April 25th, 2022Battle brewing in forest
A NEW forest battle is brewing, not even a year after the state government announced three new national parks, including linking the Wombat and Lerderderg state forests to create a new park of 44,000 hectares between Daylesford and Bacchus Marsh.
Many of the people who fought for the new parks, gathered at Babbington Hill near Lyonville, in the Wombat State Forest, on Good Friday to express their outrage over what they say are excessive timber salvage operations, finally happening after last June’s massive storm.
VicForests, a state-owned business managing the harvest, sale and regrowing of sustainable timber from Victorian state forests on behalf of the state government, is carrying out the work in partnership with the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation.
VicForests CEO Monique Dawson said the operation would treat windthrown debris, contributing to reducing fire risk and assisting in forest regeneration. The operation was limited to windthrown trees from the storm events, other than for hazardous trees felled for safety reasons.
“As part of those works, timber that can be utilised will be removed to provide timber to mills and firewood for community use. Our teams have also been hard at work assessing the damage to prioritise where works are needed most – and when.
“We are proud to support the Dja Dja Wurrung as the traditional land owners to restore their Country to health. VicForests is committed to working with all traditional land owners to provide technical skills and equipment to assist in caring for Country.”
Wombat Forestcare president Gayle Osborne said the forest community supported fire risk reduction but wanted an immediate halt to the current salvage operation and an investigation into how it could happen in a proposed national park.
“At Babbington Hill, about two acres has been cleared of all trees and vegetation to create a log landing and machine depot, tracks have carved through the coupe, and there is substantial damage by large machines to the sedgy riparian area. Large bark and debris heaps have been generated throughout the area,” she said.
“Without any consultation, VicForests have added 175 coupes (designated firewood collection areas) in the Wombat and Cobaw state forests to their Timber Utilisation Plan, with approximately 80 of these within the promised national park.
“The operation is complete overkill. Wombat Forestcare is supportive of appropriate reduction of the fire risk along roads and tracks.”
Ms Osborne queried whether VicForests had made the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation aware “their operation would include clearing forest to create large log landings and machinery depots, constructing tracks and only removing the large logs that are not an immediate fire risk?”
Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation CEO Rodney Carter, below, said the organisation was often drawn into the struggles between environmentalist and natural resources views of the world.
“We would like to think we fit comfortably in the middle of that. We believe, and not arrogantly, we’ve got a right to do this.”
Mr Carter said the money from the operation would go to supporting programs, education, scholarships, health and wellbeing programs.
“We want to reinvest back into community but also back into Country.”
Mr Carter said the partnership happened when the state government was considering what would happen with the hundreds of tonnes of storm-damaged timber. The corporation was one of the first to get involved.
“We had the industry competency, certifications and a really good capability along with our approach and philosophy around forest gardening. We wanted to do forest-based activities based on our values, but we have never done anything on this sort of scale and lacked the capacity to do so. So that’s why we have gone with Vic- Forests. It’s the right thing to do and is needed. We hope that others share that vision with us.”
Words: Tony Sawrey | Main image: Sandy Scheltema