Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

At loggerheads over harvesting program

Opponents of logging practices in the Strathbogies want answers from VicForests

CATHY WALKER March 4, 2014 4:00am

Sim Ayres is in a group opposed to the way logging is being managed by VicForests in the Strathbogie Forest

VicForests has invited representatives of the Strathbogie Sustainable Forestry Alliance to meet at Strathbogie Forest to address its concerns about the current harvesting program.

But alliance representative Sim Ayres said last week the group wanted a written response to its letter of January 29 in which it claimed VicForests’ proposed ‘‘seed-tree’’ treatment already had a history of failure in harvested mixed species timber coupes.

Spokesman David Walsh said on Friday VicForests was disappointed the protest group was apparently ‘‘not prepared to meet face to face’’.

But Mr Walsh, the forester’s corporate communications manager, agreed that one coupe at issue had failed regeneration ‘‘on a couple of occasions’’.

‘‘It’s not going to be left in the state it’s in,’’ he said. ‘‘There are plenty of examples where this type of harvesting has successfully regenerated.’’

Mr Ayres responded that a ‘‘public engagement manager’’ would simply be there (at a meeting) for ‘‘damage mitigation’’.

Without written commitments the group was not confident its concerns about VicForests’ harvesting would be addressed.

When it wrote to VicForests, the alliance expressed concerns about unacceptably large harvested zones, a ‘‘drastic’’ increase in harvesting rates from Strathbogie Forest, recent woodchipping at Tolmie and the destruction of habitat and a high-quality biodiversity asset.

Last week Mr Ayres showed Country News around the forest, about 20km out of Strathbogie township, where once 17 mills operated.

A 55ha coupe where seed-tree treatment has failed is an eyesore of weeds such as dogwort and Scotch thistle against a backdrop of blackened logs and sprouting trees never destined to grow high and straight to replace those that were harvested.

‘‘VicForests has had a pile of failed coupes all over the state and got (former) DPI to write them off,’’ Mr Ayres said.

He said visiting the forest with retired tree fellers and alliance members Neil Walker and Ron Jones had galvanised his commitment to the cause.

‘‘Just getting a perception of the forest thought their eyes — you get it,’’ Mr Ayres said.

‘‘I’m a baker. I don’t consider myself to be a greenie but I find myself standing in a green place. So if trying to save an asset like this for our community (makes me a greenie) then I guess I am.’’

He said the alliance had events planned in coming weeks including a forest drive/walk led by Mr Walker and Mr Jones including a night spotlighting to discover some of the forest creatures.

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