More than 50 regional, state and national environment groups have signed an open letter to Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan, calling for an immediate end to logging in the west of Victoria and the legislation of three promised National Parks.
In June 2021, the Victorian Government agreed to create three new national parks in Victoria’s central west; the Wombat-Lerderderg National Park, Mount Buangor National Park and Pyrenees National Park.
Gayle Osborne, convenor of Wombat Forestcare, said these areas of public land provided critical habitat for more than 370 rare and threatened flora and fauna including greater gliders and powerful owls.
“Recently it was discovered that there is a large population of endangered mountain skinks in the Wombat Forest, much further west than they were previously known to exist,” Ms Osborne said.
“If we want these creatures to continue to exist in our landscape, we need to halt the timber harvesting and ensure that they are protected forever.”
The Victorian government announcement to end native forest logging by January 1, 2024, did not include the west of Victoria where there are about 60,000 hectares of public land listed for some form of timber harvesting.
Ms Osborne said this harvesting was being carried out in a fragmented and greatly cleared landscape.
“Not only are we likely to see some threatened species become locally extinct, but forestry in the west of Victoria is heavily subsidised by the taxpayer,” Ms Osborne said.
“It does not make sense to continue to fund the destruction of the habitat of rare flora, fungi and fauna.”
Last week, Wombat Forestcare members visited Mount Wilson, the scene of intense logging 21 years ago. Although the forest on the peak is largely intact, there is little left of the magnificent vegetation and tall tree ferns that once filled the lush gullies and hillsides surrounding the mount.
During the logging two decades ago, many protesters were arrested. Angela Halpin, who was charged with “hindering a logging operation” was at Mount Wilson to add her voice to the campaign for the national park.
“Having worked for the CSIRO on the 1996 State of the Environment report, I was deeply concerned about the degradation of the landscape. The forest is pivotal to the regulation of the climate,” Ms Halpin said.
“How long have we been waiting? It is 21 years since we protested to defend this forest, it is urgent that the government legislate the national park now to protect it forever.”
Read the letter here.