RFPG submission to VicForests calls for unsustainable logging in the Rubicon to cease

7 Feb 2016, revised 26 May 2016

In its current submission to VicForests (revised version 26 May incorporating data recently provided by VicForests) the Rubicon Forest Protection Group demonstrates that the current rate of logging in the Rubicon valley and surrounding mountains is unsustainable.  

Logging in the ash forests of the Central Forest Management Area (FMA) currently exceeds any reasonable measure of sustainable timber yield, and is completely unsustainable taking into account all other forest values.

In 2010 the Government changed the rules governing how forest areas are allocated to VicForests by lifting the total area of ash forest allocated for harvesting and lifting the restrictions imposed by separate geographically-defined areas and forest age types. And in 2014 the Government freed VicForests from the need to seek departmental approval for its Timber Release Plans (TRPs).

As a result, by 2015 the Central FMA accounted for more than half all ash forest logging in Victoria despite around 13,500 ha of its ash forests being killed in 2009. Yet it contains barely one fifth of the area of ash forest that is available for harvesting across the State.

The rate of logging was lifted after the Black Saturday fires initially as salvage logging but soon moving back into the area’s unburnt forests. This increase helped shore up the Murrindindi economy in the wake the fires but it should now be wound down immediately. Unless the harvesting rate is drastically cut there will be no largely intact areas of tall mature ash forests in this area for many decades and other forest values and economic opportunities will be lost.

A sustainable harvesting rate for the Central FMA is now estimated to be no more than 200 ha per annum, but an ecologically sustainable level taking into account all forest values, and the risk a major fire poses to a vast area of regenerating ash forest, could require cessation for several decades. The submission shows that key biodiversity, tourism and conservation values associated with the remaining intact vestiges of the area’s unburnt 1939 regrowth ash forests are gravely threatened. Across the Rubicon State forest, regeneration failures are common with various examples of biodiversity safeguards not being adequately implemented.

RFPG calls upon VicForests to enter into an open dialogue with knowledgeable experts, local businesses, concerned citizens and affected timber workers from the Murrindindi area to determine how a more sustainable rate of logging might be implemented. Meanwhile, we call upon VicForests to suspend logging in all areas in the northern half of the Alexandra Forest District until our concerns have been fully addressed, and to limit logging elsewhere to coupes already specified in the 2015 TRP.

Original version of RFPG submission (7 Feb 2016)