Protect the Alberton West State Forest from logging

Protect the Alberton West State Forest from logging

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Sam Proudley started this petition to Daniel Andrews (Premier of Victoria) and

VicForests started harvesting operations in the Alberton West State forest in Gippsland on 19 July 2021 and plans to log up to 60% of this isolated forest remnant. We ask VicForests to immediately halt these operations due to the significant risk of harm to threatened and endangered species found within this forest, particularly the Powerful Owl, Greater Glider, Strzelecki Koala, Lace Monitor and various native plant species.

Given the role of deforestation in accelerating climate change, and the increasing incidence of severe bushfire in Australia in recent years, it is critical that biodiverse habitats like the Alberton West State Forest are preserved.

Due to the forest’s limited size, harvesting is likely to have a significant medium-term impact on biodiversity, as there is limited opportunity for wildlife dispersal, regardless of whether large hollow-bearing trees are maintained.

Species of concern known to live in the Alberton West State Forest include the Powerful Owl, listed as vulnerable under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988, with only about 1,500 remaining, mostly in New South Wales. Thinning can lead to the direct loss of habitat trees and changes to the surrounding forest structure which can compromise the value of nest sites. It is currently the breeding season for the powerful owl, and any disturbance within at least 250 metres of a nest can lead to abandonment of the nest and young. Existing records show the planned logging coupes are within this range of existing nests, although records are dated and further detailed investigation is needed. Further, thinning may also compromise habitat for prey species and the growth of future nest sites.

The Greater Glider is listed as threatened, and “is in a demonstrable state of decline likely to lead to extinction” [1] due to threats including elevated mortality, genetic decline and the loss of hollow-bearing trees. Timber harvesting is a contributing factor to species decline. Greater Glider records for this forest do not meet the minimum numbers required to prevent thinning, however this is all the more reason to preserve this important remnant.

The Strzelecki Koala is listed as in danger, with the population as low as 1,500. The Black Saturday fire of 2009 destroyed about 40% of the preferred koala habitat and had a significant impact on the koala population within the Strzelecki Ranges. The Alberton West State Forest is an important habitat refuge for Strzelecki Koalas and critical for preserving genetic material for re-population. Thinning operations will erode rather than restore and improve habitat connectivity between the Alberton West State Forest and the Strzelecki Ranges. Whilst VicForests will have procedures in place to spot and protect individual koalas during harvesting, the overall impact means less preferred koala habitat leading to conflict between koalas.

The Lace Monitor is listed as endangered on the Victorian Threatened Species Advisory List (2013). VicForests does not have an adequate plan for ensuring the protection of lace monitors during thinning. Lace monitors are found in this forest, and are likely to be sheltering in tree hollows as they are mostly inactive in cooler weather, where they are unlikely to be seen by koala spotters.

Native flora including the Cobra Greenhood Orchid (listed as vulnerable), Clover Glycine (listed as threatened), Velvet Appleberry (listed as rare), and the Marsh or Long-lobed Sun-orchid (listed as endangered), and the Laccocephalum hartmannii fungi (listed as rare), are likely to be negatively impacted by the planned thinning operations.

We ask VicForests to immediately halt thinning operations of the Alberton West State Forest due to the risk that threatened and in danger flora and fauna will become locally extinct, and the critical need to preserve Victoria's forests to protect against accelerating climate change.

We acknowledge the Gunaikurnai people as the traditional custodians of this country.

[1] In its final recommendation report (SAC 2017), the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Scientific Advisory Committee found that: • the Greater Glider is in a demonstrable state of decline likely to lead to extinction.

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