If you’ve ever been to the Baw Baw ski village from Melbourne, you will have driven under the southern fall of the Toorongo Plateau. As you climb out of the Loch River valley into higher country around Icy Creek, a big bulky mountain looms over you. Heavily forested, the southern slopes of the plateau are impressive. The north side, hidden from view from the Baw Baw road, slopes gently away from the summit ridgeline towards the upper Yarra River valley. It is a ‘production’ forest, having been logged for many decades. It has also been hit by multiple fires, and this is some of the story of it’s recovery.
Logging has devastated so much of the Central Highlands, to the northeast and east of Melbourne. A strong hold of Mountain Ash forests, the public lands outside the national park estate are logged heavily.
In recent decades this logging has been intense in the northern sections of the Central Highlands, to the east of the well known Cathedral Range, which is popular with bushwalkers and rock climbers. The Blue Range and Royston Range have been heavily logged, causing significant fragmentation of Mountain and Alpine Ash forests. Now logging is being intensified in the Snobs Creek Valley.Continue reading “Logging to intensify in Snobs Creek Valley”
The northern Central Highlands of Victoria, to the north east of Melbourne is heavily forested hilly country that harbours endangered species, rainforest and wonderful mountain ash forests. A number of rivers, including the Rubicon and Snobs Creek, flow north, joining the Goulburn system. Sadly, the area has been heavily logged for decades.
This logging has been strongly resisted by locals (see for instance this report from 2018). Protest has focused on the environmental and economic impacts (there is a small eco tourism industry that operates in the region). But a threat to water quality, and hence a fish hatchery that relies on that water, has been gaining media interest lately.Continue reading “Logging threat to Central Highlands fish hatchery”
Logging continued in many places around the country during the COVID-19 lock down. Environmental activists and locals concerned about logging operations were disciplined and largely stayed at home during the pandemic.
Now, this long wait has overflowed into action. In Tasmania, people have occupied trees in forest being cut near Mt Field. On the south coast of NSW, the community of Manyana is opposing the destruction of unburnt forest for a housing development, and now actions have happened across the Central Highlands of Victoria. This follows sustained action by locals at Big Pats Creek near Warburton.
In Victoria, the frequency of ‘mega’ fires (those greater than 100,000 hectares) has grown significantly over the past century.
- 19th century – 2 mega fires
- first half of 20th Century – 4 mega fires
- 2nd half of 20th century – 7 mega fires
- In the first 20 years of the 21st century – at least 8 mega fires
This is in spite of the huge advances we have made in fire fighting technology over the past 50 years.
Eleven years on from the 2009 Black Saturday fires, many landscapes are still recovering. The Central Highlands were an epicentre of old mountain ash and rainforest, but this has been steadily destroyed by decades of logging and the wild fire of 2009 burnt large sections of remaining old growth.
Prior to the 2009 fires, the O’Shannassy Catchment was a standout example of the remaining old growth of the Central Highlands. As a Designated Water Supply Catchment Area, legislated under the National Parks Act to protect water catchment and resource values, much of it is closed to the general public. Yet you could see the upper catchment from a number of vantage points, such as the road between the Lake Mountain turnoff and Camberville.
Much of it was burnt in 2009. A decade and a bit on, how is it faring?
The short answer is that while the forest is recovering, in the severely burnt portion of the catchment, 96% of the original rainforest ‘could no longer be classified as such’. And, overall, the severe fire in 2009 has led to the loss of around two thirds of the Cool Temperate Rainforest previously mapped in the O’Shannassy Catchment.
Local group Protect Warburton Ranges (facebook page here) have expressed alarm that a planned clearfelling operation near the town will threaten local water security.
This area is being logged at present (May 2020). Most recent updates at the top, please scroll down for background information.
Recently, members of Wildlife of the Central Highlands (WOTCH) observed a critically endangered Leadbeater’s Possum within an active logging coupe (480-509-0013, called ‘Desilijic’) in the Central Highlands to the east of Melbourne. Habitat just 100 metres away had already been clearfelled – well within the buffer zone triggered by this Leadbeater’s Possum detection.
Now WOTCH have heard that an interim protective buffer zone has been established surrounding the Leadbeater’s Possum detection.
Yet again, this highlights the value of citizen science in ensuring endangered species are protected.
As post logging burns darken the sky across eastern Victoria, a growing number of community groups are mobilising to oppose the practise of the burns.
Post logging fires are different to fuel reduction burns. Post logging fires are meant to remove all the debris left behind from logging – the unwanted trees, the heads and branches, and the understory vegetation. Generally the waste is pushed into piles and burnt.
While we are all patiently sitting at home in order to do our bit and ‘flatten the curve’ of COVID-19 infections, logging continues at full speed in the forests of Victoria. And Tasmania has just signed over up to 356 000 hectares of forests that should be in reserves to now be available for logging.
From the Great Forest National Park:
“There has been a little snow falling up on the Baw Baws recently. This tranquil spot called the montane fens is the headwaters of the largest water supply to Melbourne – the Thomson river. And over the next few days we’ll follow this river to your kitchen.
This relatively small stream emerges from a large soaking fen, alive with frogs and birds. But once upon a time this place wasn’t safe and was set to be logged. After a strong battle, in 2008, this unique ecosystem was finally recognised as a site of significance, named a ‘montane fen’ and logging was stopped from ring barking it’s surrounds due to the efforts of scientists and conservationists. This campaign took three years and in securing this spot we also saved the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species critically-endangered Baw Baw Frog.
We must give a big shout out to campaign and science leaders Professor Jean-Marc Hero, Dr Chris Taylor, Sarah Rees, @wilderness_aus, amphibian citizen-scientist David Black, Dr Greg Hollis and all the Zoos of Australia that backed the conservation efforts. Special thanks to folks that gathered on the steps of Parliament, signed petitions and wrote to MPs. Gratitude to Liberal ex-MP Phil Honeywood for raising it in parliament and thanks to Labor ex-MLC Gavin Jennings for delivering its final protection last year in a second conservation covenant under the Immediate Protection Areas.
You can walk the fens in a short circuit and there are some stunning picnic spots just waiting for you as soon as the lockdown is lifted”.
You can find out more about the proposal for the Great Forest National Park here.
Industrial scale clear-fell logging is NOW taking place in the Snobs Creek Valley. The Central Highlands are the most heavily logged area in Australia. The highly biodiverse ecosystem of mountain and alpine ash in the Rubicon State Forest has been virtually logged-out.
Lead beaters possum and Greater Gliders are widespread through the Snobs Valley. In one night 30 Greater Gliders were found in one of the proposed Vicforests logging coupes. These animals are listed as threatened species under the federal EPBC Act.
The three coupes currently being logged at Snobs are: Shackle, Snobs 13 and Snobs 14 and other sensitive coupes are also being logged at Torbreck and Bull fight (see map).