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.
Last summer’s fires devastated large sections of the Victorian Alps and East Gippsland. Government reports show that 31% of Victoria’s rainforests were burnt. Rainforests are fire sensitive, and need to be managed to ensure fire is kept out of these ecosystems. Apart from doing everything possible to stop fires before they get into rainforests, and suppressing fire in these forests, it also means ensuring adequate buffer zones between the rainforest and the surrounding eucalyptus dominated forest.
Continue reading “Logging in rainforest buffer zone in East Gippsland”
However, citizen scientists from the Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO) in far east Gippsland have discovered that the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) has failed to put in proper buffers for an area of cool-temperate rainforest on Mt Jersey in East Gippsland which is currently being logged.
We know that climate change is driving longer and more intense fire seasons. We know that fuel reduction can greatly reduce the spread and intensity of wildfire. However, in extreme fire conditions, the value of fuel reduction burning is reduced, and fires will burn through almost anything, regardless of recent fuel reduction treatment an area may have had. We also know that logging will make forests more flammable because of the loss of more humid micro climates and thick growth of the seedlings that will occur after logging. But we also know that older forests are less fire prone, burn less intensely than regrowth forests, and have the ability to slow down fires as they move through the landscape.
This has been highlighted again in research called Propensities of Old Growth, Mature and Regrowth Wet Eucalypt Forest, and Eucalyptus nitens Plantation, to Burn During Wildfire and Suffer Fire-Induced Crown Death by Suyanti Winoto-Lewin, Jennifer C Sanger and James B Kirkpatrick at the University of Tasmania. It highlights the value of older forests in slowing fire. (Available here).
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.
Before the 2009 Black Saturday fires, the forests around Cambarville, to the east of Marysville in the Central Highlands of Victoria, were a paradise. The area was dominated by ancient mountain ash forest, with trees up to 85 metres in height, and Nothfagus dominated rainforest that was as fine as anything you could ever see in Tasmania. The Leadbeater’s Possum was rediscovered in the area in 1961.
This was once a location of a logging village and sits as an important ecological link between the Lake Mountain Plateau and protected water catchments to the south. While the 2009 fires didn’t burn the entire area, it has been greatly changed by those fires, with the loss of significant areas of rainforest and old growth ash.
Now, there are plans to allow logging close to the Cambarville area. This will further fragment this highly significant forest.
Mt Toorongo is a magical spot: it is a mountain in the Central Highlands to the east of Melbourne. If you drive to the Baw Baw ski village from Noojee, it is the steep dark mountain that fills the skyline above you as you head through the last of the farming country at Icy Creek.
Not many people go there. It’s a bit off the track, but is accessible quite easily via a number of dirt roads. As I understand the ecology of the mountain, it was burnt twice in close succession (in the 1920s and the infamous 1939 fires). So the eucalypt forest on the summit was replaced by a remarkable ‘cloud forest’ of what are normally understorey species. The summit itself is a long ridge which offers wonderful views of the Baw Baw Plateau, the Latrobe Valley and distant Strzelecki Ranges to the south.
The W-Tree community near the Snowy River in East Gippsland need your help to stop logging of the Basin Creek rainforest complex. This spectacular rainforest area is currently under threat from VicForests logging operations.
The Basin Creek Rainforest Complex is a beautiful matrix of pristine rainforested gullies and old-growth forest that forms a crucial wildlife corridor in an area devastated by clear fell logging. This corridor links the Snowy River National Park with forests further to the West.
Conservationists from Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO) have halted logging operations in high conservation value forest on the St Patrick’s River in East Gippsland today due to multiple breaches of the law.
A person is positioned in a tree platform 30m off the ground. The platform is tied off to logging machinery which is preventing logging operations from continuing.
GECO believes the logging is illegal. VicForests has failed to carry out necessary pre logging surveys for threatened wildlife, which it is legally obligated to do. Logging has also illegally impacted upon a large stand of protected rainforest.
“The Minister was alerted to these breaches last week but as logging continues we’ve taken direct action to prevent further destruction of wildlife habitat and rainforest,’ said Ed Hill.
Photo: Logging has illegally encroached on protected rainforest
Three threatened/protected species have been recorded close to the area; Yellow-bellied Glider, Sooty Owl and the endangered Long-footed Potoroo. The forest is also rich in old trees with hollows – an indication that other rare and protected wildlife could be supported in this forest,” said Ed Hill.
Photo: Hollow bearing habitat tree, likely to support threatened species.
“Many stands of forest with high quality habitat for threatened wildlife are listed by VicForests as being currently logged or about to be logged and appear to have no surveys associated with them. These may also be illegal operations.”
“After a controversial rainforest logging operation was exposed by GECO earlier this year, Environment Minister Lisa Neville MP ordered her department to conduct ‘spot checks’ on VicForests’ logging operations in rainforest areas. This should have ensured rainforests are protected”, said Ed Hill
“Instead we see repeated and blatant contempt of clearly worded laws which should see VicForests charged, as any of us would be for destruction of protected rainforest,” said Ed Hill.
“As the Minister responsible Lisa Neville must act to immediately halt the logging in this coupe and order a full investigation into the suitability of VicForests as a manager of public property,” said Ed Hill.
High resolution images and video available from 10am
For comment contact Ed Hill: (03) 5154 0109 or 0414199645
The spectacular old growth forest of Kuark in East Gippsland provides habitat for threatened species such as the Sooty, Masked and Powerful owls, Greater gliders, Long footed potoroos and a rare rainforest type where warm and cool temperate rainforest blend together in an ‘over lap” assemblage.
The state owned logging company VicForests plan on conducting extensive clear fell logging operations in the forest this year and local conservationists are getting organised to halt the proposed destruction.
Victorian conservation group, Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO) are stepping up their efforts to protect these forests from logging. The group have launched a citizen science program and public campaign to collect data and publicise the Kuark forest in the far east of Victoria.
Check here for the full story.