22 July, 2011

Anger as logging begins at controversial Sylvia Creek forest near Melbourne

Friday, 22 July 2011

VicForests has sent the chainsaws into the Sylvia Creek forest on Melbourne’s north east fringe, despite conceding that the area contains old-growth trees more than 110 years old.

Over 100 people protested at the site near Toolangi last weekend, forcing both VicForests and the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) to conduct new surveys to check the forest’s environmental values.

“DSE has confirmed the logging coupe contains old growth trees, even though VicForests and Government Minister Louise Asher insisted last week that it was not old growth forest,” said Wilderness Society forest campaigner Luke Chamberlain.

"We demand an acknowledgment from the then Acting Premier that she has either been deceived by VicForests or she herself has misled the public.  Louise Asher must apologise to the people of Toolangi."

“As a result of community action, VicForests has been forced to remove three hectares of old growth and rainforest from their logging plans, but they have sent the chainsaws into the remaining forest today.”

DSE and VicForests claim that the area being logged is not suitable habitat for the endangered Leadbeater's Possum, but expert scientists and conservationists disagree.

“Over half the Leadbeater's Possum’s forest habitat was destroyed in the Black Saturday bushfires, so every last bit that survives is incredibly precious, and essential to this tiny animals’ survival,” said spokesperson for local group ‘My Environment’ Sarah Rees.

“The criteria the government is using to identify Leadbeater's Possum habitat are too conservative. We’re talking about Victoria’s wildlife emblem, we should be making sure they multiply and flourish, not simply cling on to the edge of survival.”

“The local community is up in arms about losing this beautiful, high conservation value forest, and is planning further protests.”

The Burned Area Emergency Response Report (BAER) commissioned by the Brumby Government after the 2009 bushfires recommended preserving refuge areas such as those in Toolangi for biodiversity recovery.

Note: photos of Leadbeater's Possum available on request

For comment

- Luke Chamberlain, The Wilderness Society    0424 098 729
- Sarah Rees, My Environment Inc.    0438 368 870

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