BEAM accuses VicForests of obfuscation and ‘misleading’ logging maps of Tallarook State Forest

By Colin MacGillivray

THE leader of BEAM Mitchell Environment Group has labelled community consultation around alterations to VicForests’ timber release plan as ‘obfuscation’ from the forestry body.

VicForests has put proposed changes to the timber release plan, TRP, on display for community comment and feedback until July 30. A TRP governs the areas from which VicForests can harvest native timber.

An interactive map on VicForests’ website shows the proposed alterations to logging coupes across Victoria, but BEAM president Peter Lockyer said the map was misleading.

He said most people looking at the map would be led to believe there was no logging planned for Tallarook State Forest.

He said the absence of any markings around the forest only meant VicForests was not proposing any alterations to the 14 logging coupes that already existed, not that it was stopping logging activity in the forest.

“This is how VicForests works. The information is there on their website if you know how to look for it, but it’s not easy,” he said.

“The timber release plan changes are an invitation for the public to comment, but you’re only really commenting on alterations. The bigger picture is, should logging happen there at all, and that’s not up for conversation.”

Mr Lockyer said BEAM had concerns about logging in Tallarook Forest due to potential threats to native wildlife including greater gliders.

He said BEAM volunteers submitted surveys documenting greater glider populations in many logging coupes in the forest, but that VicForests had rejected their submissions without explanation.

“We’ve submitted surveys in seven coupes in the Tallarook Forest and we’ve found three to four gliders at least in each of those,” he said.

“We’ve gone through the submission requirements of how to spot and record a glider – it’s quite complex as a process – but we submitted it to VicForests and they said none of the submissions met their standards and rejected it without any explanation.”

Mr Lockyer said there were also indications that parts of the Tallarook Forest could be classified as old growth, meaning VicForests would be unable to log it.

“VicForests said there was no old-growth forest the first time they stood in a coupe with us in March and we had a chat,” he said.

“We consulted a retired forestry academic who looked at it and said because the Tallarook Ranges is a dry forest, the trees don’t grow as big as mountain ash forests … and from what he could see it looked like old growth.

“Our focus at the moment is mapping that, framing our argument and submitting it to [the Conservation Regulator]. The expected response is that they will engage another scientific body to investigate, and in the meantime forestry in those coupes doesn’t happen.”

VicForests chief executive Monique Dawson said the forestry group would respond to public feedback as part of its TRP alteration process.

“Areas on the approved TRP undergo further detailed assessments and planning before harvesting occurs. We are particularly interested in feedback about ways we can plan our future activities to minimise impacts on local communities,” she said.

“It is important that interested members of the public use this opportunity to make themselves known to VicForests to enable further engagement on specific issues as part of this detailed planning.”

A schedule of proposed timber harvesting areas, maps indicating approximate locations and a feedback form for public comment are available at www.vicforests.com.au/proposed-timber-release-plan-july2021.

Submissions can also be provided via email to vfs.trp@vicforests.com.au or made in writing and sent to: VicForests, GPO Box 191, Melbourne, 3001 until 5pm on July 30.

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