Wombat Forest habitat at risk

Members of Wombat Forestcare express their disapproval of the salvage harvesting. Photo: Gayle Osborne

Wombat Forestcare is continuing its call for VicForests to cease storm damage salvage works in the Wombat State Forest and for the state government to fast-track the creation of a new Wombat-Lerderderg National Park. 

Last September, the group sought an injunction in the Supreme Court to halt timber harvesting works in a coupe called ‘Silver Queen’, claiming that VicForests had failed to properly survey for threatened species. 

Evidence from expert witnesses was tendered to the court to substantiate the claim and the injunction was granted. 

Justice Melinda Richards ordered all work to cease in the area after VicForests’ consultants discovered nine endangered mountain skinks in and near the coupe. 

Wombat Forestcare convenor Gayle Osborne said the group was pleased that it had been recognised that endangered plants and animals needed to be protected and that this could only happen if comprehensive surveys were undertaken. 

“Wombat Forestcare remains very concerned about the continuing harvesting of wind fallen timber in the Wombat Forest by VicForests’ contractors who have been engaged by Forest Fire Management Victoria,” Ms Osborne said. 

“There is no regulatory oversight of these works, which are being carried out under the guise of fire mitigation. 

“Large logs are being removed, leaving behind piles of fine fuels consisting of branches and bark. The logs are being trucked to Mansfield and Gippsland to be sold as firewood.” 

Ms Osborne said Wombat Forestcare was supportive of the clearing of tracks and fallen timber next to private property but considere the removal of all large logs to be putting commercial considerations before the environment. 

“Large fallen trees are a critical part of a healthy environment providing homes for small mammals and reptiles, insects and fungi. The insects are important for the survival of small birds,” she said. 

“The microorganisms that live in and on the fallen trees are an essential part of the forests web of life helping breakdown wood and leaf litter. 

“The public land in Victoria’s west sits within a highly fragmented and cleared landscape and is critically important for the survival of many threatened plants and animals. 

“The Wombat State Forest contains very high conservation values that deem it worthy of National Park status and the state government has promised to legislate a new Wombat-Lerderderg National Park. 

“We encourage the state government to move swiftly on this commitment.” 

Victorian National Parks Association spokesperson Matt Ruchel said VNPA still held great concern for the state’s forests with news that VicForests was enabling the sale of timber from the fallen trees under the banner of Forest Fire Management Victoria. 

“The devastating impacts on the understory and the recovery of the forest is being set back years driven by commercial incentive rather than good environmental policy,” Mr Ruchel said. 

“The state government should salvage their environmental reputation rather than using habitat to prop up a dying industry. “VNPA also holds great concern that the process of legislating the Central West Parks has now taken longer than the creation of any park in the last 30 years.”