Victoria's North East Forests Report

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Compiled by Anthony Amis - Friends of the Earth Melbourne May 2002

January 2002: Old growth tree logged and left to rot. Gibb Range Road - Reedy Creek East Branch/Cudgewa Creek catchment.




Background on Gippsland/North East RFA

Aboriginal history

Flora and Fauna

Alpine Ash Ecology

Forestry Activities

Logging Alpine Ash

Fauna of the Australian Alps

Threatened Fauna of North East Victoria

Summary of Comments on Draft Spotted Quoll Action Statement


  • Lake Hume Water Supply Catchment

  • Background Lake Hume

  • Background Dartmouth Dam

Water Quality/Quantity

Potential water yield losses under 2001/4 WUP’s.

Economic Value of Recreational Fishing

Basic Stream Ecology

Logging and Clearing of Native Vegetation and its Impact on Freshwater Environments.

Catchments to be logged.

Potential Impacts of Greenhouse.

Corporate Logging Data.

Sustainable Logging Review.

Ecological Survey Reports.


OVERVIEW: (History / Site Visits)

From analysis of the 2001/4 Wood Utilisation Plans (WUP’s) for the North East and Tambo Forest Management Areas it is evident that logging was being concentrated in a few particular areas. Logging stretched primarily from Mount Wills in the west to Mount Pinnibar in the east and Mount Cudgewa in the north. This area is vast and time constraints did not allow FoE to assess all the forests at risk in this region let alone the forests of the Central Alps. Nevertheless this project has been useful in shedding light on forestry issues in the far North-East. Friends of the Earth’s opinion is that a longer study of the region is warranted.

It should also be noted that many coupes listed in the 2001/4 WUP’s are not listed in the 2002/5 WUP’s, meaning that many of the coupes due to be logged have now been ‘put off’ until a later date. Recent reductions in sawlog allocations will also ‘slow down’ the logging, but it is evident that under the current scenario all coupes listed in this report and the 2001/4 WUPs are at risk of being logged in the future.


BACKGROUND on North East/Gippsland RFA:

Forest Management Plan for the North East Department of Natural Resources and Environment January 2001

p42 “Timber Production. Currently, State forest in the North East (Benalla-Mansfield and Wangaratta Forest Management Areas (FMA) and the majority of the Wodonga FMA) contributes about 8% of Victoria’s annual production of hardwood sawlogs and 1.3% of residual logs (VicRFASC 1998a). . . In 1996-97, nine hardwood sawmills received sawlogs from native forests in the region and a further four sawmills received residual logs only. In addition, three processors received logs from the region or sawmill residues from sawmills utilising logs from the North East (VicRFASC 1998a) . . .

Timber production in the North East is influenced by a number of factors, including the following:

*fires in 1926 and 1939 created large areas of even-aged Alpine Ash regrowth in the Wodonga and Benalla-Mansfield FMAs that is an important timber resource now and for the future;

*selective harvesting practised in many of the forested areas located close to settlements prior to the 1960s created a mosaic where small patches of regrowth occur amongst older stands leading to reduced productivity and difficulties in harvesting the mature trees without damaging regrowth; . . .

The net available productive area in the North East, upon implementation of this Plan, isapproximately 12% of the extent of public land and exists within the timber-production sub-zone of the GMZ. Approximately 13 000 ha of the SMZ is estimated to be productive.


FMA Product 1 Code (ha) GMZ (ha) SMZ(ha) SPZ(ha) Total (ha)
Benalla-Mansfield AA 3173 7959 190 1376 12698
MS 10544 40947 4729 11860 68080
2 Other 13323 51242 1885 17760 85210
SubTot 27040 100148 6804 31996 165988
North East AA 7033 20855 2037 3805 33730
(Wangaratta & part Wodonga FMAs) MS 28412 80309 6226 37058 152004
Other 53180 186878 7004 98176 345238
Sub Tot 88625 288042 15267 139038 530972
Total 115665 388190 22071 171034 3 696960

AA: Alpine Ash MS: Mixed Species

Source: Statewide Forest Resource Inventory (NRE 1997f).

1. Area excluded from timber harvesting in compliance with the Code of Forest Practices for Timber Production (NRE 1996a).

2. This category includes non productive areas comprising non eucalypt species, unclassified, non treed, non vegetated, and other miscellaneous areas.

3. This figure varies from Table 2.1 due to rounding functions used to derive the data.”

January 2002: Coupe 12/591/501/0001. (MFP1). This is a firewood coupe, and it adjoins 12/592/504/0002 (East View1) - a sawlog coupe. 40 cubic metres of firewood will be extracted from MFP1 in 2002 with 340 cubic metres of logs coming from East View 1. Both coupes lie on the Stanley Plateau in the headwaters of the Myrtle Creek catchment. Myrtle Creek lies in the Ovens River catchment, the prime Murray Cod river in Victoria.

p44 “Sustainable sawlog supply

Sustainable yield is the forecast rate of harvesting that can be maintained for a given period without impairing the long term productivity of the land, taking into account the structure and condition of the forest and the diverse range of forest-based activities.

Under the Forests Act 1958, sustainable yields are to be reviewed:

*every five years

* when significant change in the available sawlog resource occurs (eg due to wildfire); or

*at any time the Minister considers appropriate.

Sustainable yield rates for the Benalla-Mansfield, Wangaratta and Wodonga FMAs were reviewed in 1996. The report Review of Sustainable Yield Rates for Hardwood Sawlogs from the State Forest (NRE 1997e) describes the review process. Similar reviews will be undertaken during the life of this plan.

The sustainable yield of sawlogs from each of Victoria’s 15 FMAs is listed in Schedule 3 of the Forests Act 1958. For the FMAs of the North East (Benalla-Mansfield, Wodonga and Wangaratta FMAs), the combined current sustainable yield rate is 66 500m3 of A, B, C and D grade sawlogs per year.

1996 Annual Sustainable Yield Rates for Forest Management Areas in the North East

Forest Management Area Scheduled sustainable yield rate (m3) per year 1, 2
Benalla - Mansfield 13 500
Wangaratta 25 000
Wodonga 28 000
Total 66 500

Notes: 1. The sustainable yield shown for the Wodonga FMA is for the entire FMA. Only part of the Wodonga FMA is included in the North East planning area; eleven Forest Blocks within the Wodonga FMA are in the Gippsland RFA Region and will be included in analyses for the Gippsland Forest Management Plan.

2. The scheduled sustainable yield rate includes A, B, C and D grade sawlogs

. . . Based on the timber resource analyses conducted during the RFA process, the North East planning area (comprising the Benalla-Mansfield and Wangaratta FMAs and part of the Wodonga FMA) is expected to provide (as a minimum) the current level of supply of D+ sawlogs (68,000 m3 per annum) for the next twenty years. However, the RFA and this Plan recognise that timber supply level in Victoria are subject to change based on periodic review of sustainable yield...”

January 2002: Coupe 12/591/501/0001. (MFP1). This is a firewood coupe, and it adjoins 12/592/504/0002 (East View1) - a sawlog coupe. 40 cubic metres of firewood will be extracted from MFP1 in 2002 with 340 cubic metres of logs coming from East View 1. Both coupes lie on the Stanley Plateau in the headwaters of the Myrtle Creek catchment. Myrtle Creek lies in the Ovens River catchment, the prime Murray Cod river in Victoria.


Much of the land in the study area is the traditional country of the Jaitmatang tribe. The Jaitmatang tribe are the traditional owners of much of the country north of the Great Divide in the upper headwaters of the Murray River including the towns of Omeo, Benambra and Corryong. Some native forest logging will also be impacting on the Waveroo tribe directly west of the Jaitmatang.

The waters flowing from the study area (ie Lake Dartmouth and Lake Hume) also impact on the following Murray River tribes: Waveroo (Vic), Wiradjuri (NSW), Yorta Yorta (Vic/NSW), Ngurraiilam (Vic), Baraba Baraba (Vic/NSW), Wemba Wemba (Vic/NSW), Wadi Wadi (Vic/NSW), Dadi Dadi (Vic/NSW), Latje Latje (Vic), Kureinji (NSW), Barkindji (NSW), Meru (South Australia/Vic) and Ngarrindjeri (South Australia).

from the foothills


P.D. Gardner

"The Jaitmathang tribe, also known as the Kandangoramittung and the Omeo tribe, occupies a region in the Australian Alps (now in the state of Victoria) for many hundreds of years. As far as I am aware no studies have been made to determine accurately the age of occupation of this region, but Josephine Flood’s studies of high country shelters in the A.C.T. give estimates of about 3000 years compared with the lower altitude, but much nearer, sites at Buchan and New Guinea cave on the Snowy River with estimates of about 18000 years. Future discoveries will probably push Flood’s estimates back, and thus also the period of Aboriginal occupation and exploitation of the high country. This question of occupation of the alpine/sub-alpine region is further complicated by major climatic changes within the time scale considered.

According to the boundaries outlined by Tindale, the Jaitmathang tribe, along with the neighbouring Minjambuta, (Mt. Buffalo) almost soley occupied alpine / sub-alpine country. The Omeo tribe have been most commonly thought of as representing the mountain Aboriginies of Victoria. It should be noted that although the Jaitmathang and Minjambuta can basically be considered mountain tribes there were a further eight tribes who claimed mountain territory and had access to both high plains and peaks.

The Jaitmathang country included the high country of Cobungra, Mt. Hotham and the Bogong High Plains to Mt. Stawell and Tongio on the Tambo river in the south, across to Mt. Tambo and Limestone Creek in the east of Tom Groggin on the Indi in the north-east and included the present day towns of Tawanga and Mitta Mitta on its northern extremities. The Jaitmathang country adjoined the Duduroa and Djilamatang tribes to the north, the Ngarigo to the east, the Brabiralung to the south and Minjambuta to the west.

The notion of fixed and rigid geographic boundaries appears to be a European conception that is probably not so easily applied to the pre-European era. In eastern Victoria it seems that the boundaries often overlapped, and there is also one possible instance of the opposite - a ‘no-mans land’ which was basically unoccupied and unclaimed. The boundaries between allied and related tribes (language and cultural links as well as agreed common ancestry) appear to have been more clearly defined and approximate the European idea. However the political boudaries between allies and relations often did not apply to the movements of small groups and individuals. This rather fluid definition of a boundary was often of little relevence when laws granted special access and rights to neighbouring tribes. This seems to be especially so with regards food laws. Howitt gives a good example of this in Gippsland when he described how the Brabiralung tribal members (whose claimed territory went from Mt. Hotham to the Gippsland Lakes) as having sole rights to the swan’s eggs on Raymond Island, even though the island itself was part of the Tatungalung tribe’s territory. The salient point being that the two tribes were closely related - culturally, ancestrally and linguistically. Such types of food laws that trangressed political boundaries probably originated out of a climate of abundance. Almost certainly similar rights of access after particular foods existed within the Jaitmathang territory although as far as I am aware none has been recorded. Almost certainly the Duduroa and possibly other Upper Murray tribes had access to Bogong moths in specific parts of Jaitmathang territory as well as probably harvesting the moths co-operatively with them."

Lake Omeo

"The Bogong moths were seasonally abundant and harvested from the crevices of granite boulders in the high country. Early European observers were obviously intrigued by this unusual example of insectivorous man and some made written references to the various aspects of gathering and cooking. As the Omeo Plains appears to have been one of the main congregating points both prior to, and during, the moth season the practice has consequently been closely associated with the Jaitmathang. Flood and others have noted that a number of other tribes in Victoria has access to the high country requisite for moth harvesting and probably also were moth hunters. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the moth season was the large numbers of Aboriginals observed on the Omeo Plains with estimates as high as one thousand along the upper reaches of the Mitta Mitta River. These figures indicate a seasonal movement of associated tribes and allies into Jaitmathang territory. They also suggest cooperation in moth gathering and common camping places. Whilst the moth season tends to show the borders as we understand them were almost non-existent between friendly and related tribes, all group and individual activities were probably closely governed and directed by custom.

To the south of the Jaitmathang were in complete enmity with the Brabiralung tribe. Common sense seems to suggest that the borders of the Upper Tambo Valley were overlapping and that each tribe may have had as many as three different boundaries - historic, geographic and actual. Assuming that in 1835 the Brabiralung were at the end of a period of expansion, the Tongio boundary may have been both their historical and actual one. Their geographic boundary would have included the headwaters of the Tambo and all the country south of the Great Dividing range. The Jaitmathang boundaries were the actual at Tongio, a geographic boundary which topography would suggest ran along the Angora and Fainting Ranges to the south and a historical one of no known location but just possibly beyond the geographic one to include the Tambo Crossing country. It is clear that some boundaries defined by Tindale are wrong. When all the additional complications above are taken into account and the fact that even the definition and usage of the word tribe is very loose both in its historical and contemporary contexts, then it can be seen that the boundaries drawn by academics and others are useful as guides only rather than being definitive or the “correct” or “last” word."


Alpine Areas

Sub-Alpine Woodland

Dry Open Forests

Wet Open Forests

Riverine Forests


Wilderness to Waste the ecology, politics, and economics of the Victorian Alps Community Research Action Centre (CRAC). 1981

p4 ‘The name (Alps) applies to high altitude areas in which there lies a winter covering of deep snow over herbfields and mountain tops...

As one comes down from the mountains and herbfields, colourful dwarfed and gnarled snowgums mark the beginning of the tree-line. Lower down, the snow gums straighten and grow taller, forming the highest forest environment. Beneath this level, grows a diversity of magnificent forests such as Alpine Ash, Mountain Ash, narrow leafed peppermint in accordance with many changes in ruggedness and climate. Throughout the Alpine area tall Shining Gum forests line many of the deep mountain valley streams and rivers...

The history of logging the Alps dates back to the 1800’s, when selective logging was practised ... However in the 1950’s, forestry operations intensified becoming more mechanised and soon turned to the environmentally destructive practice of clearfelling...

p8 Over 1000 native flowering plant and fern species have been reliably recorded from this region. Recent records of the native fauna comprise 34 mammal, 133 bird, 30 reptile, 17 amphibian, 13 fish and manu invertebrate species...

January 2002: View looking east from Dunstans Log Road. Mount Boebuck (1503m) lies to the right of the photo with Mount Kosciusko in the far distance.

Alpine Areas

Alpine heathlands, herbfields and grasslands occur above the treeline and similar sub-alpine plant communities may occur as small openings in snow gum woodlands or large plains many hectares in size. These alpine areas of ‘high plains’ support a surprisingly diverse flora. Many plants are rosette or carpet-formers, in response to a harsh environment where snow lies for months, where gales are frequent and the sunlight intense during summer. Colours and perfumes of alpine flowers are ofetn more striking than their counterparts at lower altitudes. Members of the daisy and sedge families are particularly numerous.

The mammal fauna of the alpine environment is distinctive and includes eleven species. Communities of small mammals are characteristic of heathlands, mosslands and sedgelands. Those are the brown and Swainson’s antechinus, bush rat, mountain pygmy possum (rocky areas) and broad-toothed rat. Sub alpine open areas have similar populations of herbivores, such as the common wombat and, in summer, the eastern grey kangaroo.

These open areas support a limited bird community; only 34 species have been recorded in them. Twenty-five of these are typical of lowland grasslands and visit the alpine and sub-alpine grasslands during summer, five are small insectivorous species that feed in low-heathlands and four are water-birds, frequenting streams and bogs.

Five reptile species - grass skink, water skink (cold-temperate species), alpine water skink (in mosslands), highlands copperhead and white-lipped snake, were recorded in alpine areas.

The common eastern froglet, Victorian froglet, Southern froglet, brown tree frog and Verreaux’s tree frog were collected in Alpine habitat.

Some insects are resident here, whilst others migrate to the open areas in summer. Most residents spend the winter in a dormant stage in their life cycle. In summer they become more active and join the migrants to form an abundant and varied community, which includes mountain cockroaches and grasshoppers, biting flies and nectar-seeking insects.

December 2001: Mount Wills looking south west from Razorback Spur Road.

Sub-Alpine Woodland

The snow gum thickets, woodland or open forest, mountain gum - snow gum open forest, and black sallee and open woodland have understorey plants that vary from heaths to grasses. They occupy large areas mainly in the higher elevations and vary considerably in structure.

Twenty four native mammals have been recorded, including the echidna and the large herbivores - eastern grey kangaroo, red necked wallaby, black wallaby and common wombat. Arboreal species are the bobuck, brush-tailed and ring-tailed possums, feather tailed glider, sugar glider and greater glider. Small terrestial mammals include the brown antechinus and bush-rat (all three commonly found), the rare mountain pygmy possum and smokey mouse. Bat species include the greater long-eared bat, little bat and Gould’s wattled bat.


December 2001: Limestone Gap Road with the Alpine National Park on the left side of the track. Coupe No: 12/682/506/0001. Montane Forest: Sub-Community RD 3.2. Limestone 01. This coupe is adjacent to the Alpine National Park and will yield only 1000 cubic metres of forest product of which about 80% will be woodchips.

Over 100 species of birds occur in the sub-alpine woodlands, most of these being insectivorous and only one of these species (cuckoos) is a summer migrant. The gang gang cockatoo, crimson rosella, fan-tailed cuckoo, brown thornbill, white-browed scrub wren, grey fantail, flame robin, yellow-faced honeyeater, pied currowong and grey currowong are common in sub-alpine woodlands.

Typical species of reptiles that occur in this habitat include the mountain dragon, grass skink, southern blue-tongue, white-lipped snake and highlands copperhead.

Four species of anurans - common eastern froglet, Victorian froglet, Southern froglet and Verreaux’s tree frog, occur in this habitat.

December 2001: 2002 logging coupe near Wheelers Creek Road - Corryong District. Coupe No: 12/700/554/0006 - Boomerang. 75% - 80% of this area will end up as woodchips.

Sub-alpine woodlands provide suitable habitat for many insect species. The beetles (Coleoptera); bugs (Hemiptera), ants, bees and wasps (Hymenoptera), lace-wings (Neuroptera) abd flies (Diptera) are all well represented. Characteristic butterflies are the grichora brown and correa brown, both of which feed on snow grass and other grasses in their larval stages.


Dry Open Forests

This habitat type consists of forests up to 28m high with understoreys that are mainly grassy or heathy, but may occassionally be shrubby. Main tree species are broad-leaf peppermint, red stringybark, long-leaf box, red box, brittle gum and silvertop. These forests occur in the lowland foothills.

December 2002: Old growth Alpine Ash inside coupe off Limestone Gap Road: 12/682/506/0001. Limestone 01. Montane Forest: Sub-Community RD 3.2. About 4km of the south side of Limestone Gap Track is due to be logged in 2002. This coupe is adjacent to the Alpine National Park and will yield only 1000 cubic metres of forest product of which about 80% will be woodchips.

Mammals found in wet open forests may also inhabit dry open forests. One monotreme, four macropods, the common wombat, long-nosed bandicoot, three small terrestria mammals, five bats, and dingoes have been recorded in dry open forests.

Dry open forests have a diverse avifauna. Of the 101 species recorded, the painted quail, white-throated nightjar, white-winged triller, spotted quail-thrush, white throated warbler, yellow-rumped thornbill, brown tree-creeper, diamond firetail and white-winged chough are largely restricted to this habitat type.

Reptilian species recorded in dry open forests include tree dragon, large striped skink, Cunningham’s skink, delicate skink, garden skink, three-toed skink, copper-tailed skink, red-bellied black snake, lowlands copperhead and small eyed snake.

Eleven species of anurans recorded in this forest type include the brown toadlet, Leseur’s frog, leaf-green tree frog and Verreaux’s tree frog.

The vegetation structure of this habitat (with its less dense canopies at lower heights) tends to increase the diversity of insect fauna. Moths and butterflies, beetles, bugs, flies, cockroaches, grasshoppers and ants, bees and wasps are all well represented in this habitat.

Wet Open Forests

This habitat type consists essentially of tall trees (more than 28m) with understoreys ranging from grasses to a dense layer of tall shrubs. Predominant trees are Mountain Ash, Alpine Ash, Messmate Stringy-bark, Narrow-leaf peppermint, Silvertop and Mountain gum. Mountain Ash, Silvertop and Messmate Stringybark are found virtually only south of the Divide.

Twenty-eight native mammal species have been recorded in this habitat. These include the large herbivores - eastern grey kangaroo, red necked wallaby, black wallaby and common wombat which are quite common. The long-nosed bandicoot, and tiger cat (quoll) are rare.

December 2001: Dunstan Snowy Creek Road. Coupe number: 12/686/508/0007. Snowy 07. Sassafras Gully. Due to be logged in 2002. If logging goes ahead about 80% of this coupe will end up as woodchips.

The bush rat and Ubrown and Swainson’s Antechinus are relatively common and wide-spread throughout this habitat type.

Most arboreal species are widespread; these include the brush-tailed and ring-tailed possums, bobuck and four glider species. The yellow-bellied glider and eastern pigmy possum have been recorded in this habitat type. Seven bat species recorded in this habitat type include the greater and lesser long-eared bats, Gould’s wattled bat, chocolate bat, Tasmanian pipistrelle and little brown bat.

Well over 100 species of birds are recorded in this type of forest. Of these, 44 are insectivorous, 14 honeyeaters, 11 fed on fruit and seed, 10 were carnivorous, 4 were omnivorous and 3 fed only on nectar. Species essentially restricted to this habitat include the wonga pigeon, king parrot, powerful owl, superb lyrebird, cicada-bird, rufous fantail, satin flycatcher, eastern whip-bird, eastern spinebill, satin bowerbird, Australian ground thrush, large billed scrub-wren and pilot bird.

Reptiles in this habitat include McCoy’s skink, Coventry’s skink, Spencer’s skink, tree dragon, grass skink, garden skink, three-lined skink, delicate skink and copperhead.

Eleven species of anurans including the giant burrowing froglet, brown striped frog, Leseur’s frog and leaf green tree frog have been recorded in wet open forests.

December 2001. Dunstan Snowy Creek Road. This old tree will most likely be destroyed if this logging road is widened to accomodate log trucks.

The tall trees, dense understoreys and thick little layers of these forests provide a number of habitats for a wide variety of insects and other invertebrates. A brief survey of insects in 1974 collected a number of species representing 12 orders and at least 76 families. These were mainly Diptera, and also many Coleoptera, Hemiptera and Hymenoptera. Leaf litter and logs provide the damp, dark habitats suitable for many invertebrates such as terrestial flat worms, nematode worms, leaches and molluscs.

Riverine Forests

Lowland forests of manna gum and narrow leaf peppermint forests or swamp gum woodlands are associated woth most of the main rivers in the study area, such as the Macalister, Buffalo, King, Ovens, Tambo and Rose Rivers. This habitat type also occurs along some minor tributaries. These forests can be dominated by rare restricted plant species (eg. Eucalyptus neglecta, E. phoro and E.perriniang.)

Many mammals found in riverine habitat are also collected in adjacent forests or various habitats close to streams. The 21 native species recorded in riverine forests include herbivorous mammals (such as eastern grey kangaroo, red-necked wallaby, black wallaby and common wombat), arboreal animals (such as brush-tailed and ring-tailed possums and Greater glider) and small terrestrial mammals (such as both brown and Swainson’s antechinus and bush rat).

Riverine forests with understoreys of herbs, ferns, wattles and other shrubs provide important habitats for many birds. Streamside vegetation in these forests provides cover and nest sites for many avian species, including the eastern whipbird, red-browed firetail, rufous fantail and pilot bird. Other species such as the crested shrike tit, noisy frierbird, yellow-tufted honeyeater, sacred king fisher and white-throated warbler frequent the taller trees.

Fourteen species of reptiles (including the garden skink and red-bellied black snake) are common in riverine forests.

Ten species of anorans (common eastern froglet, Victorian froglet, Eastern banjo frog, brown striped frog, Southern toadlet, brown tree frog, Leseur’s frog, Peron’s tree frog and Verreaux’s tree frog) occur in this habitat type.


This habitat type varies from swamps and streams in alpine environment, through streams in wet open forests to swamps and dams in dry open forests.

Two mammal species - the platypus and eastern water rat are expected to occur throughout the Alpine study area, however only the platypus is widespread.

January 2002: Logging coupe near Mount Cudgewa: Coupe No: 12/673/001/0012. This coupe includes what appears to be wetland which could be grossly affected by hydrological changes during and after logging.

The study area has few important waterbird habitats. Lowland swamps and river flats are feeding grounds for numbers of herons, ibis, spoonbills, rails, crakes, and waterhens. Black cormorants, little black cormorants, little pied cormorants and black-fronted dotterals are occassionally observed feeding along streams and rivers. Alpine wetlands are of great significance especially as drought refuges.

All of the fifteen species of anurans recorded in the study area were collected in wetland habitats.

Invertebrates that spend the whole or part of their life cycle in aquatic environments include various groups of insects (caddisflies, dragonflies, mayflies, stoneflies, bugs and biting flies), aquatic leeches abd at least six species of molluscs. Murray crayfish, yabbies and shield shrimps are known to occur in some wetland habitats.

December 2001: Remnant old growth in Snowy Creek catchment outside of planned logging coupes. Very few trees this age and size remain in this area.


December 2001: Recent logging near Mount Wills just off Omeo Highway.


The tree species known as Alpine Ash forms extensive, often pure, stands in much of the southeastern highlands of Australia. The best developed stands occur between the altitudes of 800 m and 1500 m on the mainland where rainfall is greater than 1000 mm p.a. and where moderate to heavy snowfalls occur in winter. On the wetter slopes this species is often associated with a ferny understorey sometimes with Myrtle Beech (Nothofagus cunninghamii) and other wet sclerophyll species. On the drier, more exposed sites, or where the soil is rocky abd shallow, herbs and grasses cover the ground of older Alpine ash stands. Here the band of this forest may be altitudinally thin or fragmented.

Although a lot of research has been undertaken on the regeneration of Alpine ash (Grose 1960) this work has been aimed mostly at ensuring commercially viable regrowth on logged sites. Very little is known about the natural ecology of this species, particularly with respect to the effect of fire.

December 2001: Dunstan Snowy Creek Road. Coupe number: 12/686/505/0002. Wills Creek 02. This area is due to be logged in 2002. About 80% of this coupe will be woodchipped if it is logged.

The practice of clearfelling forests, followed by burning of the remains and then artificial reseeding are incorrectly forwarded by the Forests Commission of Victoria as being a natural method of regeneration (and even that this is necessary for forests to continue). This leads to misconceptions in the public eye as to what the genuine extent of the environmental impact of these logging practices is on natural plant and animal communities. These notions also conjure up the idea that forests are being replaced with forests when in many instances such replacements are merely tree farms (i.e. largely single specied, similar to plantations or monocultures). It is only incidental that the replacement species is the same than that which was dominant in the pre-logging forest; in this case Alpine Ash.


It is a gross simplification to assume that Ash Eucalypts are “absolutely dependent upon severe fires to perpetuate the species” (Ritchie 1975:17). The observation of Cunningham (1960), with respect to Mountain Ash (E.regnans), that “stands consisting of two or sometimes more distinct age classes are relatively common in Victoria”, suggests that comparitively, light fires are also important. Alpine Ash has a “woollybutt” - a fibrous bark layer on the lower trunk - which protects it from smaller ground fires. Such fires remove the understorey, create an ashy bed, and may kill some of the weaker trees, so thinning the forest sufficiently to permit seedling development.

December 2001: Mount Wills area.Coupe 12/686/511/0001. Bottom End. To be logged 2001/2.

Strong winds also cause some trees to fall, thus opening up the canopy for seedlings to develop beneath. Such a mechanism is certainly sufficient to perpetuate the ash forest in a particular area. Similar regeneration may occur as the forest becomes old. Some of the trees may die, creating spaces, while others have their crowns thinned out or become damaged by the wind. If the remaining trees can no longer supply any viable seed, recolonisation may take place from adjacent younger forests. This local regeneration appears more than adequate to maintain the Alpine ash community (c.f. Wimbush and Costin 1979:79), and it is a fallacy to assume, as one FCV forester does, that “by 300 years the oldest surviving trees will have degenerated, died and crashed down into the dense understorey of scrub species, which, throughout the life of the stand of trees, has prevented any of its seedlings surviving and developing” (Ritchie 1975:17). In addition to the fact that Alpine ash trees may live to over 300 years (this being the approximate age at which they cease to produce viable seed), some of the older forests do not have a shrubby understorey. Shrubs such as Daviesia spp. are characteristics of the earlier stages of the development of the Alpine ash forest and eventually die out to be replaced by grasses and herbs. Park (1975) estimated that in the ecotone between Snowgum (E.pauciflora) woodland and Alpine Ash forest the understorey shrubs reach their peak of development about 40 years after fire and thereafter decline (in Wimbush and Costin 1978).



FIRE FREQUENCY Effect on drier Alpine ash forest. Effect on wetter Alpine ash forest.
Less than 50 years Existing trees killed. If trees very young regeneration may not occur due to lack of seed. Repeated firing may result in shrubland or wattle scrub. Existing trees killed.Young eucalypts may regenerate if of a seed-bearing age; myrtle beech may regenerate by coppicing, and from seed. Re-burning before forest closure can occur (30-40 years) kills much of the wet sclerophyll understorey.
50 - 120 years Existing trees killed. Dense even-aged regeneration. Shrubby understorey develops as forest thins out. After 40-60 years shrubs may start to be replaced by grasses/herbs.
Wet sclerophyll species may be slowly replaced by shrubs and more fire resisant species, so a mixed forest may be maintained.
120 - 300 years Existing trees killed. Dense even-aged regeneration.As competition thins trees out, shrub understorey develops, to be superseded by grasses/ herbs. Mature open woodland results after about 120 years without fire. Mixed forests of eucalypts and wet sclerophyll species can be maintained by fires of this frequency, as long as the eucalypts become established.
Over 300 years Existing trees killed. Subsequent development to mature stands. After 300 years trees start to die out; regeneration may occur in spaces created. tion will occur, even after Thin, mixed aged woodland with grass/herb understorey may eventually result. Dense wet sclerophyll understorey prevents eucalypt regeneration. If eucalypts become senile, no regeneration will occur, even after fire. A pure stand myrtle beech forest may result.
LOW INTENSITY FIRES Low intensity fires may kill understorey species and a few of the weaker eucalypts. Some regeneration of ash can occur in places where the canopy is relatively open. A mixed-age forest can result. Repeated fires in a wet sclerophyll understorey are unlikely, since severe fires are necessary to burn these wet forests - all fires are likely to be high intensity.

Though there is little information available, the best estimate of the pre-European fire frequency in the alps, considering the ages of the forests encountered by the first settlers, is probably of the order of 150-300 years. As Wimbush and Costin, (1979:79,81) have observed, “extensive natural wildfires are very infrequent in the sub-alpine areas” and with respect to the old snowgum forests: “the very existence of the old trees argues for a much-reduced fire frequency in the pre-grazing era”.


Undisturbed forests are a complex system in which plants, animals, water, soil and minerals interact to maintain an overall sense of balance, though it is constantly changing.

The degree of alteration as a result of Forestry operations depends both on the forest type and the nature and intensity of the disturbance.

Soil is an important medium regulating both nutrient and water flows. Forest soils areusually permeable and direct runoff is low compared with groundwater drainage. The water percolating through the soil contains dissolved elements including vital plant nutrients (such as Ca, Mg, K, P, Zn, Fe, Cu, Mo, S and N). The long term stability of the forest depends upon a continual balance between the output and input of nutrients. Inputs include dry fallout in the form of dust, substances dissolved in rainwater, nutrients fixed by microorganisms and breakdown of the bedrock. Losses are mainly caused by water leaching and erosion. The soil is stabilised by the forest. This is achieved by the binding action of plant roots and by protecting the soil surface from falling raindrops. Plants also promote soil particle aggregation which inhibits their removal by moving water. Under a forest natural erosion is minimised.

December 2001: Mount Wills area. Coupe 12/686/510/0011. Leftover. To be logged 2002.

When the forest is removed, water runoff increases because of a number of effects:

(i) a decrease in the ability of the soil to soak up water.

(ii) loss of plant transpiration (transpiration being, the taking up of water from the ground by plants and evaporating it into the air).

(iii) lack of rainfall interception by tree cover.

This extra water flow can carry away abnormal quantities of plant nutrients and particulate matter which has been deprived of the stabilising influence afforded by the forest vegetation. This upsetting of the ecological balance has been monitored for several logged catchment areas and estimates of the extent of erosion and nutrient loss have been derived. Clearing of an experimental watershed in New Hampshire, USA, resulted in nutrient losses of from three to twenty times the normal outflow (Borman et al. 1968, 1969). The loss of nitrogen was particularly significant, and in the first year after felling, an amount equivalent to the whole year’s entire turnover was lost. The clearing also had a marked effect on runoff, the expected quantity being exceeded by an average of 40%, and by 418% in the wetter months. The speed with which the water drains from deforested areas has a great bearing in increased soil erosion.

The relationship between increased runoff and increased sedimentation load has been noted by several authors including Bormann et al. (1969), Tamm et al. (1974), Pierce et al. (1972), and Cornich (1975). Typical sediment loads under natural conditions rarely exceed 10 p.p.m. (parts per million), while after forest clearing loads of over 70,000 p.p.m. have been recorded.

When logging is the object of the clearing operation, nutrients are lost in the timber removed from the site and in the burning that is often practised to aid subsequent regeneration. In most forests the trunks of trees individually do not contain large quantities of nutrients, except for Ca. when compared with other constituents of the eco-system, but in total their removal may have a significant effect on the total nutrient cycle. However, despite the fact that the trunks do not contain these large proportions of nutrients they may contain certain limiting nutrients which are present only in very small amounts in the relatively nutrient-poor ecosystems commonly encountered in the Australian region. One such limiting nutrient is phosphorus (Australian Senate Inquiry 1977:60). Also the leaves and bark do contain a large store of nutrients, often in concentrated form. Piles of slash, or discarded leaves, branches and bark also constitute local concentrations of nutrients. This nutrient redistribution often results in differential quality of regeneration and hinders normal sucessional sequences.

Harwood and Jackson (1975) have demonstrated that burning is also a significant contributor to loss of the important plant nutrients, phosphorous (P), potassium (K), Calcium (Ca) and Magnesium (Mg).

The impact of soil and nutrient loss in not only felt by the forest ecosystem, but is often significant at large distances from the cleared site. Streams become turbid with the high sediment loadings and the light penetration which is essential for the growth of acquatic plants and algae is reduced. These plants and algae provide food and shelter for a myriad of aquatic organisms which in turn form links in a food chain which culminates in higher animals such as birds and fish. Nutrient loss from forest clearing can therefore affect the ecology of inland waters, and excessive nitrogen in runoff waters often results in large algal blooms and is referred to as eutrophication of waterways. Algal blooms are very high build-ups of microscopic water plants which foul waterways.

December 2001: Ongoing logging activity in the Mount Wills area/Lightning Creek headwaters north of Razorback Spur Track. About 4-5km north east of Mount Wills.

The removal of vegetation has obvious effects on the fauna inhabiting the forest. The nutrient rich leaves, bark and twigs which constitute the first part of most forest food chains are no longer available in the same location or quantity, and the variety of habitats present in even a simple forest is depleted. The extent to which this affects individual species depends largely on the area cleared and the degree of dependence of a given species on the forest habitat.

The animals most likely to be affected by deforestation are the resident species which may be either “non-dependent” (often found in, but not totally reliant on the forest habitat), and “wholly dependent” species. Many dependent forest dwellers rely on structural features such as hollow trees or a particular vegetation layer (canopy, secondary tree layer, understorey) for food, shelter or nest sites. Others may utilise a particular floristic constituent such as a specific plant species as a primary food source.

The loss of any one species will be felt throughout the entire food chain. If, for example, an insectivorous bird species is eliminated due to the removal of all of the hollow nest trees, defoliating insects may increase in numbers and feed on regenerating trees, which will, in turn, affect all of the herbivores that rely on these trees. Even changes which affect the microorganisms of the forest floor may subsequently induce changes in many intricate mineralisation networks which contribute to the stability of the ecosystem. Energy and nutrient pathways are therefore modified in profound and unpredictable ways.

The most extensive study of the effects of clearfelling on an animal species in Australia, has been carried out by Tyndale-Biscoe and Smith (1969) on the Greater Glider (Schoinobates volans). The process of clearfelling resulted in the death of over 90% of the glider population, with only a few individuals surviving on the boundaries of the adjacent forest.

The problem of determining the minimum area of habitat required for a viable population of any particular species has long been debated, with forestry officials often believing that corridors of intact vegetation beside streams or on steep slopes is sufficient. However, Tyndale-Biscoe and Calaby (1975) feel that for a relatively abundant species such as the glider considered above, a reserve of 6,000 ha would be a minimum requirement. For dependent species that are less abundant, the area would need to be increased proportionately, and Main and Yadav (1971) have suggested areas of 20,000 ha. If this estimation is correct. large scale forestry operations pose a serious threat to many higher animals dependent on the diversity of habitat that natural forest ecosystems provide.

The problem of determining the minimum area of habitat required for a viable population of any particular species has long been debated, with forestry officials often believing that corridors of intact vegetation beside streams or on steep slopes is sufficient. However, Tyndale-Biscoe and Calaby (1975) feel that for a relatively abundant species such as the glider considered above, a reserve of 6,000 ha would be a minimum requirement. For dependent species that are less abundant, the area would need to be increased proportionately, and Main and Yadav (1971) have suggested areas of 20,000 ha. If this estimation is correct. large scale forestry operations pose a serious threat to many higher animals dependent on the diversity of habitat that natural forest ecosystems provide.


Since Alpine ash forests are a feature of many highland valleys, their importance is much greater than their discontinuous occurrence would suggest. The scenic value and ecology of whole valleys depends in part on the preservation of these Ash stands.

Alpine Ash logging has so far taken place in the most mature forests and in others originating from the fires such as 1851. Major sawlog harvesting in the Australian Alps did not begin until the 1930s.

The extensive 1939 fire regrowth is not yet suitable for logging for high quality sawlogs. Ash trees preferably need to by over 80 years to produce such quality sawlogs. Younger trees have less usable wood volume and their internal stresses generally produce timber which is more likely to buckle and split.

Since the mature forests are rapidly running out, and the 1939 regrowth is some 20 years from being in a usable state, and is in different locations to the mature stands, some changes in the structure of the industry are inevitable. The proposed management is for a 50-120 years rotation time between successive fellings, which would mean a drop in sawlog quality, and an increase in the availability of pulpwood. This appears to be part of a long-term plan on the part of the timber interests whereby conditions are being created to attempt to justify large-scale clearfelling for wood pulp. Such a development would appear to spell disaster for this forest type. This course of action would degrade Ash forests into a young, undermature tree farm with little wildlife value and minimal scenic amenity. Mature Alpine ash forest that was the main type present before logging activities commenced will virtually disappear under current and proposed FCV management with its emphasis on pulpwood production as foreshadowed by Gunnersen (1979:14).


(1) Alpine ash does not need logging to ensure its survival, if a natural fire regime is allowed. Even without fire some Alpine Ash stands are viable, while others may convert to wet sclerophyll or Rainforest (not very often) thus retaining ecologic and scenic value.

(2) Much of the forestry literature argues for some equivalence of logging with natural fire disturbance. This arguement is highly tenuous as many studies have reported on environmentally detrimental effects of logging operations on forest succession, energy and nutrient cycles, and wildlife.

(3) Proposed logging management will therefore degrade Ash forests into young, undermature tree stands, unsuitable for many forms of dependent forest wildlife. (4) Mature and overmature Alpine ash forests, which were the main type of forest present before logging operations commenced, will virtually disappear, as will the wildlife along with them, under the present FCV management practices.”


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