Save Victoria's Connection with Sustainable Native Timbers.
The Victorian Government have announced a 10 year plan to halt all timber harvesting in public native forests by 2030 under the Victorian Forestry Plan (VFP).
The petition to retain this connection with sustainable native timber harvesting recieved 893 signitures and was tabled in parliament on the 6th April 2022. The Hon Mary-Anne Thomas - Minister for Agriculture - has stated that Specialty Timbers will not be phased out and is not part of the Victorian Forestry Plan.
This is positive news for small scale harvesting but does not address the fact that other sustainable operations will be phased out and a valuable ecological tool will be lost.
Under a Freedom of Information request, it was uncovered that the Government had made the decision to phase out native timber harvesting based on a two page briefing paper back in April 2018. There was no stakeholder engagement to inform this decision and it was not taken to the election for Victorians to vote on. It was not until 12 months after the November 2018 election did the government reveal its intentions. The VFP is purely political, with no broader community, stakeholder or scientific foundation.
What is the Petition For?
This petition is asking the Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change - The Hon Lilian D'Ambrosio to:
Provide for ecologically sustainable production of hardwood timber in state forest, with a focus on high value products; and,
Attain Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification for all VicForests timber harvesting operations across Victoria.
Good intentions miss the mark.
The Victorian Forestry Plan has benefits in that it creates greater protection for two iconic species in Gippsland and the Central Highlands. However, these species have limited distributions in the east of the state and should not be used to make broad management decisions for the future of Victoria's forests.
Finely focused research for one vegetation community in a specific part of Victoria with unique environmental issues, does not reflect the diversity of the ecological or timber harvesting environment across Victoria.
Has the Victorian Government taken extreme actions in halting timber harvesting completely?
Government Plans are out of Touch.
The Victorian Environment Assessment Council's (VEAC) Otway Angahook investigation (2004), State-wide Review of public land (2017) and the Central West Investigation (2019) recommended that ecologically sustainable timber harvesting be permitted in areas of State Forest based on advice from an expert panel, stakeholder engagement and public consultation. The Federation of Victorian Traditional Owner Coorporations states: "Our understanding that the sustainable use of natural resources (rather than a strict conservation approach) will deliver the highest value outcomes for people and Country.”
The government's decision to completely halt timber harvesting in native forests does not align with indigenous aspirations, independent expert advice or community preferences.
Plantations: saviour or silver lining?
The Victorian Forestry Plan is forcing a shift to plantations for softwood and fibre, which have their own environmental issues. The Plan is overlooking the existing diversity of hardwood applications for high value products, that will be completely lost. There are many species that need more research before plantations could be established. In addition, the 10 year timeframe underestimates how long it takes to grow trees, particularly for high value products. Longer timeframes and large areas of specific physical geographic land are needed to facilitate a smooth transition.
Analyses of the 1939 Ash supply in eastern-Victoria suggest that it will remain an adequate source of timber beyond the next 20 years at which point other age classes will be mature enough to harvest. Many other operations do not rely on ash forests and do not have supply issues. The notion that timber can be sourced from private property is an attempt to move attention away from the VFP. It is well known that the supply from public land is far greater, more sustainable and more controlled than private property. The VFP will add to the current timber shortage in Australia.
Reductions in employment is a positive demonstration of the industries natural adaptation to increases in processing efficiency and increased use of plantation fibre sources. Increased reserve areas of over 2.5 times in 25 years, with associated reductions in timber harvesting areas of 3.7 times in the same period, and subsequent calibration of employment to meet sustainable harvest levels, is also a large contributor in the reduction in employment. The VFP will add to the compounding impacts on regional communities from the 2019/20 fires and COVID.
A reduction in employment levels is not a reason to cease timber harvesting in native forests but an example of the malleability and necessity of the industry.
Prominent environmental activist NGO's are spreading mis-information about the threats posed by contemporary timber harvesting. They are ignoring the threats of greatest concern - cats, livestock and feral herbivores, foxes, habitat loss and fragmentation, disease and fire regimes - in that order.
These greatest contemporary conservation issues don’t stop at National Parks. They don’t adhere to regulations or changes in policy, and they most certainly can’t be litigated. They don’t discriminate on the threatened status of a species – whether data deficient or critically endangered - it’s irrelevant.
Yet the focus to appease ENGO members is targeted toward emotional anthropocentric conservation, at the expense of the conservation of greatest concern.
To what extent is contemporary ecologically sustainable timber harvesting being burdened by legacies of historical harvesting, wildfire, past land clearing, invasive species and other detrimental anthropogenic processes? The relative impact of forestry operations on threatened species, compared to other threatening processes, is grossly overestimated in the public debate.
More education into the proportional effects of contemporary timber harvesting on biodiversity is needed, before promising fantastical conclusions of conservation benefits from its cessation.
98% of the loss of Old Growth forest in Victoria over the last 25 years has been due to wildfires.
0.7% of old growth Wet Forest in the Central Highlands has been impacted by timber harvesting since 1964. Over 88% was impacted by the 1939 wildfires: in just one summer.
Timber harvesting impacts 0.7% of the area impacted by wildfires and fuel reduction every year.
Timber harvesting disturbs 0.04% of the public forest estate, equivalent to 4 trees in every 10,000 trees.
The total area available and suitable for timber harvesting in Victoria is approximately 590,000ha - equivalent to 1/3 of the 2019/20 bushfire extent.
Timber harvesting does not target old growth forest and is primarily focused on the 80 year old regrowth from the 1939 wildfires.
No Australian mammals have become extinct due to timber harvesting and timber harvesting poses a low threat to future mammal extinctions.
Other disturbance events, such as fire, do not follow the same prescriptions as timber harvesting. Wildfire is not concerned for how threatened a species is, if it is old growth, how close it is to a waterway or if there is any cultural significance. It is not concerned about our legal protection system or national parks and cannot be litigated. Its only discrimination is how well the bush will burn.
Intermediate disturbance creates highest biodiversity
The Victorian government is overlooking the role of disturbance in creating greater biodiversity and ecosystem resilience. This includes the maintenance of threatened species foraging habitat, such as for the Leadbeater's Possum.
Timber harvesting is a valuable tool to create mosaic disturbances that increase species richness, biodiversity and ecosystem resilience.
Lies and an abandoned election promise
The Victorian Government decided to phase out native timber harvesting in April 2018 based on a two-page briefing paper. It ticked one of four options to alter current timber harvesting practices - to phase out timber harvesting by 2030. The first option was to continue timber harvesting and phase out old-growth harvesting (of which almost none has occured since 1964 and had been formally excluded in October 2019: before the VFP announcement).
This decision was made in April 2018. In the November 2018 state election Labour had a policy to support ecologically sustainable forest practices. Not only did they not disclose their true intent but they had clearly lied to the public about their intentions for native timber harvesting by appearing to support it.
The VFP goes beyond the environmental aspirations of the WWF, indigenous organisations and prominent conservation scientists.
The fact is that the Labour Government is playing politics with our future connection with timber from the bush.
Customers value local and sustainable
There is strong support for locally sourced instrument timbers. Consumers value local and ecologically sustainable timbers.
Losing a Cultural Connection
If the current plan goes ahead, Victorians will be losing a fundamental cultural connection in accessing timber from the bush - a connection as old as humanity.
Losing an allegory for the future
“In the Otways, Murray and James Kidman have developed a best practice model for the future harvest of forest resources, minimizing impacts while supporting a high-value manufacturing industry for which Australia has become a global sustainability leader. They prove that resource practices, commitments and relationships can be forged with ecological values rather than in spite of them.” (Gibson and Warren 2019 - The Guitar: Tracing the Grain Back to the Tree (University of Chicago Press))
This allegory of future sustainable timber harvesting will be lost if the current VFP is put in place. The Victorian Forestry Plan needs to consider the value of specialty timbers to Victoria, both locally and internationally.
Plan for the future
The questions for all Victorians are - Do we want to completely remove our connection with timber from the bush?
Is there scope to continue to sustainably harvest specialty timbers for high value products?
Keep up to date & have your say
If you want to show support for ecologically sustainable timber harvesting for high value products or want to know further information, there are a number of things you can do:
An online e-petition through the Victorian Legislative Council. The petition received 893 signitures and was tabled in parliament on the 6th April 2018.
This document contains referenced information regarding contemporary timber harvesting and is the supporting information to this petition.
share and tag some photos of sustainable native timber products and beneficial timber harvesting using the hashtag #nativetimbersvictoria
Sign up to receive emails directly from the Victorian Government and stay up-to-date with the Victorian Forestry Plan.
View the 3 page outline of the Victorian Forestry Plan.
Follow us on instagram for updates on the Victorian Forestry Plan and to see photos of some of the beautiful timber and tonewood applications from locally sourced timber from the Otway Ranges in Victoria.
Contact us if you would like further information.