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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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forestry

Chasing Giant Trees in lutruwita/ Tasmania

Carl Hansen and Jan Corigliano report on a recent mission to catalogue newly discovered forest giants.

This story first appeared in the Mountain Journal print magazine for 2021 (available here).

The tallest and biggest living things in the world are trees. While the biggest and tallest are the well-known Coast Redwoods of California, the towering Mountain Ash (Eucalpytus Regnans) of Victoria and Tasmania have largely escaped the limelight, despite being the tallest trees in the southern hemisphere.

In the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, to the west of the Florentine River in the vicinity of McLeod’s Creek, grows a patch of extremely tall forest unmatched in extent and integrity in Australia. Remote, rugged and barely visited by Europeans, it contains 29 LiDAR-identified “‘hits’ over 85 meters tall. In recent years, the advent of LiDAR (a 3D scan of tree heights from a small plane) has uncovered many previously undiscovered giant trees. But what’s shown on LiDAR doesn’t always stack up with what’s on the ground, so ground surveys must be done in order to see how big the trees really are.

Continue reading “Chasing Giant Trees in lutruwita/ Tasmania”

Fire risk declines as forests get older

There is a long debate about whether logging tall wet Eucalypt forests increases or decreases the flammability of forests. On an intuitive level, it makes sense that allowing forests to become older will make them less flammable: over time the understorey thins out, the canopy closes in and creates a moister micro climate, and fire is less likely to climb up into the crown. In contrast, an area that has been logged will be filled with dense regrowth of highly flammable saplings and be exposed to the drying effect of sun and wind.

This is confirmed on a regular basis by research. New work considers the two common models which are used to describe how fire risk changes over time as the forest grows. The models are the ‘moisture model’, where fire risk initially increases, then decreases, as a stand develops after a fire, and the ‘Olson model’, where fire risk increases as a function of time since previous fire.

This new report – called Fire risk and severity decline with stand development in Tasmanian giant Eucalyptus forest – suggests that the ‘moisture model’ is correct in tall wet forests, and that over time fire risk is reduced.

Continue reading “Fire risk declines as forests get older”

Bushfire review is a chance to protect Alpine Ash forests

In March 2020, just a few months after the devastating 2019/2020 Black Summer bushfires, state and federal governments rolled over the controversial Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) which give logging an exemption from federal environment laws.

A new clause has been introduced where a significant event (like the 2019/2020 bushfires) can trigger a Major Event Review (MER).

The review was announced last year, but since then logging in critical habitat for threatened species has continued, and there have been no changes to logging schedules. The review is now open to public consultation and submissions will be accepted until 31 August 2021.

You can find out more about this review here.

Continue reading “Bushfire review is a chance to protect Alpine Ash forests”

Logging on the Dargo High Plains part of a much bigger problem

The state government logging agency, VicForests, intends to log a total of 11 “coupes”, or sections, of mature forest, dominated by Alpine Ash, in the headwaters of the Little Dargo River, an area of state forest that lies right next to the Alpine National Park. These coupes are located in a series of clusters, where separate sections of bush will be harvested, creating a large zone of cleared land over time. One coupe has already been logged. The remaining coupes have not yet been scheduled for harvesting, and are yet to be surveyed. There is still time to stop this ecological disaster – if we act now.

The Little Dargo is roughly 15 kilometres south of the Mt Hotham ski resort in the mountains of north eastern Victoria. Background on the logging can be found here.

Continue reading “Logging on the Dargo High Plains part of a much bigger problem”

Fire, disaster, and the long road to recovery on the Toorongo plateau

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.

Continue reading “Fire, disaster, and the long road to recovery on the Toorongo plateau”

Forest refuges under threat from logging

new report based on analysis of maps and data from the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires has revealed that significant areas of unburnt forests critical for bushfire affected wildlife are set to be logged by the Victorian Government. This includes areas in the Victorian high country.

The report was produced by a range of groups, including Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO) and the Victorian National Parks Association.

GECO says ‘These and other important areas are still scheduled for logging, when they need to be protected. Take action and email decision makers to drop logging plans and protect forests and wildlife’.

Continue reading “Forest refuges under threat from logging”

A new year. The old threats continue.

Well, we’re on the other side of New Year. Phew. I hope that you’re enjoying some good mountain time over summer and getting a recharge. There’s lots to do this year.

There are a range of environmental issues that have been bubbling away over the last year, and each of them have campaigns which could use some extra support if you have the time or resources. Here’s a sample of what’s going on. 

Continue reading “A new year. The old threats continue.”

2020. It’s been fun. Let’s move on.

Wow. What a year. Crazy summer fires. Covid lockdowns. Terrible winter snow pack, but also some incredible snow storms. Lots of fighting over our mountains, including the endless culture war argument about horses. Kind of glad it’s almost at an end.

We all know the story: a dry winter and spring led to a horror summer, with massive fires across the eastern Victorian high countrySnowy Mountains and Brindabellas. Luckily Tasmania got off easy last summer.

Then the lockdown(s), which hit mountain and valley towns in Victoria especially hard, isolated Tasmania, and closed the NSW/ Victorian border. The economic impacts of these events will last for a long time.

And then there were the ongoing arguments about how to treat our mountains. It felt like issues were widespread this year. Here’s a few of them:

Continue reading “2020. It’s been fun. Let’s move on.”

What does the Victorian budget provide for mountain environments?

We know that the mountains we love face an existential threat from climate change: less snow, more fire, less streamflow are all starting to transform vegetation communities and the look and feel of mountain environments.

The Victorian state government released it’s budget for 2020/21 yesterday. Apart from the welcome climate and energy measures (which will help the state to play its part in reducing its contribution to further climate change), there are a number of allocations that are relevant to mountain environments.

Continue reading “What does the Victorian budget provide for mountain environments?”

Logging to intensify in Snobs Creek Valley

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”

Logging in rainforest buffer zone in East Gippsland

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.


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.

Continue reading “Logging in rainforest buffer zone in East Gippsland”

New species of rare frog discovered, threatened by logging

Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO) based in far East Gippsland has long been working to protect remaining forests in that part of the state. Working with allies like the Flora and Fauna Research Collective, they have led citizen science projects which have frequently found threatened or endangered species in areas scheduled for logging, then used the law to gain protection of the habitat these species rely on.

Now GECO is warning that a population of the vulnerable  Large Brown Tree Frog is threatened by logging and that a Special Protection Zone placed around the logging is insufficient.

Continue reading “New species of rare frog discovered, threatened by logging”

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