Last Sunday VicForests held an ‘open house’ out in the Strathbogie forest, to explain to the local community, their plans for rehabilitating the failed coup. In case you’ve forgotten what it looks like, here’s a reminder – almost nine years after being harvested, the coup is a disgrace – the forest isn’t regenerating and weeds and rabbits proliferate! In spite of several attempts by VicForests to get eucalypts to grow (eg. aerial seeding and a ‘regeneration burn’), all that’s come up is a sea of wattles and dogwood. The main consequence of the regeneration burn appears to have been to kill most of the big, old trees that weren’t cut down – so-called habitat trees. There are a few patches of young trees that have managed to grow, but they are the exception. And now, any palatable seedling that pops it’s head up is quickly nibbled off by the plentiful Swamp Wallabies and Rabbits.
So, what’s the VicForests plan? As none of the standard silvicultural techniques have been able to regenerate tree seedlings en masse, VicForests are now forced to hand plant part of the site (8 ha), with each seedling protected by a Rabbit and Wallaby-proof tree guard – certainly expensive and potentially problematic for the ecology of the forest, as only eucalypts will be planted and none of the dozens of understorey and ground-layer plants that used to grow on the site, but have been decimated by the heavy-handed disturbance (more to come on this). If the 8 ha regenerates to VicForests’ standards, then another 8 ha will undergo the same treatment.
There was also serious questioning by community members as to VicForests motive for the days’ ‘open house’; after all, its now many years since the coup has been a regeneration failure and despite explaining what went wrong, VicForests were not able to say what they had learnt from the failure, or how they would alter their logging practices so that this never happens again.
Many locals are concerned that the treatment of this site will lead to a forest being turned into a plantation and VicForests staff effectively acknowledged as much – hand planting the site would result in a large, even-aged stand of eucalypts, with a simplified understorey and very few mature ‘habitat trees’ in the mix.
After much discussion about the hand-planting trial and a variety of other issues, community participants overwhelmingly ‘voted’ for a moratorium on logging in the Strathbogie Forests and for a VEAC investigation into the broader values of the forest and a review of current land management guidelines. Many in the community have lost faith in VicForests to manage the forest beyond the dollar-return (and even that is questionable). We are currently lobbying the Victorian State Government for both a moratorium on logging and a VEAC investigation into Strathbogie Forests.
It was great to see so many people on Sunday, interested in the future of this fantastic forest and prepared to bee seen and heard.
Enough from me, here are some photos of the day’s activity.