Strathbogie Forest Protected – At Last!

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Victorian Environment Minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, announcing protection of the Strathbogie Forest.

Save Our Strathbogie Forest  – Media release, 11 Nov. 2019

Victorian Government Announces Permanent Protection for the Strathbogie Forest

The Save Our Strathbogie Forest (SOSF) community campaign, with it’s hundreds of members and thousands of supporters, applauds the Andrews Government’s announcement last week to remove all logging and immediately protect the Strathbogie Forest.

Bertram Lobert, spokesperson for SOSF, said “By taking this step the Andrews Government is showing far-sighted leadership with regards to Victoria’s natural environment and climate-change action – recognizing the over-arching value of these forests for biodiversity, carbon sequestration, water yields, recreation and ecotourism, over and above their short-term value for low-grade timber products.  This is a great day for our forest, and for many other significant areas of native forest to be protected forever as a part of this package announced by the Government last week.  What we now need to ensure is that these commitments are followed through, and that the Government keeps working to protect other, irreplaceable native forests in Victoria.”

 “SOSF has campaigned tirelessly for increased protections for the Strathbogie Forest since 2013, and we are delighted that this Government has listened to regional Victorians and responded with such far-reaching, positive outcomes for the natural environment and for all Victorians.”

Protection of the Strathbogie Forest will:

  • Expand nature-based tourism and build the tourism economy in surrounding local government areas.
  • Protect one of the healthiest populations of the nationally threatened Greater Glider possum in all Victoria, along with 36 other threatened and iconic native species.
  • Create opportunity for an expanded hardwood plantations sector and remove loss-making native forest logging.
  • Provide opportunity for Traditional Owners to manage country.
  • Protect the highest conservation value forests in the entire Strathbogie Ranges, along with the host of native species that have already disappeared from elsewhere in the ranges.
  • Improve water yields from these forests into Murray-Darling Basin, and
  • Achieve the annual sequestration of significant amounts of carbon-dioxide-equivalents.
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Victorians overwhelmingly want protection for native forests & an end to logging

That’s the outcome of a wide-reaching survey by the Victorian Government into the ‘Future of Our Forests‘.

The survey included:

  • 126 face-to-face events across the state involving over 2000 participants.
  • On-line participation from 2824 people
  • 49 youth participants from 22 youth organisations
  • 14 written submissions
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Strathbogie Forest logging coupes – gone!

The Victorian Government has halted all logging in the Strathbogie Forest, according to a recent announcement by the Minister for Agriculture, the Hon. Jaclyn Symes.

The government’s new Timber Release Plan (TRP) shows the removal of all logging coupes, covering 370 ha, from the Strathbogie Forest.

Without a doubt, this is fantastic news! With 74% of the Strathbogie Ranges’ original forests completely gone, we need to protect and carefully manage what we have left. With climate change on our doorstep, the 24,000 ha Strathbogie State Forest will become increasingly important to the health and well-being of regional towns and communities and catchment health. This announcement is a significant acknowledgement of the importance of the forest and validates the community’s five-year campaign to improve forest management and protect it’s important values. We applaud the Minister’s decision.

[click an image to enlarge]

In 2017, research conducted by Victorian Government scientists found that the Strathbogie Forest was a state-wide stronghold for the Greater Glider possum, a recently listed threatened species. The forest is also important for the survival of many other native plants, animals and vegetation communities (which have disappeared elsewhere in the ranges). The forest is acknowledged by government and experts as a critical climate refuge for the region’s flora and fauna.

We now encourage the government to take the next step and deliver permanent protection for the entire Strathbogie Forest.

Golden Mount from Mt Tel

Golden Mount, Strathbogie Forest.

DSCN7384 (1)

Giant Messmate Stringybark – centuries old and surrounded by frineds.

 

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