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Brown Mountain Press Conference: "Call for halt to logging - Endangered species discovered"

Greater glider, illustration by John Gould

Media Release

We have received this information from a media release dated today, Wed 28th January 2009, on the occasion of a media conference with Senator Bob Brown on the Environment, East Gippsland, held at Treasury Gardens, outside 4 Treasury Place, Melbourne.

Call for immediate halt to logging

Environment East Gippsland has called for an immediate halt to logging at Brown Mountain, following the discovery of endangered species in the controversial area on the Australia Day weekend. They have obtained legal advice that the area should be set aside from logging.

The discovery of threatened species in the controversial area of Brown Mountain in East Gippsland will now have to be confirmed by Government biologists this week. Under threat of arrest, volunteers carried out wildlife surveys in the old growth forests.

Both professional and amateur surveyors discovered the presence of the threatened Orbost Spiny Crayfish, the endangered Sooty and Powerful owls and a large population of Greater Gliders.

“The place is literally teaming with endangered species.” said Jill Redwood from Environment East Gippsland.

“The government and logging industry knows it is one of the most diverse and wildlife rich sites remaining unprotected, but refused to identify these animals before they started cutting down their habitat. We had to prove it.”

Legal advice

“Our legal advice is that the Minister has the power to halt logging while confirmation surveys are carried out. However, we have had no assurances from government that logging will cease meanwhile - destroying giant old owl and glider nesting trees every day that it continues.”

“The great tragedy with the crayfish is that VicForests have already bulldozed very close to its rainforest creek edge destroying much of the buffer zone needed to protect it’s habitat.”

Government should cease arresting environmentalists and halt logging

“Before more threatened forest wildlife is destroyed the government must cease logging and cease arresting people for trying to protect these critical habitats.”

For comment: Jill Redwood – 5154 0145

See also: "Bob Brown: Threatened animal find must stop Brown Mountain logging, "Sue Pennicuik: Heartbreak at Brown Mountain", "Sue Pennicuik: Logging on Brown Mountain is state sanctioned vandalism", "Brown Mountain Rape".


Level 7, 473 Bourke Street
Melbourne Vic 3000
GPO Box 191 Melbourne 3001
Telephone: (03) 9608 9500
Facsimile: (03) 9608 9566

Timber Harvesting at Brown Mountain
I am responding to your email to the Premier of Victoria John Brumby on 28 Jan 2009.
In your email, you allege several serious breaches of the Code of Practice for Timber Production
2007 (the Code) which occurred during recent timber harvesting undertaken by VicForests in a
Brown Mountain coupe. This letter will address these alleged breaches and other matters which
you have raised.
• “You are allowing and supporting the Clearfelling of old growth forest as ‘business as usual’
despite these forest’s critical role in storing carbon (over 1000 tonnes per hectare) and
providing water for the depleted Snowy River catchment.”
90 per cent of Victoria’s forests are not available for timber production and are already in formal
and informal reserves. VicForests only harvests and regenerates a very small proportion of the
available forest every year. All areas harvested by VicForests are regrown with seed from local
sources. According to Government mapping there is 117,909 ha of forest modelled as old growth
in East Gippsland. Only 25% of this old growth is classified as available for harvesting with the
remaining forest being in National Park or reserves. Old growth forest is one of the most highly
represented forest types in the reserve system and is in no immediate danger of disappearing.
Forests and wood products can effectively reduce the process of climate change in several ways.
Although regeneration burns release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, growing trees absorb the
carbon dioxide back. Forestry overall is a carbon positive industry because there is no net increase
in the release of carbon dioxide over the life of a forest (carbon is released and then absorbed
again). Trees store carbon so efficiently that about half the dry weight of a tree is carbon. This
carbon remains locked up in the wood even when we use it for building products or furniture. Also,
the production of wood products uses less energy (usually from finite fossil fuels) compared with
some other building materials.
It is true that clearfall harvesting in water catchments reduces water yield but by a much smaller
amount than often reported in the media. The Victorian Government has conducted research into
this amount and the science can be found on the Internet here:
Major wildfires are by far the biggest risk to reduced water quality and reduced water yields.
Forestry activity ensures there is adequate road networks and machinery available to fight wildfires
when they occur.
• “These forests also provide habitat for threatened species.”
VicForests considers the presence of threatened species during the planning process and ensures
any special values are managed appropriately. Prior to the initial field inventory, VicForests’ staff
conduct a desktop assessment of the coupe to review existing spatial information related to the
potential coupe area. This process is known as the ‘overlay’ analysis. The purpose of this overlay
is to flag potential forest management issues with a proposed coupe to ensure all critical values
(such as biodiversity values) are identified and managed appropriately.
DSE provides VicForests with GIS information showing the geographic areas where threatened
and endangered species are known to occur. VicForests then produce a ‘Coupe Data Summary
Report’ which lists possible values for the region with a yes / no result. All issues are checked
‘within the coupe boundary’ and ‘within a 500 m radius’ of the coupe boundary. To ensure that all
biodiversity values are picked up prior to any harvesting commencing, VicForests conducts a field
reconnaissance in each coupe by transecting the forest and recording stand type, watercourses,
changes in slope, rainforest and other natural values. It is also important to ground truth the results
of the overlay analysis as data sets may not be accurate on the ground. This means confirming
the presence or absence of each value to then manage the coupe accordingly.
• “Locals had recently constructed East Gippsland’s first old growth forest walk in these forests,
which the Department of Sustainability and Environment knows about. Recent logging has now
destroyed much of this walk. It will soon be obliterated.”
The forest area where the proposed walk was planned by environmental groups had no approval
by the land management agency responsible ie the Department of Sustainability and Environment.
While the 2006 ALP election policy did include a proposal for new walking trails in East Gippsland,
the location of this particular walking trail was outside the new reserve areas proposed.
• “Mixed rainforest along Brown Mountain Creek has been bulldozed in readiness to start
Clearfelling the adjoining stand of ancient forest.”
Rainforest is a protected community under the Code of Practices for Timber Production 2007 and
has not been harvested by VicForests. VicForests hires professional foresters which have studied
from between 3 and 5 years. Staff are trained to identify rainforest species and to apply buffers to
protect rainforest and other protected communities. VicForests is currently engaged in a research
project to determine if the current buffer prescription is adequate in protecting rainforest. EPA
Forests Audits have been regularly conducted in Victoria since 2002/03. The methodology has
changed very little in that time and consistently found improvements in both DSE and VicForests’
compliance with harvesting regulatory documents. These audits are independently undertaken by
EPA approved environmental auditors, and not managed by Government. Audit reports are
publicly available on the EPA website.
• “A logging contractor is being investigated for theft of burls.”
VicForests has thoroughly investigated this claim using our Corrective Action and Incident
Reporting system. The issue was investigated in January 2009 and found it to be unwarranted
(closed on the 23 January).
• “A huge old tree has been felled outside the coupe boundary. This is illegal logging and must be
VicForests’ staff have investigated this claim and found it to be untrue. A visual buffer of old trees
is present along Errinundra Road and one tree has been felled from this buffer into the coupe.
However, the buffer is within the coupe boundary and was available to be selectively harvested at
the contractor’s discretion. No boundary incursions have occurred at the Brown Mountain coupe in
question (840-502-0020).
• “Used oil filters from bulldozers have been discarded on the ground which will contaminate soil
and eventually water courses.”
VicForests’ staff complete regular formal coupe monitoring forms on all active harvesting coupes.
At the conclusion of a harvesting operation, this form is completed and a contractor only allowed to
leave once all items have been assessed satisfactorily. This form includes a specific question
about the presence of rubbish across the coupe that must be answered. To the best of the
supervisor’s knowledge in question, all oil filters had been picked up by the contractor by the
conclusion of the harvesting operation.
• “VicForests has prohibited access to the nearby Errinundra National Park via the tourist road for
the past 3 months of summer holidays – with no alternative route offered.”
Errinundra National Park has many points of entry (being a large National Park). In the vicinity of
coupe 840-502-0020, there was an alternative entry point via a short detour on Gap Road /
Gunmark Road. This is clearly evident on maps of Errinundra National Park.
Yours faithfully
Cameron MacDonald
Director - Strategy and Corporate Affairs
Janine Haddow
Executive Director
Natural Resources Division
Department of Sustainability and Environment
8 Nicholson Street
East Melbourne
Victoria 3002

"90 per cent of Victoria’s forests are not available for timber production"! Considering that only 16% of Victoria is protected by State of National parks, and that not all of this area is forests, there are not many native or old-growth forests anyway! 90% of what is left is protected? That's 10% too much of it logged! Victoria is the most cleared and damaged State, and the most compromised environmentally. Logging Brown Mountain was eco-terrorism and a betrayal of a promise to protect what we had left! There was no need to destroy any trees, but greed for money and votes from the logging industry. So much greenwashing happens today by our Brumby government.