Setting the record straight - VicForests

Friday 15 Mar 2024

Recent public commentary about the closure of VicForests has included numerous false and misleading claims

VicForests knows there are individuals and organisations who are opposed to native timber harvesting who will be celebrating VicForests’ closure. But this doesn’t mean it’s open season – and it will never be acceptable to treat the men and women of VicForests with blatant disrespect.

False claims do harm. This includes the impact on the mental health and wellbeing of people who have dedicated themselves to the management of forests for future generations.

The most offensive category of false claims being made is the suggestion VicForests is “rogue” or a “cowboy agency”. These claims are demonstrably false – but repeated often by those opposed to the legal activity undertaken by VicForests in furtherance of longstanding government policy.

VicForests is a government agency, overseen by an independent Board and otherwise subject to the ordinary governance obligations and control of any government agency. The executives and staff of VicForests are Victorian public servants. It is self-evident that if VicForests was acting otherwise than in accordance with Government policy – or behaving illegally - then it was clearly within the power of the Government to intervene.

The system of regulation in Victoria is based on compliance with explicit rules to manage known threats to the environment that have been developed by forestry and environmental experts over many years. These legal rules balance environmental objectives with economic and social objectives. This balance is required by the Principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development – which is a cornerstone of Australian and International environmental law.

VicForests has repeatedly demonstrated its commitment to meeting, and often exceeding, the explicit rules set by Government. It has never been prosecuted by the independent environment regulator. 

This is backed up by the latest published independent audit result from the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action, which saw VicForests achieve an average of 96% compliance across four environment areas: environmental values in State forests, conservation of biodiversity, operational planning and record keeping, and coupe infrastructure for timber harvesting operations. The 96% average compliance findings are a testament to the work our staff undertake in Victoria’s state forests.

So contrary to false claims, our people are passionate about the health of forest ecosystems and remain committed to the care of Victoria’s forests. Our staff have specialist degrees and are professionals in a range of fields from environmental and forest scientists to ecologists, policy and compliance officers, research and modelling analysts. Our expert foresters specialise in tactical and operational planning, roading, harvesting and contract management, silviculture and native forest regeneration.

This includes foresters who have put their lives at risk over the last month, as they have many times before, directly fighting fires threatening people, homes and forests throughout Victoria.

And we are proud of the legacy we leave behind. Timber harvested by VicForests is now in countless homes, public buildings and products throughout Australia. Through the 20 years of its existence VicForests met its mission by selling 25.9 million m3 of timber to customers, generating around $1.8 billion in direct revenue for the State and many billions in economic activity – mostly in rural and regional towns.

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Source: VicForests

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