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 –
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.
The report documenting the findings of the 2017 Strathbogie Forest Greater Glider surveys, conducted by DELWP’s Arthur Rylah Institute, has finally been released.
- 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.
Strathbogie Forest Greater Glider (Image Lance Williams)
A vision for the future
The Strathbogie Forest has been ignored for too long. The Victorian Government has the opportunity to capitalize on the strong community support and compelling weight of policy, which underpin the significant benefits of protecting the Strathbogie Forest.
Though modest in size, the statewide significance of this forest is now beyond argument. Its protection in a conservation reserve is urgently required for meeting National Reserve System targets, Victorian Government protection commitments and for the survival of iconic national and state endangered fauna species.
Forest protection will provide, not only significant biodiversity outcomes, but demonstrable support for regional communities, a genuine commitment to people caring about nature, improved visitor experience, and increased tourism opportunity. Regional communities and businesses want protection of the natural environment and the benefits of sustainable economic development, particularly the burgeoning economies around nature-based tourism – these will return real benefits to regional Victoria.
Local communities and many thousands of Regional Victorians are calling on the Victorian Government to protect the Strathbogie Forest as a conservation reserve.
Download the report
With Greater Gliders in the news last week, we’ll take you back to a video released two months ago.
Read the full article here.
Read the Media release here.