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EARTHCHAT: Rubicon Forest Action Group

Friday 1 April 10am and Saturday 2 April 8am, with Peter and David:

Nick Legge is a member of Rubicon Forest Action Group and has a long history of knowledge and policy skills with forestry.

EarthChat this week invites this skilled former forester to discuss native forestry operations, and we ask him whether there is a future for native forestry at all. If so, what would this look like? What would have to change with the current VicForest approach to how a forest is viewed, as more than just sawlogs and pulp. Where does farm forestry fit into this picture?

Nick achieved a BSc majoring in botany Melb Uni, 1975, then did a PhD in “water relations of Mountain Ash Forest” at LaTrobe Uni 1980.

He spent 3 years lecturing forest ecology, tree physiology, forest soils at School of Forestry, University of Technology PNG.

After 25 years policy advisory and management roles, various departments, including Premier and Cabinet, Treasury and Finance and Health Nick retired from VPS and moved to Taggerty in 2011 to rebuild a house lost in Black Saturday fire.

In 2015 Nick helped form Rubicon Forest Protection Group and authored Unsustainable!, a submission to VicForests and State Government Ministers on the unsustainability of logging in the Rubicon State Forest.

New variable retention logging methods adopted by VicForests in recent years for native forest logging options are an improvement on broadscale clearfelling, which was the dominant approach in ash forests, and in effect in mixed species forests, but are too little too late.

And there is also a catch – the new Allocation Order (2019) allows the net harvested area to be tallied toward the 5 year harvest limit, whereas AOs orders tallied the gross area. This allows many more coupes to be opened up than previously and even though the logged area of each coupe will be smaller, could easily allow even more forest to be logged!

Moreover, the new methods appears to tacitly acknowledge that clearfelling – at least in the Central Highlands – was contrary to the 2014 Forestry Code, especially the requirement that gaps between retained vegetation should not be greater than 150m (MPSs cl, but also other the requirements (no mega-coupes, 20m buffers between coupes), diversity of ages across the landscape.

While the nominal area available for logging mixed species forest is vast - 1.6 million ha according to the Allocation Order - in fact that most MS forests are non-commercial and only around 360 ha is definitely suitable for commercial logging. This small area of tall, high conservation value species rich forest therefore bears the brunt of logging.

Has VicForests changed its forestry practices in recent years in the face of widespread criticism for its unsustainable practices? Can we really entertain the idea of a sustainable native forest logging industry? What would this look like?

EarthChat on 103.9 Seymour FM on Friday at 10am, and repeated at 8am on Saturday.

Join Peter Lockyer and David Clarey with our guest Nick Legge this week.

BEAM is out to save the Tallarook Forest from the proposed logging, and we want to hear more about what a sustainable timber industry for the future might look like.

Tune in to BEAM's radio program EarthChat each Friday on Seymour FM at 10am or to the repeat on Saturday at 8am.

Time to tune in, listen up and get active EarthChatters!

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