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Neglect is the real threat to our forests

Scientists show that more National Parks do not mean better ecological outcomes, while Traditional Owners call for key role in managing Victoria’s forests going forward.

Last week, the Andrews Government showed what happens when they cherry-pick findings from a small group of vocal researchers and environmental groups with an agenda, said Deb Kerr, CEO of the Victorian Forest Products Association (VFPA). Latest research showed that the real threat to our forests stemmed from invasive species, a lack of management and a flawed concept of conservation.

In his latest paper, Dr Tyron Venn from the University of Queensland highlighted that under existing policy settings, conservation areas in Queensland had a high risk of unintended negative outcomes, including for international biodiversity conservation and carbon emissions.

Dr Tyron’s views are shared by others. Forester Robert Onfray has done extensive research in New South Wales and Victoria, showing what happens when we lock up and leave our precious forests: “A review of the Victorian Environment Department found it could not demonstrate it is halting species decline in the state. For example, only 20 per cent of the state’s threatened species have an action plan outlining how they should be protected and what strategies are needed to help them recover. […] In addition, the public has no idea of the cost, quality or effectiveness of work being delivered by the department.”

“And yet, the Victorian government has decided to stop native forestry, in return hoping for better ecological outcomes. Looking at the examples above, we will not see this hope become a reality.  We need a plan – but there is only policy failure, broken promises, and regions and ecosystems that will be worse off because of a knee-jerk reaction,” Deb Kerr said.

To add to this, Traditional Owners are calling for Victoria’s 1.8 m ha of State Parks to be handed over so they can heal country including for the opportunity to diversify their revenue to reinvest in healing country. The Federation of Victorian Traditional Owner Corporations (FVTOC) said earlier this week that none of the impacted Traditional Owner Corporations were consulted about the decision to bring forward the date for the cessation of native timber harvesting in Victoria. “We should be able to manage the return of the forests to health and to benefit from biocultural resources in a way that they have been unable to do for several hundred years.”

Picture of windfall in Wombat State Forest
Windfall in Wombat State Forest

“The Andrews Government needs to ensure bureaucracy will not stand in the way of meaningful partnerships with Traditional Owners. In the example of Wombat State Forest, hundreds of tonnes of timber have still not been recovered after the storm nearly two years ago. This was meant to be a collaboration between VicForests and DJAARA, enabling the Traditional Owner corporation to apply their methods of healing country while using some of the fallen timber commercially. But, thanks to eNGOs and bureaucracy it has turned into a war of ideologies, a farce of red tape and done nothing to protect nearby regions from increased fuel loads,” Deb Kerr continued.

“While the Government’s decision might be too late for our native forest industry, it’s time to hand over management to those who will manage country as they have for tens of thousands of years. The Traditional Owners deserve better and so do our forests,” Ms Kerr concluded.



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