Brumby breaks forest promise

May 30, 2009

Flawed Promises, a report released on May 25, found that the Victoria's state government was protecting paddocks and previously logged areas instead of 500-year-old forests.

The report was commissioned by The Wilderness Society (TWS), the Australian Conservation Council and Victorian National Parks Association. One week before the 2006 state election, Labor promised the protection of 41,000 hectares of old-growth and other iconic forest sites in 25 areas in East Gippsland.

The Labor policy amounted to only 4% of the forests that environmental groups had suggested for protection.

Apart from their spectacular beauty, East Gippsland's old-growth forests and tree hollows are a critical habitat for 98% of Victoria's animal species. Old-growth forests also produce much higher water run–offs than previously logged forests and are important carbon stores.

The report found 40% of the area earmarked by the government for protection were in fact not old-growth forest but were based on flawed ecological advice. Paddocks are protected, but Brown Mountain, at the edge of Errinundra National Park, started being logged in October 2008.

Recent carbon dating shows that trees at Brown Mountain are up to 550 years old. Logging is carried out by VicForests, the state government's commercial forest industry arm.

TWS forest campaigner Luke Chamberlain said the state government's ruthless logging of old-growth forests threatened the ability to tackle climate change and secure critical water flows into rivers and dams.

The April 5 Age said East Gippsland native hardwood was sold off by VicForests for between $2.50 and $6 a tonne, undercutting plantation pulp wood suppliers. Commercial hardwood timber fetches up to $60 a tonne on the market.

The article said in 2008 close to one-third of East Gippsland's old-growth forest logs were sold as low-grade, low-cost pulp logs.

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