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Chapter 5 Suppressed Science

Suppressed Science

tyers river

Chapter 5.pdf download here

Summary

In late 1993, the then Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) completed a study, ‘Ecological Survey Report No.46 - Flora and Fauna of the Eastern and Western Tyers Forest Blocks and Adjacent South-Eastern Slopes of Baw Baw National Park, Central Gippsland, Victoria’ (Davies et al 1993). The report was the first DCNR ecological survey for the Central Highlands’ Gippsland area and was carried out by the Flora and Fauna Survey Team set up by the State-wide Planning Policy Advisory Group – an initiative of the then Minister for Conservation, Forests and Lands. The report was commissioned as the result of public concern over the potential impacts of major road networks and logging on environmental values in the forests of the Central Highlands of Victoria. The report initially comprised of the following chapters:

1) General aspects of the Upper Tyers River Catchment

2) Vegetation

3) Mammals

4) Birds

5) Amphibians and Reptiles

6) Fish

7) Butterflies

8) Conservation of Flora and Fauna

9) Significant Communities and Habitats

10) Effects of Land Use Activities on Flora and Fauna

11) Biologically Significant Sites and Wildlife Corridors

Upon the publishing of the report in 1994, Chapters 8, 9 and 10 were removed. Chapter 11 became Chapter 8, however, the biologists’ recommendations for the management of Biologically Significant Sites and wildlife corridors were removed in Chapter 8. Upon being published, the report was withdrawn by the DCNR, and what remained of chapter 8 (originally chapter 11) and the map locating the sites, were removed. The report was reissued with the pages of chapter 8 and the map simply ‘missing’. The removal of this information prevented forest management from being adequately informed about the significance of the region (Hansard 1999). Since then, the Upper Tyers River Catchment has been subject to extensive clearfell logging. The Central Highlands Alliance Inc. located the deleted chapters and presents their findings and recommendations below. The following also provide testimony of why the chapters were deleted. These are covered in the following sections:

• Purpose for reporting on the Upper Tyers River Catchment (Section 5.2)

• Details of the ‘Deleted; Chapters (Section 5.3)

• Biologically Significant Sites and Wildlife Corridors (Section 5.4)

• Significance of Sites Identified (Section 5.5)

• Why were the Chapters and the Map detailing the Sites deleted? (Section 5.6)

• What are the Impacts? (Section 5.7)

• Sites of significance as outlined in the Central Highlands Forest Management Plan (Section 5.8)

• Implications for future management (Section 5.9)

The Chair of the Senate hearing on the Regional Forest Agreement Bill described the act of suppressing this information as a fairly serious charge (Hansard 1999). It reveals that forest management acted in the interest of meeting ‘unsustainable’ timber and pulp license commitments at the expense of forest biodiversity and the public good.

Suppressed Science

tyers river

Chapter 5.pdf download here

Summary

In late 1993, the then Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) completed a study, ‘Ecological Survey Report No.46 - Flora and Fauna of the Eastern and Western Tyers Forest Blocks and Adjacent South-Eastern Slopes of Baw Baw National Park, Central Gippsland, Victoria’ (Davies et al 1993). The report was the first DCNR ecological survey for the Central Highlands’ Gippsland area and was carried out by the Flora and Fauna Survey Team set up by the State-wide Planning Policy Advisory Group – an initiative of the then Minister for Conservation, Forests and Lands. The report was commissioned as the result of public concern over the potential impacts of major road networks and logging on environmental values in the forests of the Central Highlands of Victoria. The report initially comprised of the following chapters:

1) General aspects of the Upper Tyers River Catchment

2) Vegetation

3) Mammals

4) Birds

5) Amphibians and Reptiles

6) Fish

7) Butterflies

8) Conservation of Flora and Fauna

9) Significant Communities and Habitats

10) Effects of Land Use Activities on Flora and Fauna

11) Biologically Significant Sites and Wildlife Corridors

Upon the publishing of the report in 1994, Chapters 8, 9 and 10 were removed. Chapter 11 became Chapter 8, however, the biologists’ recommendations for the management of Biologically Significant Sites and wildlife corridors were removed in Chapter 8. Upon being published, the report was withdrawn by the DCNR, and what remained of chapter 8 (originally chapter 11) and the map locating the sites, were removed. The report was reissued with the pages of chapter 8 and the map simply ‘missing’. The removal of this information prevented forest management from being adequately informed about the significance of the region (Hansard 1999). Since then, the Upper Tyers River Catchment has been subject to extensive clearfell logging. The Central Highlands Alliance Inc. located the deleted chapters and presents their findings and recommendations below. The following also provide testimony of why the chapters were deleted. These are covered in the following sections:

• Purpose for reporting on the Upper Tyers River Catchment (Section 5.2)

• Details of the ‘Deleted; Chapters (Section 5.3)

• Biologically Significant Sites and Wildlife Corridors (Section 5.4)

• Significance of Sites Identified (Section 5.5)

• Why were the Chapters and the Map detailing the Sites deleted? (Section 5.6)

• What are the Impacts? (Section 5.7)

• Sites of significance as outlined in the Central Highlands Forest Management Plan (Section 5.8)

• Implications for future management (Section 5.9)

The Chair of the Senate hearing on the Regional Forest Agreement Bill described the act of suppressing this information as a fairly serious charge (Hansard 1999). It reveals that forest management acted in the interest of meeting ‘unsustainable’ timber and pulp license commitments at the expense of forest biodiversity and the public good.

5.0 Scientific Reporting 1990-1994. 14

5.1 Introduction. 14

5.2 Purpose for reporting on the Upper Tyers River Catchment 15

5.3 Overview of the Deleted Chapters. 15

5.3.1 Significant Communities and Habitats. 17

5.3.2 Effects of Land Use Activities on Flora and Flora. 17

5.4 Biologically Significant Sites and Wildlife Corridors. 18

5.4.1 Criteria for the Assessment of Biological Significance. 19

5.5 Significance of Sites Identified. 20

Sourced from Davies et al (1994) 21

5.5.1 Site 1 – Montane Slopes. 21

5.5.2 Site 2 – Tyers River West Branch. 22

5.5.3 Site 3 – Saxton Rainforest 23

5.5.4 Site 4 – Eastern Tyers Ecologically Mature Forest 23

5.5.5 Site 5 – Growler Creek. 24

5.5.7 Wildlife Corridors. 27

5.5.8 Details of Map 2. 27

5.5.9 Recommendations for Biologically Significant Sites. 27

5.6 Why were the Chapters and the map detailing the sites deleted?. 29

5.7 What are the impacts?. 30

5.8 Sites of Significance as outlined in the Central Highlands FMP. 34

5.9 Implications for Future Management 36

5.0 Scientific Reporting 1990-1994

 

5.1 Introduction

 

In late 1993, the then Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) completed a study, ‘ Ecological Survey Report No.46 - Flora and Fauna of the Eastern and Western Tyers Forest Blocks and Adjacent South-Eastern Slopes of Baw Baw National Park, Central Gippsland, Victoria’ (Davies et al 1993). The report was the first DCNR ecological survey for the Central Highlands’ Gippsland area and was carried out by the Flora and Fauna Survey Team set up by the State-wide Planning Policy Advisory Group – an initiative of the then Minister for Conservation, Forests and Lands. The report was commissioned as the result of public concern over the potential impacts of major road networks and logging on environmental values in the forests of the Central Highlands of Victoria. The report initially comprised of the following chapters:

1) General aspects of the Upper Tyers River Catchment

2) Vegetation

3) Mammals

4) Birds

5) Amphibians and Reptiles

6) Fish

7) Butterflies

8) Conservation of Flora and Fauna

9) Significant Communities and Habitats

10) Effects of Land Use Activities on Flora and Fauna

11) Biologically Significant Sites and Wildlife Corridors

 

Upon the publishing of the report in 1994, Chapters 8, 9 and 10 were removed. Chapter 11 became Chapter 8, however, the biologists’ recommendations for the management of Biologically Significant Sites and wildlife corridors were removed in Chapter 8. Upon being published, the report was withdrawn by the DCNR, and what remained of chapter 8 (originally chapter 11) and the map locating the sites, were removed. The report was reissued with the pages of chapter 8 and the map simply ‘missing’. The removal of this information prevented forest management from being adequately informed about the significance of the region (Hansard 1999). Since then, the Upper Tyers River Catchment has been subject to extensive clearfell logging. The Central Highlands Alliance Inc. located the deleted chapters and presents their findings and recommendations below. The following also provide testimony of why the chapters were deleted. These are covered in the following sections:

 

  • Purpose for reporting on the Upper Tyers River Catchment (Section 5.2)

 

  • Details of the ‘Deleted; Chapters (Section 5.3)

 

  • Biologically Significant Sites and Wildlife Corridors (Section 5.4)

 

  • Significance of Sites Identified (Section 5.5)

 

  • Why were the Chapters and the Map detailing the Sites deleted? (Section 5.6)

 

  • What are the Impacts? (Section 5.7)

 

  • Sites of significance as outlined in the Central Highlands Forest Management Plan (Section 5.8)

 

  • Implications for future management (Section 5.9)

 

The Chair of the Senate hearing on the Regional Forest Agreement Bill described the act of suppressing this information as a fairly serious charge (Hansard 1999). It reveals that forest management acted in the interest of meeting ‘unsustainable’ timber and pulp license commitments at the expense of forest biodiversity and the public good.

 

5.2 Purpose for reporting on the Upper Tyers River Catchment

 

The study was to assist managers with decisions relating to proposed road works and logging in these areas. The construction of permanent roads in the region was temporarily suspended pending the completion of environmental assessments (Davies et al 1994).

 

The aim of the report was to:

 

  • Compile an inventory of vascular flora

 

  • Describe and characterise vegetation communities and determine their distribution

 

  • Compile an inventory of vertebrate fauna and estimate their distribution and abundance and relate these to vegetation communities and sub-communities

 

  • Review the status of fish species in the study area

 

  • Compile an inventory of butterflies

 

  • Identify significant biological values

 

The study area of the report focuses on the Eastern and Western Tyers Forest Blocks and the adjacent southeast slopes of the Baw Baw National Park. The study area covers approximately 8,469 hectares on the southern slopes of Mount Baw Baw and contains a large part of the upper catchment of the Tyers River (Davies et al 1994). The report does not dismiss the biological value of the surrounding escarpments. With the exception of the Cascade Forest Block on the Eastern Escarpment, it is not known whether further surveys and reporting of equivalency were carried out on the surrounding escarpments of Mount Baw Baw, however, it can be assumed that these values could carry over.

 

The removal of chapters 8, 9, 10 and 11 prevented forest management from being adequately informed about the significance of area and allowed an inappropriate forest management to persist. This resulted in the degradation of a number of the biologically significant sites and wildlife corridors. This becomes the topic for the next two sections

 

5.3 Overview of the Deleted Chapters

 

The chapters and their contents that were removed from the original study are listed in Table 5.3.1. An overview of ‘chapters 9, 10 and 11’ will follow.

 

 

Table 5.3.1 Table of contents detailing chapters removed from the DCNR report on the Upper Tyers River Catchment

 

8. Conservation of Flora and Fauna

Introduction

Plants

Victorian Rare of Threatened Plants (VROTS)

Additional Rare of Threatened Plants in the vicinity of the Study Area

Notable Plants

Management of Rare or Threatened and Notable Plants

Sensitive Plants

Mammals

Threatened Mammals

Notable Mammals

Sensitive Mammals

Other Native Mammals

Status and Impact of Introduced Mammals

Birds

Threatened Birds

Notable Birds

Sensitive Birds

Other Birds

Amphibians and Reptiles

Threatened Herpetofauna

Notable Herpetofauna

Sensitive Herpetofauna

Other Herpetofauna

Fish

Threatened and Sensitive Fish

Other Native Fish

Butterflies

Conservation of Butterflies

Sensitive Butterflies

 

9. Significant Communities and Habitats

Significant Vegetation Communities and Sub-Communities

Significant Habitats

 

10 Effects of Land Use Activities on Flora and Fauna

10.1 Introduction

10.2 Timber Harvesting

10.2.1 Regional System of Retained Habitat

10.2.2 Areas Currently Excluded from Timber Harvesting

10.2.3 Impacts of Clearfelling on Flora and Fauna

10.3 Roading

10.3.1 Roads as Filters or Barriers to the Movement of Fauna

10.3.2 Impacts of Roads on Aquatic Systems

10.4 Recreation

 

11 Biologically Significant Sites and Wildlife Corridors

11.1 Introduction

11.2 Biologically Significant Sites

11.2.1 Sites of State Significance

11.2.2 Sites of Regional Significance

11.3 Wildlife Corridors

 

 

 

 

5.3.1 Significant Communities and Habitats

 

Chapter 9 of the original DCNR study describe Significant Vegetation Communities and Sub-communities and Significant Habitats. It lists and recognises the following Significant Vegetation Communities and Sub-communities within the Upper Tyers River Catchment:

 

  1. Sub-Alpine Wet Heathland
  2. Montane Riparian Thicket
  3. Cool Temperate Rainforest
  4. Wet Sclerophyll Forest

 

Chapter 9 then provides detail on the significance of old-growth forest habitat found within the study area.

 

5.3.2 Effects of Land Use Activities on Flora and Flora

 

Chapter 10 of the original study detailed the effects of land use activities on Flora and Fauna within the Upper Tyers River catchment. It stated that clearfelling was the only logging technique used within the area and that forests young as 50 years were being cut. Through the application of clearfell logging to all forest logged, the authors of the original study stated that:

 

…..current logging prescriptions are not adequate to conserve all species of native flora and fauna in the East/West Tyers River study area (Davies et al 1993).

 

With the forest subject to clearfell logging on short rotations, the forest was subjected to an overall and permanent lowering of age, considerably under of what would occur normally. The study found that:

 

Clearfelled forests will be prevented from ever developing the structural characteristics of old-growth forests, resulting in a long term decline in some important habitat components, particularly the numbers of hollow bearing trees and large fallen logs (Davies et al 1993).

 

Clearfell logging was also recognised as having a significant impact on the physical and chemical properties of soils and on chemical and biological stream characteristics. The construction of roads to access the logging coupes, were seen to increase the fragmentation of forests and to introduce other negative impacts. These were all recognised as significant up to the sub-catchment level (Davies et al 1993).

 

The original study recognised that forests regenerating from clearfelling within the study area contained a generally drier assemblage of plant species than older forests in the same community. The study recognised that this promoted a regrowth forest landscape with a drier floristic composition and posed a higher fire risk that existed prior to clearfelling (Davies et al 1993).

 

The study also stated that regrowth forests lack the structural complexity and spatial heterogeneity to that of old-growth forest. Many of the species depended on the structural characteristics of old-growth forests were absent from forests regenerating after clearfell logging. Hollowing bearing trees, found in forests with old-growth characteristics, required greater lengths of time to form than what prescribed logging rotations allowed. This was also variable with the species type. Table 5.3.2.1 details the study's finding on the time required for key eucalyptus species to form hollows.

 

 

Table 5.3.2.1 Time for Eucalyptus Trees to form hollows

Species Time for hollows to form
Messmate Eucalyptus obliqua 110 years
Mountain Ash Eucalyptus regnans 120 years
Mountain Grey Gum Eucalyptus cypellocarpa 135 years

 

The original study recognised that the short (50 year) rotation time for logging ensured that clearfell logged forests would never develop tree hollows, as all trees are removed or destroyed during the operation. This was quite different from what would occur under a natural disturbance regime. The study quoted a number of other separate studies that have revealed significant differences between wildfire and clearfelling. One such study has been detailed in Table 4.3.1. The differences included a dramatic decrease in tree fern populations, fallen logs on the forest floor, damage to rootstock and changed species composition following clearfell logging that would not be the case following a wildfire (Davies et al 1993).

 

The study recognised the negative impacts that roading can have on the forest within the study area. It noted that roads cause the following:

 

· Destruction of habitat

 

· Create movement barriers

 

· Altered microclimates

 

· Animal mortality

 

· Stream sedimentation

 

· Assist in the ingress of introduced predators

 

· Adversely affect flora by removal of vegetation

 

· Disturbance of rare and vulnerable species and communities

 

· Facilitate the ingress of weeds

 

· Compact soil and remove topsoil and impede regeneration

 

· Damage riparian vegetation such as Cool Temperate Rainforest

 

· Dissect and fragment flora and fauna habitats and species populations

 

· Increase access to recreational activities that could increase incidences of wildfire

 

The report stated that road construction should not take place within the biologically significant sites (described below) that were relatively undisturbed by recent human activities and had high ecological integrity (Davies et al 1993).

 

5.4 Biologically Significant Sites and Wildlife Corridors

 

The original DCNR study recognised and detailed five biologically significant sites and seven wildlife corridors within the Upper Tyers River Catchment study area (Davies et al 1993, Davies et al 1994). Detailed in the original study was Chapter 11 - ‘ Biologically Significant Sites and Wildlife Corridors’. The Biologically Significant Sites covered a total 3,304 hectares (39 percent of the study area). The objective of delineating significant sites was to identify areas of high biological value. The chapter quoted the State Conservation Strategy that:

 

….. as a general rule, those sites (of ecological or scientific significance) significant at the state level or above will be preserved for nature conservation purposes and sites of regional or local significance will be protected wherever possible (Davies et al 1994).

 

The sites recognised against criteria developed by Davies et al (1994) for the study area.

 

5.4.1 Criteria for the Assessment of Biological Significance

 

The Appendix of the report provided a set of criteria for the designating and management of biologically significant sites and recognised them as the primary means of identifying and conserving areas of high biological value in the Tyers Study Area. These are detailed in the following:

 

Criterion One: Ecological Integrity and Viability

 

Criterion applies to areas containing:

 

  • An important in the demonstration of continuing ecological or biological process
  • A high degree of naturalness
  • Specific requirements for wildlife
  • Important sites along migrations routes
  • Strategically important corridors or areas of retained habitat
  • Important refugial sites

 

Criterion Two: Richness and Diversity

 

Criterion applies to areas containing:

 

  • Unusual richness or diversity of indigenous flora and/or fauna
  • Heterogeneous and broad environmental range
  • Unusual flora and/or faunal species richness
  • Diverse range of vegetation types and/or faunal assemblages
  • Steep geomorphological or climate gradients, or diverse microtopography

 

Criterion Three: Rarity

 

Criterion applies to areas containing:

 

  • Biotic features that are rare and/or threatened in the broad sense
  • Biotic features that are rare and/or threatened from local to national
  • Remnant vegetation
  • Rare combination of features
  • Habitats of rare or threatened flora and/or fauna
  • Examples of rare or uncommon vegetation types and/or assemblages
  • Naturally occurring individuals or localised populations of plants of exceptional age and/or size
  • Vegetation types that are of exceptional age and/or size

 

 

 

Criterion Four: Representative of Type

 

Criterion applies to areas containing:

 

  • Characteristic representation of a vegetation type and/or faunal assemblage
  • Natural resource attributes
  • Degrees of homogeneity or variability of the type over its range
  • Representative of identifiable faunal assemblages
  • Typical natural development of the type and where disturbances to natural processes are minimal
  • Places demonstrating a particular significant variation within the type

 

Criterion 5: Scientific and Educational Value

 

Criterion applies to areas containing:

 

  • Places that are recognised or proposed under the Reference Areas Act 1978
  • Places used to produce significant research information
  • Used for education purposes
  • Places that are a current and Type locality for rare or otherwise significant taxa
  • Important fossil remains of flora and fauna
  • Fossil sequences that establish contemporaneousness of flora species
  • Places with relict flora or fauna
  • Places with sympatric or parapatric populations of taxa
  • Places with disjunct populations and/or the limit of range of taxa or communities

 

5.5 Significance of Sites Identified

 

This section provides an overview on the Sites of Significance as detailed in ‘Chapter 11’ of the original DCNR study along with ‘Map 2’ detailed in Map 5.5.1

 

Table 5.5.1: Rating for the Sites in Tyers Forest Area

Rating

Criterion One

Ecological Integrity and Viability

Criteria Two

Richness and Diversity

Criteria Three

Rarity

Criterion Four

Representative of Type

Criterion Five

Scientific and Educational Value

Site One

Montane Slopes

 

State 4 4 4 4 4

Site Two

Tyers River West Branch

State 4 4 4 4 4

Site Three

Saxton Rainforest

State 4 4 4

Site Four

East Tyers Mature Forest

Regional 4 4 4

Site Five

Growler Creek

 

Regional 4 4 4

Sourced from Davies et al (1994)

5.5.1 Site 1 – Montane Slopes

 

Area: 1,606 hectares

Rating: State Significance

 

Extent

 

Site comprises of the upper montane slopes of the study area. The upper boundary is along the boundary of the Baw Baw National Park (following the 1260 metre contour line) and the lower boundary follows the 1000-metre contour line with the area extending to the 800-metre contour line along the Tyers River West branch.

 

Significance

 

The chapter identified this significant site to be encompassed within the larger site of Global Zoological significance and also contained sites of National Botanical Significance and the major of the remainder included within sites of state botanical significance. It contained rainforest sites of regional significance and most of the site was within a site of national geological and geomorphological significance. The chapter recognised the site for the following values:

 

  • High ecological integrity resulting from a low level of human disturbance

 

  • Minor infestation of weeds

 

  • No past clearfell logging impinged on the site

 

  • Past forest disturbance had been deemed negligible

 

  • Restricted access to introduced fauna resulting from lack of roading and limited disturbance

 

  • High ecological viability because of the sites extent, integrity and the diversity of habitats represented

 

  • Viability enhanced due to its close proximity to Baw Baw National park

 

  • Combined integrity and viability of the site ensured the capacity to act as a refuge for a range of fauna when adjoining areas are substantially modified by clearfelling

 

  • High proportion of ecological mature Montane Wet Forest provided important habitat for a range of fauna

 

  • Localised stands of ecologically mature Eucalyptus glaucescens (Tingaringy Gum)

 

  • Stands of Cool Temperate Rainforest contained notable plants

 

  • Sub-Alpine Wet Heathland occurring in localised areas provided habitat for endangered fauna

 

  • Unique forms of Montane Riparian Thicket

 

  • A highly representative and diverse assemblage of arboreal mammals and forest birds

 

The chapter noted that six rare or threatened and one notable plant species were recorded:

 

  • Wittsteinia vacciniacea (Baw Baw Berry)
  • Asplenium appendiculatum subsp. appendiculatum (Ground Spleenwort)
  • Monotoca oreophila (Mountain Broom-heath)
  • Oxalis magellanica (Snowdrop Wood-Sorrel)
  • Huperzia varia (Long Clubmoss)
  • Richea gunnii (Gunn’s Richea)
  • Geranium neglectum (Red-stem Cranes-bill)

 

The chapter recognised that with predicted warming due to global climate change, the montane forests of the study area were likely to increase in importance as refugia for a range of forest fauna.

 

5.5.2 Site 2 – Tyers River West Branch

 

Area: 1,420 hectares

Rating: State Significance

 

Extent

 

This site encompassed the Tyers River West Branch and its adjacent slopes to approximately 500m from either side of the river and covers an altitudinal range from 230m to 1240m above sea level. The site overlaps into Site 1.

 

Significance

 

The upper portion of the site was located within the site of global zoological significance and the site of national geological and geomorphological significance. The site also contained rainforest sites of regional significance. The site contained the following values:

 

  • Diversity of vegetation types

 

  • Diverse range of fauna habitat

 

  • Important refuge where clearfelling has modified habitats elsewhere

 

  • Cool Temperate Rainforest occurring at low altitudes

 

  • Stands of Ecologically mature mixed species forest and shrubby foothill forest

 

  • Contains greatest diversity of mammals, reptiles and amphibians in the study area

 

  • Several threatened and notable fauna species have been recorded

 

  • The majority of Sooty Owls recorded were found within this site

 

  • Several rare or threatened plants were recorded

 

As the site was noted to contain the highest density of sooty owls, the authors recognised that within a site of one kilometre in width (500m either side of the Tyers River), Sooty Owls required two to eight kilometres of river length to maintain a viable breeding territory. Many of these biological values are located in the lower portion of the site.

 

Note – Since the publication of the report, much of the lower section of the site has been subject to extensive clearfell logging. It is subject to further surveys and studies whether this part of the site has retained any of its described values or that forestry operations have compromise its ecological integrity.

 

5.5.3 Site 3 – Saxton Rainforest

 

Area: 61 hectares

Rating: State Significance

 

Extent

 

The site is located on the Tyers River near the old Saxton Mill Site.

 

Significance

 

The chapter described the site as a highly significant stand of Cool Temperate Rainforest due to the presence of two vulnerable plant species: Huperzia varia (Long Clubmoss) and Tmesipteris elongata (Elongate Fork-fern). At the time of the writing of the report, the authors have noted that recent logging coupes and roading adjacent the site may have already compromised the long-term viability of these rainforest species.

 

5.5.4 Site 4 – Eastern Tyers Ecologically Mature Forest

 

Area: 410 hectares

Rating: Regional Significance

 

Extent

 

The site was located within the catchment of the Eastern Tyers River extending to just below the Mount Erica Carpark with an altitudinal range of 400m to 1000m above sea level

 

Significance

 

The chapter detailed this site as containing many of the larger stands of ecologically mature Mountain Ash forest for the study area and contains a stand of Cool Temperate Rainforest with regional botanical significance. The site was within the site of Global Zoological Significance and part occurs with the site of national geological and geomorphological significance. The chapter recognised the following values:

 

  • The ecologically mature forest providing optimum habitat for a range of fauna

 

  • The younger forest providing for future development of ecologically mature forest

 

  • Viability enhanced due to close proximity to Baw Baw National Park

 

5.5.5 Site 5 – Growler Creek

 

Area: 114 hectares

Rating: Regional Significance

 

Extent

 

The Site was located in the upper catchment of Growler Creek

 

Significance

 

The chapters described this site as containing a relatively large and intact stand of Cool Temperate Rainforest with a regional significance rating and the surrounding sub-catchment containing ecologically mature and regrowth Montane Wet Forest. The site was within the site of Global Zoological Significance and the site of national geological and geomorphological significance. The chapters recognised the site for the following values:

 

  • High integrity due to minimal recent human disturbance

 

  • High ecological viability due to the inclusion of the whole sub-catchment within biologically significant sites

 

  • Viability increased with this sites interconnectedness with Site 1

 

  • Relatively large and undisturbed stand of Cool Temperate Rainforest

 

  • Ecologically mature stand of forest provided optimum habitat for a range of fauna

 

 

 

 

 

Map 5.5.1 Map 2 of the report detailing sites and areas of significance within the upper Tyers Catchment

 

 

 

Table 5.5.1: Significant fauna species habitat and/or recording of species at the sites

Site One

Montane Slopes

Site Two

Tyers River West Branch

Site Four

East Tyers Mature Forest

Site Five

Growler Creek

Baw Baw Frog

Philoria frosti

4 4 *

Leadbeater’s Possum

Gymnobelideus leadbeateri

4 4 4 4

Possum’s and Gliders

 

4 4 4 4

Tiger Quoll

Dasyurus maculatus

4 4 4 4

Broad-toothed Rat

Mastacomys fuscus

4

Common Bent Wing bat

Miniopterus schreibersii

4

Brown Gerygone

Gerygone mouki

4

Large-footed Myotis

Myotis adversus

4

Sooty Owl

Tyto tenebricosa

4 4 4 4

Leaf Green Tree Frog

Litoria nudidigita

4

Fresh Water Blackfish

Gadopsis marmoratus

4

Parrots and Cockatoos

 

4 4 4

Forest Bats

 

4

Mistletoe Bird

Dicaeum hirundinaceum

4

Pink Robin

Petroica rodinogaster

4 4 4

Koala

Phascolarctos cinereus

4

Honeyeaters

 

4

Highland Copperhead

Austrelaps ramsayi

4

Tree Goanna

Varanus varius

4

Skinks

 

4 4 4

Optimal Bird Habitat

 

4 4 4

* Baw Baw Frog recorded at site two by Hollis (2004)

 

5.5.7 Wildlife Corridors

 

The chapter detailed six wildlife corridors supplementing biologically significant sites in providing additional refugial habitat throughout the study area. These corridors entailed:

 

1) Tyers River East Branch

2) Buckle Spur and Tyers River

3) Tyers River West Branch

4) Along Growler Creek, between sites 2 and 3

5) Along Faith Creek, to link Baw Baw National Parl and the Tanjil River Catchment

6) Along the lower and middle altitude sections of the Tyers River between sites 1 and 3

7) Along a spur between Site 4 and the Tyers River East Branch

 

5.5.8 Details of Map 2

 

Map 5.5.1 details Map 2 that was deleted from the report. Below, Map 5.6.1 overlays Map 2 with of fauna species sightings as sourced from the BioMap by DSE, along with the surrounding site of Global Zoological Significance and past and proposed logging coupes. The map shows that Site 1 currently remains mostly intact, however, past logging has compromised all the remaining sites.

 

5.5.9 Recommendations for Biologically Significant Sites

 

The study provided recommendations for the management of the biologically significant sites and wildlife corridors within the Upper Tyers River study area. They all ‘recommended’ that logging be excluded from the sites along with minimising artificial disturbance. These are detailed in Table 5.5.9.1. As previously noted, the report was published in 1994 with chapters 8, 9 and 10 removed and Chapter 11 renumbered to Chapter 8. The renumbered chapter included the detail on the sites of biological significance and wildlife corridors, but the biologists’ recommendations were removed. Eventually, all reference to these sites was removed and logging and road construction proceeded within a number of these sites. This will be explored later.

 

 

 

Table 5.5.9.1 Recommendations for the management of Biologically Significant Sites within the Upper Tyers River Study Area as detailed in the original study by Davies et al (1993)

Area Description Ref Recommendation
Site 1 Montane Slopes 11.1 Timber Harvesting and roading should be excluded from this site
11.2 Sub-alpine Wet Heathland and Montane Riparian Thicket should be protected from disturbance by humans
Site 2 Tyers River West branch 11.3 Timber Harvesting, including salvage logging, should be excluded from this site
11.4 To minimise potential deleterious impacts on significant biological values, road works should only be undertaken within this site after consultation with flora and fauna staff
11.5 Further Widening of West Tyers Road, and damage to riparian vegetation, should be avoided. The road surface and table drains should be regularly maintained to prevent excessive erosion and run-off into adjacent river. The road should continue to be closed in winter. Consideration should be given to permanent closure and rehabilitation to assist in this aim
11.6 Prescribed burning should be excluded from this site
11.7 A control program should be instigated in accordance with DCE environmental weed policy to reduce the spread of blackberries and control infestations
11.8 Campsites should be placed at least 100m away from rivers and streams, where possible, to prevent stream bank erosion, pollution of watercourses and drainage to riparian vegetation. Further planting of exotic plants at Caringal Scout Camp should be restricted. Anglers and campers should be encouraged to prevent stream bank erosion and littering, particularly fishing tackle and line
11.9 An area of approximately 500m width on the south side of the Tyers River West Branch in the Beynon Forest Block should be delineated and managed in accordance with the above recommendation of Biologically Significant Site 2
Site 3 Saxton Rainforest 11.10 All forms of timber harvesting (including salvage logging), roading and prescribed burning should be excluded from this site
11.11 The precise location of the rare plants within the rainforest in this site should not be disclosed
Site 4 Eastern Tyers Old-Growth Forest 11.12 Timber harvesting should be excluded from this site. In the future, if harvesting techniques are developed that can be shown will not impinge on the biological values for which this site is significant, it may be possible to undertake low intensity harvesting, possibly using overwood systems. Eventually, clearfelling within this site may be feasible, possibly on a long rotation cutting cycle, once sufficient areas of old-growth forest have developed elsewhere in the study area
11.13 A buffer of at least 40m, in which timber harvesting is excluded, should be placed around old-growth stands, where old growth stands occur on the site boundary
11.14 Salvage logging following wildfire should not take place in old-growth forest stands or within a 40m buffer surrounding each stand. In younger forest within the site salvage logging should only take place where tree mortality is close to 100%. All surviving live trees plus all hollowing bearing trees (live and dead) and large logs containing hollows should be protected from salvage operations
11.15 Major road works within this site should only be undertaken after consultation with flora and fauna staff to minimise the effects on significant flora and fauna values.
11.16 Prescribed burning should be excluded from this site
Site 5 Growler Creek 11.17 Timber harvesting, salvage logging, prescription burning, and roading should be excluded from this site
11.18 The section of Growlers Track within this site should be closed and rehabilitated.
Wildlife Corridors 11.19 The above 100m and 200m wide corridors should be maintained to provide refuge habitat and linkages between other retained areas throughout the study area. Disruption to corridors by management activities should be prevented

 

 

5.6 Why were the Chapters and the map detailing the sites deleted?

 

On Monday, 1st February 1999, the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee held a public hearing upon where witnesses were chosen so as to obtain as a complete picture of the Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) and legislation that was before the parliament at the time (Hansard 1999). Mr. Alan McMahon appeared as a private individual and gave evidence at the hearing regarding the forest management on Mount Baw Baw and its associated escarpments. Mr. McMahon is an amateur naturalist, and did volunteer work for the National Park, Department of Natural Resources and Environment and the state forests (Hansard 1999). Mr. McMahon expressed concern regarding the overall forest management of the Mount Baw Baw area and drew concern to the deleting of information in the 1994 DCNR published report on the above study. He gave evidence stating that:

 

“In 1994, the Flora and Fauna branch produced a report, Flora and Fauna of the Eastern and Western Tyers forest blocks and adjacent slopes of Baw Baw National Park’. That was the only recent comprehensive survey done on the south face of the Baw Baw Plateau in many years. Soon after it was released, it was withdrawn. All recommendations, biological sites of significance and the map on which they were shown were ordered to be deleted and the modified report was reissued. This information applied to the south face of the Baw Baw Plateau, which is so heavily logged now and which the RFA is considering, in part, as a possible reserve and where the cool temperate mix forest is also’ (Hansard 1999).

 

The Senate Committee recognised this to be a serious charge and sought further clarification from Mr McMahon on whether the deletion was widely known. Mr McMahon advised that:

 

‘It is (was) well known within NRE. The modified document still comes out with the original table of contents page, with a black line through those three sections’ (Hansard 1999).

 

The Central Highlands Alliance Inc. obtained a copy of the DCNR report on the Upper Tyers study and found the modifications matched Mr McMahon’s claims. Through this copy, it can verify that:

 

1) Chapter 8 of the Table of Contents Page has been ‘blacked’ out with a pen. However, The words can still be easily read.

 

2) Map 2 of the Table of Contents Page has been ‘blacked’ out, but can still be read.

 

3) Pages 111-120 are missing out of the report – pages detailed as Chapter 8 in the Table of Contents.

 

4) Map 2, detailing Biologically significant Sites, is missing from the report,

 

In addition, the Central Highlands Alliance Inc. has found:

 

5) The authors names have been ‘blacked’ out on the front page, but still readable

 

6) Reference to Map 2 has been ‘blacked’ out in Appendix XI

 

Mr McMahon advised Senate Committee that the deletion of material in this report prevented management from being adequately informed. The Central Highlands Alliance Inc. has found no evidence of this report being referenced in the current Central Highlands Forest Management Plan or the Regional Forest Agreement Comprehensive Regional Assessment Report.

 

 

5.7 What are the impacts?

 

Although some of the regions values were listed in appendix G of the Central Highlands Forest Management Plan, the recommendations made in the original and revised DCNR study for the management of these areas were not included and, as a result, forest management plans were not required to implement them. Since the mid 1990’s and the subsequent signing of the Regional Forest Agreement for the Central Highlands in 1998, large areas of forest along the escarpments of Mount Baw Baw have been clearfelled. Some of these clearfelled areas have coincided with areas the original and revised study declared as ‘biologically significant’. The impacts have resulted in the regions’ biological integrity being severely compromised. Map 5.7.1 and Figures 5.7.1, 5.7.2, 5.7.3, 5.7.4 and 5.7.5 detail the extent of impact. Map 5.7.1 reveals the extensive logging of Sites 2 and 5 with further logging planned for Sites 1, 2 and 3. It also reveals the location of threatened and endangered fauna occurring within the sites. Figure 5.7.2 provides an aerial view over Site 2, upon where the impacts of logging are shown with an overlay detailing Site 2 and the extent of logging that has taken place within. Also, these figures reveal the extent of forest removal caused by the construction of the South Face Road.

 

Figure 5.7.3 provide an aerial view of the South Face Road intruding into Site 2. Figures 5.7.4 and 5.7.5 reveal the recent construction of the Tyers River Bridge and the extent of forest removal within this area of Site 2.

 

These maps and figures demonstrate a disregard for the biologists’ recommendations outlined in the original DCNR study.

 

Figure 5.7.1 Aerial view of logging within the Tyers River Site (Site 2)

 

Map 5.7.1: ‘Deleted’ map 2 showing the DSE BioMap overlay with species recorded, Site of Global Zoological Significance and past logging coupes with proposed logging coupes

 

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Figure 5.7.2 Aerial view of Site 2 taken in 2002 showing the Tyers River West Branch, the South Face Road and recent clearfell logging and the South Face Road with Sites of Significance Overlay and species sightings (Base Image Source: Google Earth – Image accessed 15.07.06)

 

 

 

Figure 5.7.3 Aerial view of logging within the Tyers River West Branch Site (Site 2) showing South Face Road crossing (Image Source: Google Earth – Image accessed 15.07.06)

 

 

Figure 5.7.4 Tyers River West Branch Bridge and the South Face Road within Site 2

 

 

Figure 5.7.5 South Face Road from Tyers River West Branch Bridge showing forest removal for the road and clearfelling within Site 2

 

5.8 Sites of Significance as outlined in the Central Highlands FMP

 

Appendix G of the Central Highlands Forest Management Plan (FMP) lists some of the values as described in DCNR report and indicates their ‘presribed’ management. These include sites of Zoological and Botanical Significance. The Appendix lists several sites surrounding Mount Baw Baw. Whilst this investigation may found that values identified in the FMP may be similar to that as outline in the report by Davies et al (1994), the effectiveness of the management prescription for that area specified in the appendix appears problematic when analysing the ‘actual impacts’ of management. For example, appendix G recognises that 500m on either side of the Tyers River West Branch has a Global Zoological Rating. This is the same area that Davies et al (1994) recognise as having a Significance of State Biological value and that the area be reserved for conservation. Section 5.7 reveals that this area has been severely degraded by clearfell logging up to 100m to the river (400m within the zone) and the penetration of the South Face Road through it (refer figures 5.7.2, 5.7.3, 5.7.4 and 5.7.5). Appendix G of the Central Highlands FMP detailing the sites around Mount Baw Baw is featured in table’s 5.8.1 and 5.8.2.

 

In summary, the management prescriptions, as specified under the Central Highlands FMP, have proven to be ineffective to adequately protect these sites of significance.

 

Table 5.8.1 Sites of Zoological Significance in State Forest as detailed in the Central Highalnds Forest Management Plan (FMP)

Site No Site Names Rating Zoological Values Management of values found at each site
24 The Baw Baw Upper Thomson Area Global Unique faunal assemblage containing the entire population of the Baw Baw Frog. Areas of Old Growth in the upper reaches of Myrrhee Creek and Tanjil River provide habitat for hollow dependent fauna. Populations of Leadbeater’s Possum, Sooty Owl, broad-toothed Rat, Smoky Mouse and Tree Goanna. One of the few known locations of Canthocamptus dedeckkeri and C.sublaevis. Important link between Baw Baw National Park and the Upper Yarra Catchment Protection Measures apply to Leadbeater’s Possum, Sooty Owl and Smoky Mouse. Representative conservation measures will adequately protect other species listed here. Linear reserves provide a link between the two National Parks
25 Tyers River West Branch (500m either side of the river) Global Rich habitat diversity and corresponding fauna diversity. Highest reptile, amphibian and bird diversity in the East and West Tyers Forest Blocks. High densities of Sooty Owl. Populations of Large-footed Myotis and Tree Goanna. Western most population of Leaf Green Tree Frog in Victoria Protection measures apply to Sooty Owl and Large-footed Myotis. Representative conservation measures will adequately protect other species listed here. Buffer on the entire length of the Western Tyers River. Sooty Owl habitat protection in nearby Beynon Forest Management Block.
UY-2 Upper Thomson Special Management Zone National

Old-growth forest occurs along many of the Thomson River tributaries which provide habitat for arboreal mammals.

Species recorded here include

Leadbeater’s Possum, Yellow bellied Glider and the Mountain Brushtail Possum (Bobuck). The alluvial flats support populations of Broad-toothed Rat and reptiles such as the cool temperate form of the Water Skink. The drier forest sites support populations of the Smoky Mouse.

Protection measures apply to

Leadbeater’s Possum, Sooty Owl and Smoky Mouse. Representative conservation measures will adequately protect other species listed here. Linear reserves provide a link between The Baw Baw National Park and the Upper Yarra catchment.

 

 

 

 

 

Table 5.8.2 Sites of Botanical Significance in State Forest as detailed in the Central Highlands FMP

Site No Site Name Rating Botanical Values Management
114 West Tyers River State This site contains Site of Botanical Significance for Rainforest CH 30 with Montane Riparian Thicket, Montane Wet Forest, Cool Temperate Rainforest, Wet Sclerophyll Forest, Damp Sclerophyll Forest and Shrubby Foothill Forest. Baw Baw Berry, Cliff Cud-weed and Long Clubmoss were recorded here Protection measures apply to Cool Temperate Rainforest, Baw Baw Berry and Cliff Cud-weed. Representative conservation measures will adequately protect other EVC’s mentioned
115 Middle Tyers River National This is part of a larger Site of Botanical Significance for Rainforest CH-32 with relatively undisturbed examples of Cool Temperate Rainforest, Montane Riparian Thicket, Montane Wet Forest, Wet Sclerophyll Forest, Damp Sclerophyll Forest and Riparian Forest. Elongate Fork-fern and Long Clubmoss were recorded here A significant amount of the site is in SPZ. Protection measures apply to Cool Temperate Rainforest and Elongate Fork-fern. Representative conservation measures will adequately protect other EVC’s mentioned
127 West Tyers River and Middle Tyers River – upstream of Tyers Junction Regional Site includes Riparian Forest and small scattered stands of Cool Temperate Rainforest on alluvial plains Linear Reserves protect attributes

 

5.9 Implications for Future Management

 

The Central Highlands Alliance Inc. considers the findings detailed and recommendations made in the original DCNR report as valid and in urgent need of informing current forest management. It makes clear that sites of state biological significance need to be preserved for nature conservation purposes and that sites of regional or local significance to be protected wherever possible (Davies et al 1993). The recommendation is that all proposed forestry operations within or overlapping onto the above sites be withdrawn and those areas reserved for conservation purposes. The act of suppressing recommendations must be investigated by an independent party and findings be made publicly available. Only then can a decision be made on whether industry is entailed to compensation. As the modification of the report was carried out prior to the signing of the RFA and the Forests (Wood Pulp Agreement) Act 1996, it can be argued that these agreements were signed based on suppressed information.

 

 

 

Key References

 

Davies J, Carter M, Drummond M, Hollis G, Pascoe C, Wallis R, Lester K (1993), ‘Ecological Survey Report No.46 - Flora and Fauna of the Eastern and Western Tyers Forest Blocks and Adjacent South-Eastern Slopes of Baw Baw National Park, Central Gippsland, Victoria’, (Department of Conservation & Natural Resources)

 

Davies J, Carter R, Drummond M, Hollis G, Pascoe C, Wallis R, Lester K (1994), ‘Flora and Fauna of the Eastern and Western Tyers Forest Blocks and Adjacent South-Eastern Slopes of Baw Baw National Park, Central Gippsland, Victoria’, (Department of Conservation & Natural Resources) – (inclusive of Chapter 8 and Map 2)

 

Official Committee Hansard Senate (1999), ‘Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee - Reference: Regional Forest Agreements Bill 1998’, (Commonwealth of Australia)

 

Victorian Government (1996), ‘Forests (Wood Pulp Agreement) Act 1996’