NE RFA & the Strathbogie Forest

SOSF RFA consult slide

A New Plan for the Strathbogie Forest.

Unlike in Tasmania and NSW, here in Victoria the Regional Forest Agreements (RFA) are not simply being rolled over, thankfully.

The government and DELWP have embarked on a RFA Modernization Program that includes consultation with partners and stakeholder groups. The SOSF believes that the North East Regional Forest Agreement  has systematically failed the effective management and protection of natural values in the Strathbogie Forest and we have made that case to government. Perhaps the clearest example of this failure is the case of the Greater Glider possum (Petauroides volans). This species is listed as threatened with extinction under both Australian and Victorian government legislation, yet it has no formal protection under the North East RFA, nor the Central Highlands RFA. This has occurred because the RFA process has no mechanism to update the list of threatened species the agreement is meant to protect. The species protected by RFAs now, in 2019 are exactly the same as the species that were listed as threatened when the RFAs were created 20 years ago. This is but one example of how the current RFAs have failed.

For a broader understanding of why many Victorian communities oppose renewal of the RFAs, here are examples of the arguments:

A few weeks ago DELWP staff from the Hume Region met with SOSF representatives to hear our concerns about the North East RFA, how it impacts on the Strathbogie Forest. We were grateful for the opportunity to be consulted on specific forest issues and describe the future we see for the Strathbogie Forest.

As part of the consultation we presented a slide show –

A New Plan for the Strathbogie Forest.

The slide show was accompanied by a spoken presentation and concluded with more detailed discussion of the issues raised. Much of the information in the slide show is drawn from the report Protecting the Strathbogie Forest.

 

Andrews Government #IntlForestDay legacy – failure to protect native forests

DSCN7385On 2019 International Day of Forests, Save our Strathbogie Forest group calls on the Victorian Government to show leadership on protecting our native forests for their increasingly urgent roles in mitigating the climate crisis and biodiversity crisis.

The Andrews Government has the worst record of any Government in more than sixty years in terms of creating new parks and reserves. There is a powerful case for protecting the Strathbogie Forest now to help deliver on the Government’s commitments in its 2037 Biodiversity Plan and to help mitigate the urgent climate crisis by saving our forests as carbon stores, now.

Background facts

  • March 21st is United Nations’ International Day of Forests
  • The Andrews Government is still hellbent on logging native forests, and has  announced four logging coupes to be logged in the Strathbogie Forest, despite the strong scientific evidence of their important role in carbon sequestration, climate mitigation, increased water yields and biodiversity protection.
  • A recent ABARE report confirms that most product coming from native forests is pulp, not sawlogs, contradicting the government’s claims that the native forest industry is aimed at high-quality products

Strathbogie Forest case study

  • Public land extent was 31,000 ha in 1970 and is 24,000 ha today – a loss of 20% due to clearing for softwood plantations in the 1970s and 80s
  • In 1970, the carbon store was estimated at 4.4 million tonnes of Co2 equivalents.
  • The current carbon stock is estimated to be 3.3 million tonnes, and will grow over time if the forests are not logged anymore.
  • Logging of the forests will increase carbon emissions as a result of the harvesting process and reduce the overall carbon stocks.
  • The forests have exceptional conservation values as described in our report ‘Protecting the Strathbogie Forest‘.
  • Recent surveys by the Conservation Department confirm that these forests contain a large, regionally significant population of the nationally endangered Greater Glider, listed for protection under Victoria’s FFG Act and the Commonwealth’s EPBC Act.
  • Planned logging of a further four coupes this year will result in the death of as many as 600 additional individuals of this endangered species. It also results in loss of habitat and connectivity.
  • Protection of these forests from logging would lead to increased carbon sequestration, climate-change mitigation, increased water yields and better protected populations of threatened species and biodiversity.
  • Many options have been proposed to the Victorian Government over the past three years to achieve protection of these forests, but all have been ignored.
  • These forests support the equivalent of just one FTE logging contractor.
Strathbogie_Forest superimposed on Melbourne small

24,000 ha Strathbogie Forest superimposed on Melbourne.

City of Melbourne parallel.

  • City of Melbourne is 3600 ha in size and emits 4.7 million tonnes of Co2 equivalents per year.
  • Imagine the logging coupes already logged or planned, superimposed on that space.
  • Imagine all of that lost opportunity to help capture the 4.7 Mt CO2 being emitted in Melbourne.

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Estimating the density of the Greater Glider in the Strathbogie Ranges

The report documenting the findings of the 2017 Strathbogie Forest Greater Glider surveys, conducted by DELWP’s Arthur Rylah Institute, has finally been released.

ARI report front cover

Main findings:

  • The Strathbogie Forest supports a large and regionally important population of Greater Gliders.
  • The Greater Glider population in the Strathbogie Forest has not suffered the declines that have occurred in the Central Highlands and East Gippsland, reinforcing the conservation importance of the Strathbogie Forest population.
  • Government data shows that many parts of the Strathbogie Forest support Greater Glider numbers that exceed the high-density threshold that would lead to forest protection in other parts of the state.

Summary of results (in italics):

  • Greater Glider population in Strathbogie Forest is ca. 70,000 individuals.
  • The detectability of individual Greater Gliders is low, suggesting that raw spotlight counts may greatly underestimate densities.
  • The three surveyed coupes (Barjarg Flat, Mr Hat and Tartan) have a Greater Glider population of ca. 500 Greater Gliders.
  • Greater Gliders in the Strathbogie Forest occur at densities of 2 to 4/ha. [Extrapolating, nine remaining coupes (370 ha) on the TRP have a Greater Glider population of 740 to 1480 individuals.]
  • Generally, hollow-bearing trees were larger in coupes (mean DBH 118 cm), than outside coupes (mean DBH 89 cm), [suggesting that logging coupes are targeting higher conservation value areas of forest].
  • Higher numbers of Greater Gliders were found on transects with large trees, particularly trees >100 cm DBH.
  • The results of the study indicate that higher quality habitat for Greater Gliders includes areas containing a high proportion of Blue Gum and Mountain Gum and with a high proportion of trees larger than 100 cm DBH.
DSCN0708 Greater Gliderv L. Williams a

Strathbogie Forest Greater Glider (Image Lance Williams)

 

Coupe Tour 2 – we’re doing it again!

On our coupe tour a few weeks ago, we visited only four of the nine coupes on the Timber Release Plan. This coming Sunday, we’ll try to visit the rest: Clog, Tallangalook Gully, Roger, Gyuana and Howe’s Creek. We know that at least three of these coupes, Roger, Guyana and Howe’s Creek, have high numbers of Greater Gliders.

Strathbogie coupe tour 2

Hey Dan Andrews – hands off Mr Hat!

And the other eight coupes due to be logged in the Strathbogie Forest – 369 ha in total.

Strathbogie Forest TRP coupes detail

The two coupes recently logged (underlined) and remaining nine coupes on the chopping block.

You’ve already logged some of the highest conservation value forest left in the entire Strathbogie Ranges and it looks like Mr Hat and Tartan coupes are next, yet both have been shown by government surveys to have high numbers of Greater Gliders. Scientific research has repeatedly demonstrated that healthy, intact, carbon-dense forests are one of the best and most cost-effective defenses available to avert dangerous climate change, yet native forest logging continues, here in the Strathbogie Forest and across Victoria.

Government policy on logging native forests is completely out of step with regional Victorian’s opinion and values. And that’s certainly true in the Strathbogies!

 

Mr Hat coupe is on the east side of Stan’s Tk in the Parlour’s Creek catchment, to the north-east of Parlour’s Creek coupe (logged in 2017). And it’s adjacent to Stan’s coupe, (logged in 2009). Government surveys found the equivalent of 20, 12 and 10 Greater Gliders per kilometer (equiv.) in the three survey transects – detection rates that protect  forest from logging elsewhere in Victoria! Continue reading

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Logging coupe tour

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Strathbogie Forest in the news

Recently, The Weekly Times published an article about community and industry concerns over logging in the Strathbogie Forest. The role of bee keepers in developing a new form of logging, based on ‘continuous cover forestry’, is to be commended. Anything that puts an end to clear-fell and ‘seed tree’ logging in mixed species forest is a step in the right direction and protection of apiarists and their industry is critical food security. That it took community and industry pressure to achieve this, shows just how myopic Vicforests is, caring little for forest values, or what/how/where the timber will be used.

Weekly Times cover photo a

Cover image

Though the article presents a positive picture, Vicforests has not committed to using this selective logging technique (‘continuous cover’) in Victoria’s mixed species forests, instead maintaining that there is still a place for clear-fell/seed-tree logging in the Strathbogies. But such a discussion begs a bigger and more important question: should all mixed species forest be available for logging, or are some areas so precious, so value-rich, that they should be excluded from logging and protected for, for example, recreation, regional tourism, nature conservation, research and threatened species survival? Continue reading