VicForests, a failing and embattled organisation, is clearfelling a new coupe of cool temperate rainforest on Sylvia Creek Road, Toolangi. Toolangi is about 60 km or so north of Melbourne. Toolangi and its neighbours Narbethong and Murrundindi were badly affected by the Black Saturday fires, but this is part of the forest area which survived.
When I was a teenager my father and I used to go walking at Murrundindi, Toolangi, Mount St Leonard and the surrounding Mountain Ash country and I fell in love with that environment with its prehistoric flora and distinctive earthy, cool scent. It was once home, and inspiration, to the poet C J Dennis.
Year by year, week by week, VicForests rips out more of this treasured, dwindling habitat. Toocas at the Toolangi Castella blog sets out beautifully why we should not be clearfelling this forest at all. Most of the points raised apply to all cool temperate or “wet” native forest in SE Australia. (Contextual links are mine):
Summary of perceived issues:
1 – The area to be logged covers 2 large coupes, in forest that is high conservation value, mixed age and botanically diverse.
2 – This is an unburned area where surviving native wildlife have a precious refuge, following the Black Saturday destruction.
3 – The BAER Report (Burned Area Emergency Response Report), which was commissioned by the previous Government immediately after the bushfires, recommended preserving such areas for biodiversity recovery. It also called for caution and restraint in any proposed salvage logging.
4 – The forest block concerned is adjacent to Sylvia Creek Rd, and is intended to be clearfelled, right up to the roadside, thus despoiling a beautiful section of the forest drive to the popular Murrindindi Falls camping and picnic area. The cost to future tourism values of the area seems to be of no concern.
5 – Within this forest block is a treasure trove of different forest types, including senescent Mountain Ash old growth, mature Ash forest, cool temperate rain forest (a rare and threatened habitat in this region) and maturing regrowth Mountain Ash forest of varying ages – from pre-1900 to post 1939. Mountain Ash Eucalyptus regnans, is well known to be the tallest flowering plant in the world, but there is a strong argument that they are the tallest of all trees when given the centuries (and conditions) they need to grow to maturity (we still have a few remnant trees that are up to 500 years old). The giant trees of the 1800s have all gone, but leaving their progeny to grow on to maturity (instead of logging them for woodchips) may provide future generations with an experience of truly majestic old growth forest.
6 – The ‘understorey’ contains several plant species that live to a great age (centuries) if undisturbed, but are currently in significant long term decline in abundance after clearfelling and increased fire frequency. The species include:- Tree Ferns – Cyathea australis and Dicksonia antarctica, Musk Daisy Bush Olearia argophylla and Forest Geebung Persoonia arborea, small trees found in wet forest and cool temperate rainforest environments. The Geebung is locally endemic, and is peculiar in taking decades to reach reproductive maturity. Thus it is susceptible to being wiped out by clearfelling and elevated fire frequencies, in combination.
7 – The region is habitat for a range of native wildlife species including – Leadbeater’s Possum (our highly threatened State Faunal Emblem), Spotted-tailed Quolls (our largest, and very rare carnivorous marsupial) possums and gliders (including the now threatened Greater Glider) and the great forest owls – Sooty Owl and Powerful Owl. All of these species were hard hit by the 2009 bushfires and are now only remnant populations in the Central Highlands. Logging is destroying their remaining habitat.
8 – Climate change is beyond debate, and because of rising temperatures and reduced rainfall in south-eastern Australia, threatens the future existence of Mountain Ash forests. These trees are dependant on a narrow band of temperature, altitude, rainfall and soil structure factors for their continued existence. Clearfelling is drying out the region and contributing to regional climate change – thus further threatening the survival of this forest ecosystem. In turn, this tall and complex forest is a powerful modulator of local and regional climate. Consequently, logging it is a double negative that not only destroys forests and defaces the environment, but also adversely affects the future climate, water supply and fire security of regional towns and the greater Melbourne community.
[Details of a trip to Sylvia Creek road edited]
Remember, this is Melbourne’s own environmental treasure, only a bit over 1 hour’s drive from the GPO. So why should we not value it as highly as Sydney-siders value their adjacent National Parks?
If you have time this weekend, Victorians, please contact your local MLA, local MLC, and/or the AGE or your preferred newspaper editorial, to voice opposition to this slash and burn policy towards our irreplaceable Mountain Ash habitats. We’re told they’re replaceable, but they’re not. Not in their present form, unless you’re prepared to wait a couple of hundred years, and probably – given our drying impact on the surrounding environment – not even then.