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Hancock Victorian Plantations pushing more Threatened Species in the Strzelecki Ranges to the Brink

Hancock Victorian Plantations controversial plans to log many hardwood areas and replant with pines in the Strzelecki ranges puts Slender Tree-ferns, Gang-gangs, Powerful Owls, Pilotbirds and the rare and endangered Strzelecki Burrowing Crayfish at increased risk of extinction. Strzelecki koalas although not yet listed as a threatened species also continue to be undermined by destruction of habitat.

The Gippsland Forest Guardians (GFG) and Friends of the Earth have also warned that Cool Temperate Rainforest and Strzelecki Warm Temperate Rainforest are also at great peril. Logging can cause spreading of the cool temperate rainforest 'disease', Myrtle Wilt. If impacted entire stands of rainforest can die off.

 

 

Last December, local landholders at Turtons Creek (10km north of Foster) found over 200 critically endangered Slender Tree-ferns in rainforest gullies on their Trust for Nature covenanted properties and on adjacent Crown land. GFG spokesperson Stuart Inchley said “This is a significant find given there are estimated to be less than 1,000 left in Victoria”.

Image of Slender Tree Fern Gully: Gippsland Forest Guardians

The Crown land is currently licensed to Hancock Victorian Plantations (HVP) for timber harvesting. Almost all of the forested parts of the Strzelecki Ranges was privatised by the Kennett State Government in 1998. HVP gained rights to log for 100 years, and purchased these rights for $4000 hectare. Local resistance formed to fight off the sale in the late 1990's and this resistance helped create a deal between 2004-2008 to establish an 8000 hectare reserve, the Brataualung Forest Park,  in the upper elevations of the Strzelecki's.
Only 25% of the Brataualung Forest Park has been reserved since 2008 and sadly many areas including Turtons Creek were not included in the deal. Friends of the Earth reported in August 2023 that old pine trees were delaying the handback of the next tracts of land in the Brataualung Forest Park. The situation has barely changed since then!
Image: Slender Tree Ferns. Gippsland Forest Guardians
“We were shocked that HVP had not recorded the Slender Tree-Ferns, and have logged right up to them without leaving buffer zones that government scientists recommend for their survival. HVP will re-plant with pines which is a radical change to the landscape with far reaching consequences for our precious biodiversity. Eucalyptus and rainforests have been the dominant species here for millions of years, and are home to thousands of generations of koalas, lyrebirds and pilotbirds. HVP are turning the Strzeleckis into a pine desert, unsuitable for our endangered species” said Stuart Inchley.
Image: Gippsland Forest Guardians
 “Short term profits for HVP will be soon forgotten…but the loss of our unique and endangered species will be remembered forever” said Stuart.
Research confirms pine plantations reduce the amount of habitat suitable for native species and lead to drying of the remaining habitat.
They also increase the risk of:
·      bushfires, as logging native forests makes them much more flammable
·      weed invasion to plantations and surrounding areas
·      soil and associated chemical runoff into waterways
·      browsing and trampling by deer
·      predation of threatened species by cats and foxes.
Image of koala in bluegums near Turtons Creek: Gippsland Forest Guardians
“We are waiting for confirmation from the Victorian Environment and Agriculture Ministers, but it is our understanding that 16,000 hectares of existing Eucalyptus plantations in the Strzeleckis are being converted to pines, without consideration of the local area. This would have significant detrimental impacts on forests and the threatened species that rely on them for their survival" Stuart added.
Anthony Amis from Friends of the Earth said that in addition to the conversion of 16,000 hectares of hardwood in the Strzelecki's, the State Government and HVP will also be planting an additional 14,000 hectares of pine plantations in the Gippsland region, increasing HVP's pine plantations from 65,000 to 95,000 hectares.
The conversion of the Strzelecki Ranges to pine. Red indicates hardwood areas to be converted to pine. Blue is existing pine plantations. Green is the Brataualung Forest Park (including Gunyah Gunyah Reserve and Tarra Bulga National Park). The green circle indicates Morwell National Park. Turtons Creek can be seen in the bottom left of image.
Further complicating the issue is that the Government, Industry and the forest conservation movement are in lock-step, in promoting plantation forestry and have been for the past 30 years. This means that getting support from allies is extremely difficult as a cone of silence has effectively been imposed on criticism of plantation forestry in any shape or form.
Effectively all parties, even supposed allies, continue to endorse the Strzelecki Ranges as an industrial plantation sacrifice zone. This is despite the Strzelecki's having a myriad of significant species including possibly the most important koala population in southern Australia. The Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act does not apply on private land, meaning that HVP are exempt from this legislation unless the Minister declares it to be critical habitat.
Location of gully of concern is about 10km north of Foster
If you want to take action use this form by Gippsland Forest Guardians
You can also contact GFG here.

Friends of the Earth SKAT collective meet every two months. If you want to get involved contact [email protected]

SKAT is currently not funded. Any donations are greatly appreciated.

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