BEAM Mitchell Environment Group leaders have called for more transparency from state forestry body VicForests over concerns about planned logging in Tallarook State Forest.
The group believes logging at coupes in the forest could begin as soon as April, but president Peter Lockyer said VicForests had not been forthcoming with information about its operations.
He said the group had scheduled a video meeting with VicForests in November but the forestry body cancelled the meeting and had not rescheduled.
Mr Lockyer described the information on VicForests’ website as confusing, incomplete and sometimes contradictory.
“We have a range of concerns, and a response of ‘here, go find the answers on our websites’ is lazy and draws into question the integrity of their process,” he said.
“The website references have contradictions and the information portal is not easy to navigate.
“If VicForests were to be straight and answer our questions, now two months old, we may have some reassurance that they actually want to engage with stakeholders.”
Mr Lockyer said separate letters from former state Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes and VicForests said there would be no logging in the Tallarook State Forest during this financial year, but that VicForests’ online information portal indicated logging would start at three coupes in the area in April.
“They contradict each other, and obviously one of them is wrong, so we’re suspicious,” he said.
A VicForests spokesperson said the organisation regularly engaged with stakeholders about planned harvesting operations and still intended to have a formal meeting with BEAM.
“VicForests is committed to ongoing and constructive engagement with stakeholders consistent with the regulatory framework in which it operates,” he said.
“VicForests also thoroughly assesses all coupes prior to harvest and applies all buffers and exclusions required by regulation. In addition, VicForests excludes high value habitat trees from harvesting as a contribution to the maintenance of habitat for priority species.”
Mr Lockyer said environmental groups were concerned about the effects logging in Tallarook State Forest would have on greater gliders and other native flora and fauna.
He said citizen surveys indicated the presence of the threatened species in the Tallarook forest, but that VicForests’ survey data was incomplete.
“We’re still doing our surveys and finding greater gliders and we’re engaging others to help with the survey of flora,” he said.
“As citizen scientists it’s pretty onerous, and it would be better all-round if we could work with VicForests and piggyback off their studies.”
Mr Lockyer said logging at Tallarook would be a short-sighted move.
“There’s not a lot of big trees in the Tallarook forest, so what we’re looking at primarily – probably, but we don’t know because [VicForests] haven’t shared which coupes will be logged in which way – is clear-fell logging,” he said.
“That means most of that forest will go for woodchips, and you just think in this day and age, when species are being threatened by climate change, we’re in the wrong century if it’s ending up as woodchips.”
Mr Lockyer said BEAM would fight to save the forest.
“We had a meeting with a representative group from Strathbogie who had worked for five years with their council to get Minister Lily D’Ambriosi to put an interim protection agreement in place to protect the forest,” he said.
“In due course after a lot of politics and surveying, that forest will be reclassified. That’s where we want to go.”