Logging disappoints

By Benalla Ensign

Barjag Flat is just a small logging coup in the Strathbogie Ranges, however, since February VicForests activities in the area have led to several animal-welfare protests.

It is in one of the highest parts of the ranges and as such is home to a large number of greater gliders, which are listed as vulnerable under the The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Higher regions attract greater rainfall and provide the fresh eucalypt leaves that the gliders feed on, however, they are also home to many mountain gums, which have great value to loggers.

Loss of habitat is one of the biggest threats to a species, especially an endangered one, such as the greater glider.

Barjag Flat is one of 10 coupes in the area selected for logging by VicForests during the next two years as part of the current Regional Forest Agreements (RFA).

According to the Department of Agriculture and Water resources an RFA is a 20-year plan for sustainable forest management.

As well as ensuring forests are appropriately managed and regenerated after logging they are also supposed to protect an area’s biodiversity.

It is the conflict between the need to protect plant and animal life in Barjag Flat and the reality of removing the habitat of a native animal, which is considered vulnerable, that has led to protests.

Local man Ian Herbert lives close to Barjag flat and described it as a ‘‘unique environment’’.

‘‘The issue is about more than just a threatened species, it’s about the whole environment,’’ Mr Herbert said.

The protesters have been successful in halting logging several times, however, it has started once the protests were over.

They also followed the logging trucks to see if the timber acquired was benefiting local people and industry.

They say their investigation found that the felled trees were going to a couple of places.

‘‘We had the trucks followed,’’ Mr Herbert said.

‘‘There appeared to be two logging trucks operating, the smaller one was going to mills in the Alexandra direction.

‘‘The larger one was taking logs to either directly export, or to be chipped and exported, to China via the Port of Geelong.’’

They estimate that the majority of logs taken out of Barjag Flat were destined for China (about 60per cent), and that the local mill (Ryan & McNulty) in Benalla saw none.

It should be noted that RFAs are in place across Victoria and mills such as Ryan & McNulty have contracts in place to receive a set quantity of wood from them.

So despite the fact that it might seem logical to send local wood to a local sawmill, the way the RFAs are managed across the state is complex and local mills still receive the amount of trees they are contracted to get.

Of course Ryan & McNulty is one of the G6 mills, which are currently contesting a decision to have their wood supply extensions cancelled.

However, that is somewhat irrelevant to the issues local people are having concerning Barjag Flat as wood destined for Victorian mills is sourced from locations across the state.

That fact then leads to another problem, if Barjag flat is saved from logging, as contracts for wood supplies are already in place, the loggers may simply move to another area creating similar issues there.

‘‘We’ve always been willing to talk about alternative locations,’’ Mr Herbert said.

‘‘We had a meeting with VicForests and there was a coup-swap suggested, but they refused to talk about an alternative.’’

VicForests was approached for comment, but at the time of going to press The Ensign had not received a response.