Brown Mountain old growth forest

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Brown Mountain old growth forest and Errindundra National Park
Unprotected old growth Shining Gum at Brown Mountain
Unprotected old growth Shining Gum at Brown Mountain
Protest against the logging of Brown Mountain at the Victorian parliament
Protest against the logging of Brown Mountain at the Victorian parliament
Stump of Brown Mountain old growth tree logged in November 2008, radiocarbon dated at over 500 years old
Stump of Brown Mountain old growth tree logged in November 2008, radiocarbon dated at over 500 years old

The wonderful old growth forest of Brown Mountain in East Gippsland is now being logged. There are more than 50 trees over 300 years old in this area of forest, which is adjacent to Errinundra National Park.

The Labor Party pledged during the 2006 State election that:

In addition to the Goolengook Block, a Labor Government will immediately protect remaining significant stands of old growth forest currently available for timber harvesting by including them in the National Parks and reserves system.[1]

This Brumby Government has broken this promise. The bulldozers moved in late October 2008 and clear felling of the forest commenced.

It is worth noting that none of the forest areas specified for protection have actually been protected yet either, 2 years after the election. It seems that the Brumby government supports clearfelling old growth forest as "business as usual" despite the forests critical role in storing carbon (over 1000 tonnes per hectare) and providing water for the depleted Snowy River catchment.[2]

These forests also provide habitat for threatened species such as the Powerful Owl, the Spot Tailed Quoll, mainland Australia's largest marsupial carnivore, and the Long-footed Potoroo, Victoria's rarest marsupial. The endangered Orbost Spiny Cray has been found in Brown Mountain Creek.

The government has claimed it is delivering a 5,000 ha link between the Snowy and Errinundra National Parks, but including this area of Brown Mountain is a vital part of this link.


A brief history of Brown Mountain

East Gippsland's forests have been heavily clearfell logged now for 35 years. Logging of heritage listed National Estate forests commenced in 1989. Brown Mountain was targeted for logging . Protests in the forests eventually halted the logging there, but the remaining old growth forest was not all protected.

Brown Mountain was assessed and listed as an old growth National Estate area by the Commonwealth Heritage Commission in the 1980s, which means it has the same values as a National Park. The management of these areas were handed to the state government which promptly set about clearfelling them in 1989.

The protests on Brown Mountain against logging there attracted much media attention when 300 people were arrested and charged with entering the area being logged. A moratorium was put on the logging while the state govermenet carried out a "Prudent and Feasible Study" into alternatives to logging National Estate listed forests.

As compensation for the year-long moratorium, the Federal Government gave the State Government (Premier of the time - John Cain, Kay Setches was minister) $10 million. This was used to push new roads into the heart of the very areas being studied - in anticipation of the outcome. It was also used to carry out plantation trials in regrowth forests - part of the long-term agenda to convert publicly owned native forests into industrial tree farms.

Labor government response to concerns about the logging

When queried about this decision to destroy the old growth forest, the response from Premier Brumby’s office was "since VicForests have moved the contractors in, there nothing we can do".

Premier Brumby's office was called on this matter on 30 October 2008 and advised that nobody could assist over the telephone, and that the best way to raise concerns about the logging were to email the Premier at [email protected]

Old growth forest maps of Brown Mountain

DSE map illustrating unprotected Brown Mountain old growth, circled
DSE map illustrating unprotected Brown Mountain old growth, circled

Victoria's Department of Sustainability and Environment's (DSE) own maps show that the area of Brown Mountain forest in question is old growth forest, which proves that it should have been included in the forest areas announced for protection in 2006, and therefore should not be logged.

The Old Growth Forest Walk - Goongerah

Labor's 2006 National Parks and Biodiversity policy included a commitment to create the Old Growth Forest Walk - Goongerah in the area of Brown Mountain old growth forest now being logged. The location of this walk has been agreed with DSE verbally, and during two site visits at Brown Mountain that included several representatives from DSE and the community.

The promise to construct this walk at Brown Mountain has been broken by the Brumby Labor Government. If the entire area is logged as planned, there will be no old growth forest left to walk through.

One of the logging coupes has even been named "The Walk" by DSE, which is a cruel irony.

Details of logging

Brown Mountain old growth coupes – 840-502-0020 is currently being logged
Brown Mountain old growth coupes – 840-502-0020 is currently being logged

This area contains 3 highly contentious coupes (840-502-0015, 840-502-0019, 840-502-0020). Coupe 840-502-0020 is currently being logged. It is now within a designated "Public Safety Zone" and access by the public is therefore prohibited by the Victorian state government. The VicForests Couple plan for 840-502-0020 is called "The Walk".

A total of 60 hectares (20 hectares per coop) has been allocated for logging.

As at December 2, 2008 about 10 hectares has been logged from the first area.

The logging activities are providing employment for 4 people for about 6 weeks.

Over 80 percent of what is logged in East Gippsland ends up as woodchips, according to VicForests, as a claimed byproduct from timber harvesting.

During the 2006-2007 over a 12 month period a total of 6,250 hectares of native forests was logged across Victoria.

Link to climate change

Brown mountain forest are among the most carbon dense forests in the world, storing in excess of 1200 tonnes of carbon per hectare in the trees, biomass, soil and leaf litter. This remains at a constant level in old growth forests.

Between 500 to 1000 tonnes per hectare of carbon is released when this forest is logged, including leaves, branches and tree tops which are burnt, and log residues which then rot. Some carbon is stored long term in the timber and wood products that are produced from these forests including flooring, furniture and house framing. However, less than 2% of the timber that is logged ends up as furniture.

Logging these specific Brown Mountain forests is therefore likely to result in excess of 10,000 tonnes of carbon emissions, none of which are accounted or paid for. The carbon emissions from logging this area alone are equivalent to an additional 2,500 cars on Victorian roads.

Minister's response to question in parliament confirms logging of old growth

On November 12, 2008, Sue Pennecuik (Greens MP) asked the following question of Environment Mininster Gavin Jennings in the Victorian Parliament:

"Will the minister confirm that three logging coupes at Brown Mountain in East Gippsland — numbers 840-502-15, 19 and 20 that are mapped by the Department of Sustainability and Environment as old-growth forest — have been approved for clear-felling this season, that one is almost fully logged, and that this is in contravention to the Labor Party’s 2006 commitment to protect the last significant stands of Victoria’s old-growth forests currently available for logging?"

Some of the the response from Gavin Jennings:

..."Is there activity currently being undertaken in East Gippsland that is a source of contention in relation to the appropriateness of it being allocated for harvesting activity and being subject to protest activity?’, I can confirm that that is absolutely happening."
"Subsequently the election commitment — which was that we would increase the reserve system within East Gippsland — at one level may have been interpreted to mean that there would be absolutely no logging in areas that may be seen to be old growth, but they are not mutually exclusive commitments. In fact the coupes in question continue to be in areas known as general management zones within the forest."[3]

Supplementary question

Ms PENNICUIK (Southern Metropolitan) — The minister and I might disagree on what is on the maps. One of these logging coupes has been named ‘The Walk’ by VicForests in reference to the local community’s marked and tracked tourist walk, which was also committed to by the Labor government as the ‘Old Growth Forest Walk — Goongerah’. How is this consistent with the current logging operation?

Some of the the response from Gavin Jennings:

Again, this may be an area of contention.— It is an area of contention where people purport that there had been an alignment of a walk that had been adopted by the various state agencies. Despite the fact that there are many passionate and committed people — and good on them for being passionate and committed to environmental outcomes and sustainability in this area and generally — there has been no formal adoption of any delineation of a walking track by government agencies or the government that will define how the commitment to those walks will be delivered on the ground.

Greens MP Sue Pennicuik has described the logging on Brown Mountain as "state sanctioned vandalism"[4]

VicForest's response

VicForests has attempted to defend the clear-fell logging of old-growth forest near Brown Mountain in East Gippsland. The East Gippsland manager of VicForests, Barry Vaughan, says "the area was not part of the State Government's election promise to protect more forests".

In doing so, VicForests is ignoring the commitment made in Labor policy to protect the last remaining stands of old growth forests in Victoria available for logging.[5]

Department of Sustainability and Environment's response

Many people who contacted Premier Brumby of Minister Jennings to asked them to protect Brown Mountain from logging received this response in December 2008 from Janine Haddow, Executive Director for Natural Resources, DSE: fileicon-small-pdf.png LOGGING IN BROWN MOUNTAIN info_circle.png

Unfortunately, Ms Haddow did not adequately address the concerns raised.

  • She did not address Labor's broken policy commitment to "immediately protect remaining significant stands of old growth forest currently available for timber harvesting by including them in the National Parks and reserves system."
  • She chose to ignore that fact that Brown Mountain forest should have been included in the forest areas specified for protection because it is designated as old growth forest by the Department of Sustainability and Environment and it forms an important part of the link between the Errinundra and Snowy River National Parks, the creation of which was also a policy commitment.
  • Ms Haddow’s assertion that "logging occurs on a very small proportion of Victoria’s public land estate" is simply not relevant. No old growth forest should be now logged, as Labor's policy states.
  • Ms Haddow’s other assertion that "over time the net result from logging Victoria’s native forest is an absolute reduction in greenhouse gas concentrations" is not correct. A scientific study by Mackey, Keith, Berry and Lindenmeyer (2008) found that:

“the carbon stock of forests subject to commercial logging, and of monoculture plantations in particular, will always be significantly less on average (40 to 60 percent depending on intensity of land use and forest type) than the carbon stock of natural, undisturbed forests.”

Breaches of the Code of Forest Practices

DSE sign restricting access
DSE sign restricting access

Several serious breaches of the Code of Practice for Timber Production 2007 have occurred during the recent logging at Brown Mountain. The following breaches have been reported with photographic evidence:

  1. Bulldozing of mixed rainforest along Brown Mountain Creek in readiness to start clearfelling the adjoining stand of ancient forest.
  2. A logging contractor is being investigated for theft of burls.
  3. A huge old tree has been felled outside the coupe boundary – this is illegal logging.
  4. Used oil filters from bulldozers have been discarded on the ground which will contaminate soil and eventually water courses.
  5. The endangered Orbost Spiny Cray has been found in Brown Mountain Creek

Logging has continued against occupational health and safety regulations when members of the public are present. Worksafe is apparently investigating this.

VicForests has prohibited access to the nearby Errinundra National Park via the tourist road for the past 3 months of summer holidays - with no alternative route offered. This is unacceptable. The public must have access to our National Parks.

The government halts logging for two weeks

Anti-logging campaigners won a two-week reprieve after claiming to have discovered four threatened species in old-growth forest earmarked for harvesting. Scientists working on behalf of Environment East Gippsland say a survey last weekend found endangered glider, owl and crayfish species in a coupe at Brown Mountain.[6]

DSE is now conducting an ecology survey of the forest, which should have been performed prior to commencement of logging. If they confirm the presence of threatened species, as is likely, these forests will have to be permanently protected.

Protest on the steps of the Victorian parliament, November 7, 2008

Protest on the steps of the Victorian parliament, December 2, 2008

Logged Brown Mountain tree dated at over 500 years old

Environment East Gippsland (EEG) has radiocarbon-tested a felled old-growth Brown Mountain eucalypt and the result suggests the giant gum was between 500 to 600 years old. A sample of a felled tree has been radiocarbon dated by the University of Waikato in New Zealand. [7]

Jill Redwood, EEG coordinator, stated:

"Considering that ancient trees like these have been chainsawed down every day across south-east Australia, no-one has ever been able to give a definitive age on the trees"
"They have got the bulk of a blue whale. They are just the land giants of the planet."
"If this was a human artefact, it would be an incredibly precious antique, but because it is a tree they just think it can be cut down and sell it off for a song and most of it goes to wood chips."
"We are hoping like hell that they are going to start realising that they can't replace these trees in the cycle of a logging cut. At the moment they are saying they are protecting a certain per cent so that is OK and they can log the rest."


Videos of Brown Mountain and the logging

Single massive log on truck filmed near Goongerah
Brown Mountain forest in peril
Logging Brown Mountain and Brumby's broken promise
Save Brown Mountain
Brown mountain forest and logging

See also

More information, photos and external links


  1. Labor protects last significant old growth stands, 17 November 2006 (PDF)
  2. Nothing natural about selection of which trees die, Adam Morton, The Age, November 10, 2008
  3. HANSARD: Timber industry: East Gippsland logging, Forest Letter Watch Blog
  4. Logging on Brown Mountain is state sanctioned vandalism, Media Release, Australian Greens Victoria, November 7, 2008
  5. VicForests defends Brown Mountain logging, ABC News, November 13, 2005
  6. Logging on hold over species, The Age, January 29, 2009]
  7. Felled old-growth tree '500 years old', Samantha Donovan,, 2 April 2009
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