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Logging is pushing our beautiful native forests and forest species towards extinction

  • Logging impacts the critically endangered Leadbeater’s Possum (80% decline) and the endangered Greater Glider (>50% decline with 90 to 100% decline in some areas) 
  • The 2009 bushfires destroyed 45% of Leadbeaters Possum habitat “and estimates put the numbers of animals at around 1,500 animals but there could be less than 1,000 remaining.”
  • Less than 1.1% of Mountain Ash forest remains (Lindenmayer) however habitat for threatened species continues to be logged even when those species are detected inside logging coupes
  • In 2018 Professor Lindenmayer presents evidence “that the mainland Mountain Ash ecosystem is collapsing.” Logging and burning have caused declines in the populations of large, old-cavity trees and declines in marsupials and bird populations. “It will be at least 2065 (and as late as 2130) before new cohorts of cavity trees will be recruited”.
Endangered greater glider WWF
Burnt regrowth Victorian Central Highlands Griffith University ANU

Logging accelerates climate impacts

 

  • Australia’s undisturbed temperate forests have some of the highest carbon stores in the world.
  • Detailed ANU research from the The Fenner School of Environment & Society, found that ending native logging in Australia would reduce total greenhouse gas emissions by 24% (p.7).
More about logging impacting Melbourne's water

Logging impacts the security of Melbourne’s water catchments

In Victoria, logging is reducing our water supplies by 15,000 megalitres a year equivalent to the amount used by 250,000 people

2018 Mt Baw Baw fires after logging Chris Taylor

Logging increases bushfire risk and severity

So much of our mature native forests have been severely burnt

Logging increases risk and severity of bushfires

  • Logging increases fire risk and severity of fires for decades – Lindenmayer
Native forests are turned into Chep pallets

Logging native forest is not renewable or sustainable

 

  • Well over 80% of logged native forest goes to landfill after a short life as paper, packaging and pallets – ANU study
  • 50% of logged Mountain Ash forests fail to grow back after logging, instead becoming paddocks of weeds and blackberries or dense fire prone stands of a single species 
60% of logged biomass is burnt, only 14% is retained as timber

Dr Chris Taylor from the Fenner School, ANU found that only 14% of logs cut from Victorian native forests end up as timber products. Although 40% of the logged wood is removed, a large proportion of that 40% ends up in landfill as wood chip for paper products, or as disposable pallets. The majority of the logged wood – 60% – is left behind as scarf.

A large amount of biomass is left behind after logging Dr Chris Taylor

Large volumes of forest biomass are left on the ground following clearfell logging in the Mount Disappointment State Forest with the Melbourne City Skyline in the background Dr Chris Taylor

Scarf usually burnt after logging in a “high intensity” burn, consuming a large amount of biomass (140-450 t/ha) compared to planned low intensity Fuel Reduction burns (9 t/ha). Chris Taylor also notes that the large amount of biomass burnt makes them “a significant contributor” to Melbourne’s air pollution, and that this would not be necessary if there had been no logging in the first place.

Logging increases forest fragmentation

A recent study showed increasing fragmentation of Mountain Ash and Alpine Ash forests: “around 70% and 65% of the Mountain Ash and Alpine Ash forest areas, respectively, were either disturbed or within 200 m of a disturbed area.”. Core forest areas are becoming more isolated. “These effects can lead to the decline of populations, restrict animal movement and disrupt gene flow.”

Lindenmayer and Taylor - increasing forest fragmentation in Victorian central highlands

Fig 6 The location of disturbed areas and the proximity to disturbance in Mountain Ash and Alpine Ash forests. doi:10.1111/aec.12863 © 2020 Ecological Society of Australia

Ilegal logging slopes over thirty degrees

Much of Victoria’s logging is illegal

VicForests is involved in “widespread and illegal logging

  • The ABC’s investigation of illegal logging by VicForests using hi res spatial data found “widespread and systemic illegal logging”, and that the regulator was “alerted to the breaches but failed to properly investigate”.
  • Vic Forests is buried “in almost a dozen legal proceedings”  – more details from EJA here.
  • VicForests “illegally cleared 1,000 square metres of protected possum habitat and broke the law in 25 out of 30 logging areas” – ABC on an audit finding.
The Victorian government has eroded regulations

In response to illegal logging regulations are being eroded. 

  • The Victorian government, in response to illegal logging, has “repeatedly changed the Timber Production Code to make it harder for communities to take legal action against VicForests”. 
  • When Australian National University exposed illegal logging of 231 hectares of steep slopes in Melbourne’s water catchment, the Victorian government changed “changed legislation to allow the practice in previously off-limits areas”.

 

New laws criminalise forest defense

The Sustainable Forests Timber Amendment (Timber Harvesting Safety Zones) Bill 2022 passed Victoria’s upper house on 4th August, reported The Guardian “with the final vote count 30 to five after Labor and the coalition joined forces.” Maximum fines “for hindering, obstructing or interfering with timber harvesting operations” are set at $21,000 and jail sentences at 12 months, effectively criminalising peaceful forest defence.

Another consequence is the impact on citizen science through exclusion zones and seizing electronic devices.

Native Forest logging removes the accumulated deep carbon storage in the soil which washes away

Logging is a dead economic loss

Victorians are paying for forests to be logged

  • In 2021 VicForests posted a loss of $23 million if government grants of $18 million are excluded from profits.
  • A 2020 Parliamentary Budget Office study found that taxpayers would save close to $20m per year by 2030 if logging was to cease ($192m over 10 years).
  • A 2016 PWC report found that native forestry is in decline, that hardwood plantation provides “proportionally greater value”, and that it takes 10-20x as much investment to provide a native forestry job compared to non-native logging or services jobs.
Taxpayers are supporting forest destruction

The Age, reporting on VicForests financials, noted a $4.7m loss despite “selling $84 of forest products,” and an $18m public subsidy. VicForests blamed ongoing lawsuits and bushfires: “an unprecedented number of court challenges from community environment groups and the destruction of timber in the Black Summer bushfires.”

Michael West Media reports that despite large sales of forest products and secure contracts, VicForests losses are growing. The last time they made a profit was 2016. “VicForests’ balance sheet is only helped by “other income from Victorian government entities”, which this year exceeded $18 million. These payments are largely grants for VicForests’ role in the Leadbeater’s possum recovery program … which VicForests actively flouts. This transfer of wealth from the public to the forestry industry doesn’t even achieve the protection of threatened species which it claims.”

Michael West Media concludes that Victorians suffer three types of losses from VicForests – our financial burden is added to by biodiversity losses which are “equally significant”, and note that logging increases fire burden “making rural community less safe.”

 

More about the value of outdoors economy and ecotourism

A 2016 report found that nature-based outdoor activities add $6.2 billion per year to Victoria’s economy, supporting 71,000 jobs, or 2% of Victoria’s total workforce. Return on investment per dollar spent is 14 cents for the native logging industry compared to $1.92 for the food and accommodation sector and $1.72 for other services demonstrating that services and tourism are of far greater economic benefit to regional towns than logging.

Forest protest at John Kennedy MPs office

Victorians want forests protected

Victorians voters value our native forests

  • Forest protection was a principal issue in the 2018 Victorian state election, with measurable shifts in marginal seats
  • A vast majority of voters want forests protected – under 10% think they should be used for logging and wood chipping.
More about support for native forests

“A statewide poll conducted by Reachtel in 2016 showed over 92% of Victorians think that state forests should be places for wildlife, trees and nature to be protected, recreation activities, commercial tourism and safely storing carbon. The same poll found just 7% of Victorian’s think state forests for be places for logging for wood and paper products.”  Reachtel poll cited in Friends of the Earth information sheet..

Our forests and their wildlife and flora are already on the brink. Logging native forests for paper and low grade wood products should have ended decades ago. Continued logging in a climate and extinction crisis is senseless and criminally irresponsible. It puts the lives of Victorians at risk.

Victorian Forest Alliance

 

Key issue - we must stop native forest logging by 2024
The right to protect our tall trees
Forests protection as climate policy - Victorian Forests Alliance

End all native forest logging by 2024 to protect our carbon stores and biodiversity.

Action needed now:

  • Stopping all old growth/native forest and mountain ash logging by 2024, protecting our carbon stores and biodiversity. 
  • Cease the yearly $20m subsidy to logging industry
  • Find alternatives to native forest logging for Nippon Paper contract for wood chips due to massive impacts on carbon storage, climate, and biodiversity, and break the devastating Wood Pulp Agreement Act contracts which lock in wood chip supplies from native forests to Nippon till 2030 or end contract.  
  • Set up a transition authority regarding native logging, retraining, supporting communities with new industries, and fully transition to plantation timber 

Further Information

Lighter Footprints

Victorian Forest Alliance

  • Concise resource on adopting forests protection as climate policy – key points and links
  • Victorian Forest Alliance website – state based peak body for forests policy and protection, with reports, maps, resources and news.

Professor Lindenmayer

  • Find out more on logging, fire risk, extinction risk and what we can do about it from this recent talk from Prof David Lindenmayer here.
  • Green Carbon – the role of natural forests in carbon storage – Prof Brendan Mackey, Prof David Lidenmayer et al – Fenner School, ANU. One significant finding of this comprehensive study, is that retaining existing forest carbon stock would be worth “24 per cent of the 2005 Australian net greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors” (page 7), in other words, native forest logging has a massive impact on our annual emissions.
  • Read more about Prof Lindenmayer’s beautiful book The Great Forest here. You can order it from Amazon, Readings or Dymocks.

Forests information and action pages

  • Visit Friends of Leadbeaters Possum, with information, legal and conservation efforts, and volunteering opportunities.
  • Get active with WOTCH: “dedicated to protecting Victoria’s native forests through the use of citizen science, community engagement and advocacy”

 

Great Forest Film by film-maker Marli Lopez-Hope