This is Victoria. Sadly it’s happening everywhere.
When more than 90% of wood logged out of Victoria’s Critically Endangered Mountain Ash forests is pulped for paper and cardboard, there’s something wrong.
State logging agency VicForests is forced to deliver at least 300,000 cubic metres of native forest logs to paper and cardboard producers Opal Australian Paper (owned by Nippon Paper Group) every year.
Victoria’s forests cannot support this level of destruction. Incredibly, these volumes have not been reduced even after 1.2 million hectares of Victorian forests burned in last spring and summer’s catastrophic bushfires—which changed lives and landscapes forever.
As a result, VicForests runs afoul of the law as it meets Opal Australian Paper’s insatiable demand for native forest fibre to manufacture cardboard boxes, office products and playing cards.
This logging is driving forest dependent species, such as the Leadbeater’s Possum and Greater Glider, towards extinction. Yet, despite widespread evidence of illegal logging in these animals’ forest habitat, the state and federal governments are missing in action.
The Wilderness Society’s investigations have uncovered that shipments of paper and timber products—manufactured from VicForests harvested logs—to the USA and the EU have breached overseas illegal logging laws. As a result, we submitted formal complaints to enforcement agencies in the USA, Germany and Denmark.
This isn’t the first time Australian conservationists have had to call for international help. Almost one hundred years ago, another Australian conservation group, the Wildlife Preservation Society, appealed to then United States President, Herbert Hoover, to help prevent the imminent extinction of the koala, which was hunted for its fur. As a result, the trade in koala fur to the US was brought to an end.
If Australia’s environmental regulators were effective today, we wouldn’t need to call for international help.
A truly sustainable and supportable timber and paper industry in Victoria and other states, is possible—one that doesn’t cause species extinction, and is legal. As we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s critical that workers in regional areas are supported through inevitable change. That’s why the Victorian state government must bring forward the industry’s transition to plantations, and fast-track support packages.
Together, we must stand up for Australia’s forests and keep building pressure on businesses and government regulators to protect the places we love so they aren’t being destroyed by illegal logging.
The Wilderness Society