The state owned logging agency VicForests has moved logging machinery out of the contentious Hermitage Creek forests where a significant population of threatened Greater Gliders has been found.
The Hermitage Creek area, within Toolangi state forest in the proposed Great Forest National Park, is a rare example of mixed species Eucalypt forest with a huge number of large old trees that provide critical habitat for Greater Gliders. There are few places like Hermitage Creek that remain intact within Toolangi state forest, where mixed species Eucalyptus trees that survived the 1939 fires still stand tall.
Hermitage creek lies just off Victoria's iconic Black Spur Tourist Drive, a major tourist destination. The Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio’s Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP) was made aware in June that logging coupes in this area contain a high density of Greater Gliders that are listed as a threatened species and require protection by law (see the Fauna and Flora Research Collective report)
The Fauna and Flora Research Collective report was ignored and VicForests logging machinery entered the ‘Kings’ coupe to commence logging of the Greater Glider habitat.
Friends of the Earth forest campaigners were immediately in touch with Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio MPs office lobbying for protection of the Greater Gliders.
The rapid response from environment groups, including FoE’s lobby work resulted in Minister D’Ambrosio announcing 'no logging until Greater Glider habitat is protected.'
Minister D’Ambrosio’s announcement received a huge amount of praise, in fact her tweet seemed to be one of her most popular tweets ever. Just imagine how much praise she’d receive if she protected Victoria’s forests in new reserves that prohibit logging!
Thankfully no trees had been felled prior to the announcement, thanks to the survey and reporting work by FFRC, the rapid response from FoE to elevate the issue politically.
Department conduct investigation while future of the forest remains in doubt
The department of environment are conducting a habitat assessment of the coupe to identify high quality Greater Glider habitat. The findings of their assessment are yet to be released as their investigation continues. In the mean time it appears VicForests were tired of waiting around for the investigation to conclude and pulled their machines out of the area.
The forest now remains in limbo. It’s not protected from logging but the Minister has said it will not be logged until high quality Greater Glider habitat has been protected. What this actually means remains to be seen.
The entire Hermitage Creek area is high quality habitat and based on additional habitat assessments conducted by FFRC, where large numbers of hollow bearing trees were documented, any logging in this sensitive area will impact on Greater Gliders. We are watching and scrutinizing DELWPs habitat assessment closely and will be advocating for all of the Hermitage creek area to be formally protected.
Greater Glider in Hermitage Creek forests - Donovan Wilson
FoE Melbourne holds National Tree Day forest walk in Hermitage Creek
Friends of the Earth Melbourne joined Healsville and Warburton locals Healsville local on 'National Tree Day' celebrations with a family friendly bush walk through the Hermitage Creek area in Toolangi State Forest.
The 4km hike explored the scenic Hermitage Creek Valley that contains towering old growth trees and dense rainforest gullies.
"It was great to immerse in the forest and listen to Lyrebirds singing across the valley", said Sarah Day from the Friends of the Earth forest collective.
"One of the bigger trees we found had a girth of 8.4 meters. It was filled with hollows that are vital for native animals to survive"
Hermitage Creek Valley can be accessed via Rouch Road at Narbethong, this is 12km north from the Fernshaw Picnic Grounds nestled on the tumbling Watts River. Back in the 1860s, Fernshaw was a thriving town with hotels and a school, as well as being a tourist hot spot for city folk visiting the tall Mountain Ash forests.
What does the future hold for the Greater Glider and will it be protected from logging?
The Greater Glider was officially listed as a threatened species on the Flora and Fauna Guarantee (FFG) Act earlier this year. Formal protections for species that get listed on the FFG Act take time develop. Greater Glider protections are not expected to be finalised until early next year.
VicForests has been targeting high quality habitat and wiping out important Greater Glider strongholds before formal protections are finalised.
In response to the pressure FoE, GECO, FFRC and other groups have been putting on the government to protect Greater Gliders from logging, Minister D’Ambrosio and the department of environment have now committed to developing interim protections for the Glider that aim to protect key areas whilst formal protections are finalised.
This is positive step in the right direction and acknowledgement that the government must do something.
We will need to closely scrutinise the proposed protections. The department consistently place the interests of the logging industry above the conservation needs of species when developing legislative protections.
This has always been the case and is an obvious conflict of interest, where all threatened species protections are designed in a way that will still allow logging to occur in threatened species habitat.
We’ve written to Minister Lily D’Ambrosio formally requesting that independent scientists review her department’s proposed interim protection measures so protections can be based on science not logging interests.
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