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Logging threat to Victoria's high country

Victoria’s highest mountain, Bogong (Warkwoolowler in the Waywurru and Dhudhuroa languages, meaning the mountain where Aboriginal people collected the Bogong Moths) is protected in the Alpine National Park. It sits high above the town of Mount Beauty and is a drawcard for hikers, skiers and backcountry snowboarders. There are no roads on the mountain, and access is slow because of the steep climb up from the valley. It is an alpine wonderland of wildflowers in summer and deep snow in winter.

Most people approach the mountain from the Ovens Valley or across the Bogong High Plains. There is another route on the eastern side, following the appropriately named Long Spur to Mt Wills. This is all high elevation woodland and forests, and is the route by which the famous Australian Alps Walking Track (AAWT) leaves Bogong as it heads towards the Snowy Mountains. The 700 km long AAWT crosses the Alps from Walhalla to the outskirts of Canberra, and follows Long Spur from Bogong to Mt Wills before turning south and dropping into the valley of the Mitta Mitta River.

Mt Wills itself is a magical ‘island in the sky’ of isolated snow gum woodland, largely dominated by older trees. While it is connected by the long and high ridge back to Bogong, mostly the land around the mountain falls away to deep river valleys and forests that are initially dominated by Alpine Ash.

Now logging threatens the area between Bogong and Mt Wills.

A new threat to these mountains

The higher mountain areas on this side of the Bogong High Plains are largely intact, although significant areas have been burnt, often several times in close succession, in recent years. But now there is a threat posed by logging in the area where the AAWT/ Long Spur track starts the climb up to Mt Wills, which would create a large clear cut area of more than 100 hectares.

There are four coupes in total planned for the Long Spur area:

  • three where the AAWT starts the climb up into the intact snow gum woodlands of Mt Wills and
  • one closer to Bogong itself. This last one is a worry because it is in the headwater area of the Big (Mitta Mitta) River, which flows from a valley between Mt Bogong and the Bogong High Plains. The Mitta is one of the most important rivers in the state and feeds the Dartmouth Dam, and then the Murray River.

The coupes are listed in the Victorian government’s Timber Release Plan, and scheduled for logging any time between now and 2026. You can find maps on the state government’shttps://maps.ffm.vic.gov.au/fip/index.html?viewer=fip Forest Information Portal.

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ABOVE: the circles show the coupes of greatest concern, along the AAWT.

The coupes are:

685-507-0001 (9.4 ha)

685-507-0004 (45 ha)

686-511- 0002 (45 ha) – an adjacent coupe (686-511-0004 of 33 ha has already been cut)

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ABOVE: map showing the coupes that the AAWT will pass through.

If you are walking the AAWT from Bogong to Mt Wills, please take a photo along the section shown in the map above – uphill from Big River Saddle as you walk towards Mt Wills. As shown here, there are planned coupes on both sides of the AAWT (with a narrow buffer of trees to be left along the actual route of the AAWT).

The coupe in the upper section of the Big River valley is:

685-505-0001 (35 ha and a 2 ha road corridor).

The upper Big River has not previously experienced logging in the way the northern side of Mt Wills has. The headwater area of the Big River lies on the Bogong High Plains, and towards Mt Bogong, then flows into the Glen Valley, where it becomes the Mitta Mitta. It is hugely popular with white water rafters because of it's Class 4 rapids, and brings considerable numbers of visitors to the region. The future of this area remains nature based and cultural tourism and logging diminishes the values of the area and potentially water quality in the rivers.

These coupes contain ‘modelled old growth’ according to VicForests surveys.

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ABOVE: logged areas to the north of the planned coupes.

In recent years there has been substantial logging to the north and north west of Mt Wills, along the edge of the Omeo Highway. These new coupes will push further into the wilder country of the higher mountains and will directly impact on the AAWT. The old forests of Mt Wills are of incredibly high ecological value, and having fire prone regrowth forests down hill on the north western side of the mountain poses a significant long term threat to these forests.

Take action

With all the damage caused by the 2019/20 fires across the mountains and East Gippsland, there is just no excuse to be cutting older forests like these.

1/ Please add your voice to the call to protect these forests: Please contact the environment minister and urge her to protect the Mt Wills and Big River coupes by removing them from the Timber Release Plan (please add the coupe numbers listed above to your email): [email protected]

Example email below:

Dear Minister

I write regarding plans to log remote areas near the Alpine national park and Victoria's highest mountain.

Four coupes are planned which cross or end at the Australian Alps Walking Track, a popular long distance trail that runs from Walhalla to the ACT. These forests survived recent bush fires, and the planned coupes will impact on the headwaters of the Big (Mitta Mitta) River - one of our most significant rivers. The coupes planned for Mt Wills will pose a threat to the incredibly important old growth snow gum forests of Mt Wills. There are three coupes planned on the north west side of Mt Wills (where a fire is likely to come from), below the Mt Wills forest, and highly flammable regrowth from logging will pose a threat to these significant forests for decades to come.

With all the damage caused by the 2019/20 fires across the mountains and East Gippsland, there is just no excuse to be cutting older forests like these.

Please protect this area by removing these coupes from the Timber Release Plan:

685-505-0001 (35 ha and a 2 ha road corridor).

685-507-0001 (9.4 ha)

685-507-0004 (45 ha)

686-511- 0002 (45 ha)

Sincerely --

2/ If you're short for time, then please sign this online letter to the Minister. It takes less than a minute to send.

3/ Please tell people about these special forests and the need to protect them. If walking in the Bogong / Mt Wills area along the AAWT, please take an image of the forests as you walk through – see the map above – tag in the Minister @LilyDAmbrosioMP and add the hashtag #ProtecttheAAWT and #ProtecttheMitta

4/ Join one of our fieldtrips to visit these forests and document how special they are. Contact [email protected] for details.

A simple thing you can do is to sign this letter to the Victorian minister for the Environment, urging her to act on the recommendations of the Icon at Risk report which outlines threats to the Victorian high country.

And it would be great if you would also call on the Victorian government to create additional firefighting capacity to look after remote and wild areas like the Mt Wills plateau. There is information here.

The header image from this story shows Alpine Ash forests on the northern slopes of Mt Wills.

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