Still divided on timber plan

Australian Paper’s Maryvale Mill has welcomed a State Government decision to reduce logging to protect the endangered Leadbeater’s Possum – but environmentalists warn the changes are ‘clearfell’ harvesting by another name.

The Napthine Government’s $11 million plan to transition to ‘retention harvesting’ in a bid to protect Victoria’s fauna emblem in the central highlands forest has been called the “biggest change to harvesting practice ever implemented” by VicForests’ chief executive Robert Green.

“Retention harvesting will mean additional areas are reserved, such as ‘islands’ of harvested trees to provide habitat and better connectivity for animals as well as assisting to establish older forest across the landscape,” Mr Green said.

However, Wilderness Society campaigns manager Amelia Young said her view of retention harvesting was that it was ‘clearfell logging’ – the practice of removing almost all vegetation – “by another name”.

“Retention harvesting does not retain, it creates islands of trees. None of the science shows that the population of the Leadbeater’s Possum survive in islands of forests,” Ms Young said.

“They try to move from one island to another, and are easily picked up by predators in the landscape. There is no way of making logging sustainable in an over-logged landscape.”

Ms Young said it would appear that AP would continue to have a presence in the Mountain Ash forests, and questioned why 100 per cent of its resources were not from existing plantation estates.

Australian Paper, one of VicForests’ longest standing and largest customers of wood not suitable for sawn timber, receives two thirds of its fibre from plantations and recycled sources.

AP spokesman Craig Dunn said the company would continue to promote to the State Government the importance of establishing more plantations local to the Maryvale Mill through farm forestry, an initiative launched last year.