Creek Valley, a large coupe near Noojee, and 14 coupes between Cambarville and Matlock), there are also a number of areas proposed for logging in the high country.
Bendoc / Errinundra area
Logging in fire impacted forests in East Gippsland has largely been concentrated in Cann River. Hundreds of hectares of forests recovering from the 2019/2020 bushfires have already been logged. There were 31 coupes in the Cann River area which environmentalists said must be removed from the TRP. There were also 18 new coupes in the Bendoc / Errinundra region – which is a critical unburnt forest refuge for threatened species in East Gippsland.
Swifts Creek is another critical unburnt refuge for wildlife after the devastating bushfires. However 6 coupes are proposed in this area.
Mt Ewen area
Mt Ewen (alt. 1,340 metres) is located north of Dargo, along the Dargo High Plains Rd and has wet forests of Alpine ash, Mountain gum and cool temperate rainforests. This is an area of rich cultural heritage for Gunnai Kurnai people and European settlers who came following these ancient travel routes. The mountain springs and streams are some of the purest water to be found. Mt Ewen has historic cattle yards, still in use today.
Currently logging is occurring in one of two large coupes (535-002-0013) on the east side of the mountain, the watershed for the Dargo River and Mitchell River and the troubled Gippsland Lakes (currently suffering from a massive algal bloom). The 2 current coupes at Mt Ewen join up to a total area of around 130 Ha. Removing vegetation and exposing the soil to subsequent rainfall, ice and snow will cause irreparable damage to the soil structure. The current coupes abut the old cattle yards. No fauna or flora surveys were carried out, even though critically endangered Alpine Tree Frogs, (the only tree frog known to occur above the winter snowline on mainland Australia) have been recorded here in the past.
This is an area surrounded by successive wildfires that burnt around here in 2003, ’06 and ’09 and 2019/20. To the south of the current coupe being logged (535-002-0013) is previously logged alpine ash forest that was burnt in bushfires and now the regrowth is completely dead. Regrowing logging coupes generally don’t survive bushfires, but old wet forest has evolved to survive fire.
Two new coupes on the proposed TRP will join up with the current coupes to make one massive logged area of around 300ha. This is a similar size to 12 Mile Hill ecological disaster, just up the road, a massive damaged wasteland, failing to regenerate. The coupes look east towards the Dargo River Valley and beyond to the Wentworth River.
Above: forests in the Mt Ewen area. Image: Lisa Roberts.
Above: proposed and current coupes in the Mt Ewen area.
The Little Dargo catchment
There are 11 coupes proposed in the Little Dargo catchment. This is an incredibly significant, long unburnt and unroaded valley, and all coupes should be removed from the TRP. This rare, mature forest, much of it dominated by Alpine Ash, in the headwaters of the Little Dargo River, must protected. Alpine Ash ecosystems have suffered greatly due to recurring fire in the high country. This is a particularly special, undisturbed bush – currently without any roading – that is greatly valued by local high country people. Rare species like the spotted quoll and the alpine tree frog have been observed.
Above: planned coupes in the Little Dargo.
Thanks to Lisa Roberts, Kim Croxford and Chris Shuringa for providing the research into these areas.