Two protesters chained themselves to a gate, preventing VicForests contractors from accessing a logging coupe for the day in the Toolangi State Forest north of Melbourne, on February 7.
The Toolangi State Forest is one of the few areas of forest unburned by the 2009 Black Saturday fire. Environmental campaigners have called for its incorporation into a proposed Great Forest National Park. It has been estimated that only 1% of the old growth tall forests of the central highlands area is left.
Green Left Weekly spoke to one of the protesters, Harley, about the protest at the “Mosquito” coupe, which he said is only one of a number of coupes currently being logged by VicForests contractors.
“There are some trees 70 years old, and some up to 150 years old in the coupe,” he said.
“There's lots of ‘stags’ — old trees that are dead, that provide a home for the Leadbeater's Possum and the Sooty Owl. There's a rainforest gully and through the creek in it there may be barred galaxia, an endangered fish. When you log a coupe, it has a massive effect on the rainforest gully, it dries it out.”
Harley said the protesters were concerned the contractors were logging too close to the rainforest gully, which is supposed to have a 40 metre buffer zone.
Harley said the police arrested the two protesters who had locked themselves to either side of the gate, but the protest prevented any work on the coupe for the day. The two locked-on protesters had supporters present, as the gate was not in the Public Safety Zone where the public are not allowed.
“VicForests has chopped the gate out, and they threw it into the rainforest gully. Thats a big ‘stuff you, we don't care’. You'd think a big company like that would have the respect to take the equipment with them instead of dumping it,” Harley said.
Harley asked supporters to raise awareness by spreading the word. “It's less than an hour and 20 minutes from Melbourne, it's in our backyard. The more people that know about it, the bigger the campaign can get.”
One way supporters can follow events is on the CHAG - Central Highlands Action Group Facebook page.