Tree-sit to highlight Toolangi's threatened forests

Tuesday, November 26, 2013
The red treehouse in Toolangi. Photo: Steve Meacher.

A Melbourne woman has taken to living in a treehouse suspended from a tall mountain ash in the Toolangi area north-east of Melbourne, to highlight loss of Victoria's native forest and the critically endangered Leadbeater's possum.

Hannah Patchett told community radio 3CR that she decided to take the action because “a lot of people didn't even know where Toolangi was, let alone that there was clearfell logging happening in Leadbeater habitat.

“The 2009 fires heavily affected the area around here, and burned 45% of the Leadbeater habitat. Toolangi is one of the places that didn't get burned ... The Leadbeater's has only got this little area to live in, but they're still logging the habitat.”

State-owned business VicForests released a statement in May stating they would “transition to lower harvest levels in Ash forests.” VicForests CEO Robert Green said in a May 16 statement that this was “a direct result of the impact of large scale bushfires on areas of forest available for timber production.”

“Previous Outlooks have projected the sale of 300,000 cubic metres of high quality Ash sawlog per year, but this year’s Outlook has revised this figure to 215,000 cubic metres per year — a reduction of more than 25%. This change will come into effect from July 1, 2017.”

Steve Meacher from Healesville Environment Watch, and Toolangi resident told Green Left Weekly: “A 25% reduction cutting in in 2017, is much too little too late. Their resource estimates are notoriously inaccurate anyway. A 25% reduction could be accommodated within their inaccuracies, and not result in any changes on the ground.”

A report by forestry consultants URS “said VicForests' estimates of still-standing timber were up to 65 per cent too high,” The Age reported in 2011.

Environmentalists have called for the creation of a “Great Forest National Park” to encompass many of the areas of tall forests in Victoria's Central Highlands.

Writing in The Conversation, Professor David Lindenmayer has explained that in the region “we now have 1,886 hectares of old growth forest, spread across 147 different patches. This is estimated to be 1.5-3% of the historical area of old growth forest.”

Lindenmayer called for an end to clearfelling in the Central Highlands by December this year.

Meacher said the proposed national park is “not just about the Leadbeater’s possum, we want to see the trees in some of the places that have been trashed by logging in the last 200 years to recover. In the meantime, it will help the Leadbeater too.”

Meacher has also criticised VicForests on economic grounds. In an analysis of their 2012-13 financial report, he wrote that “for the sixth year running, no dividend has been paid ... This is the sum payable to the people of Victoria for the privilege of being allowed to log in publicly owned forests.

“In contrast, Forestry South Australia, which manages publicly owned plantations, paid a dividend (2011/12) to the SA government of $14 million, on a similar volume of timber produced.”

VicForests have announced plans to pay a $250,000 dividend in the current financial year. Meacher wrote: “In the 2011 Annual Report they made a similar proposal to pay $1.26 million in October 2011. It was never paid.”

[The detailed proposal for the new national park can be read at www.greatforestnationalpark.com.au.]

From GLW issue 990