The community charter of the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) states that DELWP will work with regional communities to support liveable, inclusive and sustainable communities and thriving natural environments and that the charter is only as good as its implementation on the ground.
Talk to regional communities experiencing the implementation of logging on the ground from Victoria's Central Highlands to far East Gippsland and you will hear the same story over and over again . . .
"This time last year communities around the Strathbogie Ranges in North East Victoria had done everything they legally could to prevent the logging of Parlours Creek coupe," says local Brendan Nugent.
"They had many meetings with state owned logging company VicForests, DELWP, and a raft of politicians. They were told there was nothing they could do to stop the destruction of their forests".
Now the same community is witnessing the destruction of another precious forest known as Barjarg Flat that is currently being logged despite fierce community opposition, the reported presence of Koalas, threatened Powerful Owls and the highest recorded densities of threatened Greater Gliders in Victoria.
Today for International Day of the Forests the Strathbogies community is taking peaceful direct action to halt the logging at Barjarg flat.
Help them spread the word!
Strathbogie locals calling out to Environment Minister Lily D'Ambrosio from Barjarg Flat
One and a half hours south east of the Strathbogies you can visit Victoria's largest continuous tract of logging stretching down the Royston Range and Rubicon Valley where local residents and tourist operators continue to try and halt the veracious industry that has scarred their views, crept up to the border of the Rubicon Valley Historic Reserve and now threatens Snobs Creek Waterfall.
Logging in the Rubicon Valley and Royston Range (aerial photo by Justin Cally)
Just south west of the Rubicon you won't meet a community more despondent in their dealings with VicForests and DELWP than the people of Toolangi whose love for their forests can only be topped by their despair at the failure of years of correspondence, meetings, wildlife reporting and finally protest to prevent the logging of forest adjacent to their picnic ground, rainforest walks and hilly surrounds. A legal injunction of uncertain duration is all that stands between the bulldozers and Toolangi's Valley of Giants, their last remaining remnant of mature Mountain Ash forest.
"Toolangi Forest was one of the most beautiful environments imaginable before VicForests arrived," says Toolangi local Bernard Mace. "Significant areas of maturing forest could still be found. But the Department has progressively lost control and VicForests has set about reducing the majestic beauty of our precious environment to rubble along with the wildlife it once supported".
Fifty minutes south of Toolangi, community members of Warburton were last year fending off the logging of the Ada forest where machines were crashing down trees just 100 metres from the walkway to one of Victoria's oldest and largest Mountain Ash trees and international tourism destination the Ada Tree walk. In fact the logging track was pushed into the forest just metres from the sign directing tourists to the walk.
Warburton and surrounding communities protesting the logging of the Ada forest
One hour east, residents of Noojee are gathering all their might to prevent the immanent logging of forest right next to their town and picnic grounds, calling on Environment Minister Lily D'Ambrosio through an online petition to "not allow VicForests to damage the livelihoods of those who rely on the beauty surrounding Noojee to attract tourists and not allow VicForests to decimate the landscape enjoyed by Noojee's wildlife, residents and tourists".
Noojee township showing the forest due to be logged in the background
An hour and a half south in Mirboo North, well over 300 people attended a community forum with VicForests last September and voted unanimously against the logging of the last remnant of forest in their town located next to their Lyrebird Forest Walk.
"The track is of high tourism value and is frequented by hundreds if not thousands of visitors each year," says local resident Marg Thomas. "This precious remnant bushland is critical habitat for the Strzelecki Koala".
Despite this, VicForests will today present its logging plan in a public forum to South Gippsland Council.
The Lyrebird Forest Walk in Mirboo North and the town hall packed for the forum in September
The story goes on and on right across eastern Victoria - locals living and visiting Baw Baw fight to preserve their park that is now entirely ringed by logging coupes, the community of W Tree in East Gippsland produce a movie to garner support to protect their last intact rainforest valley at Basin Creek, and Goongerah continues its decades long battle to stop the logging of the last remnants of old growth forest and create the Emerald Link to provide a future in tourism to replace the dead loss of logging.
These communities have employed every available method to convince DELWP not to log their forests - endless correspondence outlining the ecological, economic, water catchment and tourism value of the forest and fears that logging will increase fire danger, wildlife surveys of threatened species in logging coupes, online petitions with thousands of signatures, forest tours with expert biologists, and when all else fails, protests and blockades.
But every time DELWP has favoured VicForests over the community and has allowed logging to proceed - the only thing that stops them (sometimes) is legal intervention.
Every time DELWP has handed over our public forests to their logging company - forests that belong to all Victorians, that are intimately known and loved by local communities, forests that grow on land that always was and always will be Aboriginal land.
The fact that logging is occurring ever closer to townships and tourist icons is a stark demonstration of how desperate the native logging industry has become in harvesting the last remnants of an over exploited resource.
VicForests' constant trumpeting of their sustainability credentials (while failing to achieve Forest Stewardship Council accreditation for the last ten years) is farcical, along with DELWP's pretence of industry regulation (while failing to prosecute at least 27 cases of lawless logging) let alone their proud claims of fostering sustainable communities plastered all over their website and media releases. To make this situation even more tragic, this logging is subsidised by taxpayer money.
Logging that has taken place (red) and planned logging (yellow) in the Central Highlands (left) and East Gippsland (right)
Support regional communities fighting against logging
Please support regional communities by liking their Facebook and Twitter pages listed below, sharing and joining in their campaigns and activities and signing their petitions and signing up for updates.
Contact [email protected] to sign up to the FoE Forest Collective email to receive regular updates of what's happening across Victoria.
Our Strathbogie Forests - Facebook Twitter
Rubicon Forest Protection Group - Facebook
Knitting Nannas of Toolangi - Facebook Twitter
Warburton Environment - Facebook
Friends of Noojee's Trees - Facebook Twitter
Preserve our Forests Mirboo North - Facebook Twitter
Baw Baw Sustainability Network - Facebook
Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO) - Facebook Twitter
Environment East Gippsland - Facebook Twitter
If your community is fighting to protect its forests from logging and isn't included in this story, please get in touch so we can include you in future and work together.
DELWP won't listen to regional communities fighting against logging because each on their own is small, but together we are a force to be reckoned with. We will only succeed in protecting our forests if we come together as a united voice.
Please get in touch and share your ideas on how we can work together to protect our last precious forests once and for all: [email protected].