‘YES’ to the Wombat-Macedon VEAC proposal

The following article is the longer version of the article in the Hepburn Advocate on October 10. The  headline given was “Understanding is the key to the future of natural areas” which I thought was nice :)!

Recently a number of white and red stencil signs have appeared in people’s backyards in Daylesford and surrounds which say “Tell VEAC No Wombat National Park”. Much to my surprise, I had a lovely conversation last week with a young woman who turned out to be one of the helpers in the stencilling of these signs! This conversation inspired me to share my thoughts on the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC)  proposal as I figured this woman, who had some legitimate concerns, may be voicing the concerns of others. Let’s call her Nina.

Nina asked me what I thought of the National Park proposal, as the author of Daylesford Nature Diary and Hepburn Advocate nature columnist. I replied that I was all for it and felt that the proposal was excellent, for Greater Gilders and all other Wombat Forest animals,  and also a wonderful  opportunity  for nature-based tourism in the region. Nina said that she had read the draft report and it wasn’t clear to her how the decision had been made or what the implications were. The report was full of jargon, and Nina kindly said “Of course, someone with your experience would be able to understand it better”.

VEAC-Central-West-cover

I think this is a real shame. After our conversation,  I had a look at the report and agree with Nina, as it is written in very dry scientific / environmental policy language. The tables are also peppered with many footnotes that say “conditionally allowed” with clauses such as “as specified by the land manager”.

Unfortunately,  the environment sector often fails to communicate in plain English the how and why of the matter. Having worked in this area for decades, and having read past VEAC reports, it is clear to me how VEAC made its decisions, and what they propose. But I can completely understand how someone could read it and be mystified.  We had a little chat about percentage targets for national parks, and bioregions, and types of forests, but it is hard to communicate these things in a quick chit chat!

 

I remember as a young person learning about the “Tragedy of the Commons”.  It describes a concept in economic theory. The “Commons” are any natural resource that is shared by everyone – it could be fish in streams, oil or minerals under the ground wood in a forest or edible fungi.  The “Tragedy” is that in shared areas people tend to use the resources in a way that is based on their self-interest. The originator of the concept was an American, William Forster Lloyd (1794-1852.)

 

Any State Forest as it is presently legislated is the Commons. Mining companies can establish gold mines, and VicForests can carry out commercial timber harvesting. Prospectors can mine gold, locals and small business owners can collect firewood, hunters can hunt. And as our population rises ever higher, more and more people will use these resources.

Legislation to restrict and control actions makes certain people so very angry, but these laws are put in place to prevent the Tragedy of the Commons, so that the environment and its resources remain  rather than degrade from overuse.

Picture14-21nrrzy
This graphic illustrates US biologists Garrett Hardin’s paper from 1968. From here. 

Out of the eight proposed areas in the Wombat Macedon Block – only one of these areas, the Wombat-Lerderderg National Park excludes prospecting, domestic firewood collection, recreational hunting and timber harvesting. Granted, at 52,853 ha it is a large area!

National Park status removes the land from the commons and places the value of the flora and fauna, the natural habitat,  front and centre. It also gives prominence to nature-based activities such as bushwalking, birdwatching and bike riding.

Resource use may still continue in some areas! The red stencilled signs fail to mention that the VEAC proposal includes the creation of a new Wombat Regional Park which covers 9149 hectares. These two areas would allow for many activities including domestic firewood collection, dog walking and horse riding. And four wheel driving and trail bike riding will continue in all proposed areas.

Next week, the Advocate will print a counterpoint article to Loris Duclos’ interview in last week’s paper; this article will address ecological thinning and other matters, and I encourage you all to read it.  Attend the VEAC meeting at Trentham Neighbourhood Centre on Wednesday 17 October at 7pm and show your support for the proposal, or ask questions face to face with the VEAC folk. See the VEAC website here for more info and a copy of the recommendations.

Nina and I ended our conversation with a laugh together, and a realisation that neither of us had had a chance to speak to anyone with an opposing viewpoint; we both learnt a lot.

IMG_5746
Nolan’s Creek picnic ground, part of the proposed Wombat-Lerderderg National park

 

21 Comments

  1. The Wombat Forest is desperate for urgent environmental changes, we are now seeing the spread of weeds such as blackberries, gorse, coffee bush and bridal creeper (described by the CSIRO as equally the most damaging weed introduced into Australia). These weeds are now replacing most grasses and wildflowers that provide food for indigenous animals. This is just one of the negatives of a forest desperate for a rethink for the future. Let us try to restore the forest to what is once offered not so long ago. Say Yes to the Park.

  2. Hi Tanya,
    I think that you have severely over simplified the issue of the commons. You name the forest as a recource that different groups utilise but this is far from fact. To forestry, the forest is a recource, to prospectors gold is a the recource, to hunters its deer and goats that have a negative impact on the forest. If protecting the forest and native wildlife was your aim why is it that you are so clearly against hunting?

    1. Hi ben! I am really about keeping the gold mining industry and VicForests out of the wombat. I respect that pig and deer hunters have a role to play in conservation for sure. I know NP excludes hunters but as the deer problem is excalating massively who knows this may change. Thanks for your comment.

      1. Parks have already been trialling allowing some recreational hunters into parks further west (I forget which one Langi Ghiran maybe?) as part of feral animal culling there. It could play one important part in feral animal management if it’s monitored and managed appropriately.

  3. Yes it is about time sections of the Wombat State Forest into a National Park. Stop further degredation due to mining, logging and other intrusions. If we want a forest to enjoy – we have to protect it. I am sure there will be areas open for selective logging, trail bikes etc. in teh State park? State Forest sections? If we odn’t have laws in place to protect our heritage – no one else will and beautiful forests will become a thing of the past.

  4. Good on you for putting your view Tanya. It is a shame that we are so far down the track before the Pro National Park people are coming out in community forums to discuss this. Haven’t heard a word from Murray Ralph, the Wombat Rep on the Central West Investigation Community Representative Group. I cringed a bit with the slightly condescending over tones about environment and policy jargon and knowing why VEAC made the decision because you had read several of their reports. There are many people in our community who have read Land Use reports infinitum and feel the Central West Investigation Proposals Paper is biased and seriously lacking.
    Firstly the Central West Investigation uses biodiversity modelling (Habitat Distribution Models) that only relies on Ecological Vegetation Community (EVC) modelling (yep that’s right a model of a model) to try and come up with areas where faunal species may survive at some point in the future. The modelling does not look at site quality and as most people know large areas of the Wombat State Forest outside the current Special Protection Zones (SPZ) are in a very sad degraded state. Whilst this type of computer model provides a great indicative tool in the land managers tool box it should not be the sole basis for land use decisions for the long term. Just like the timber estimates models of the 1990s the biodiversity modelling optimizes for a desired value and relies heavily on the quality of data fed into the modelling.
    Secondly the Proposals Paper does not identify where the under-represented EVCs actually are. Are they going to be safely locked up in the National Park or are they in the Regional Parks where recreational users will be concentrated???? From what I can see important areas that many in this community argued to get in Special Protection Zones during the 1990s are in fact in the proposed regional parks and the majority of the least concern EVCs are in the National Park. Simply doesn’t make sense from a biodiversity perspective.
    Thirdly the Central West Investigation ignores the fact that the Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) were based on delivering a Comprehensive Adequate and Representative (CAR) reserve system based on EVC benchmarks. The CAR reserve criteria was mostly met by expanding the reserve system in some places and expanding the Special Protection Zones in other places. I agree wholeheartedly that the Special Protection Zones could have been bigger in some places, certainly argued this at the time. The Central West Investigation should have assessed the effectiveness of the Special Protection Zones and discussed how much of the under represented EVCs are in the Special Protection Zones and how these areas should be managed into the future.
    I’m tempted to go on about biodiversity and the need to thin the forest so it can grow trees big enough to form useful hollows and better spacing for gliders but I’ll save it for my submission.
    I will leave you with a question though Tania, Can you find any Regional park in Victoria where domestic firewood collection is allowed??????????
    I agree everyone should attend the VEAC meeting at Trentham Neighbourhood Centre on Wednesday 17 October at 7pm.

    1. Thanks Loris, I appreciate your comment. I am in melbs at the moment so don’t have my papers at hand to answer your question about firewood collection. Or maybe it was a rhetorical question! : ) it is certainly a complex issue. See you at the VEAC meeting

      1. Hi Joan I agree whole heartedly that the Wombat Forest is in need of restoration on many fronts, weeds, feral animals altered forest structure and species. I fail to see how a change in land status is going to achieve these things. Keep on caring.

      2. Hi Tanya, No it was not a rhetorical question, I have contacted ParksVic and asked them what regional parks I can get domestic firewood from. ParksVic told me to ring DEWLP as they manage firewood. I went on the DEWLP firewood map and there are no firewood areas in any regional park or any park or reserve across Victoria. Every firewood area is in State Forest. I then rang DEWLP and asked if they managed any firewood sites in Regional Parks I was told that they don’t manage firewood on Parks vic land.

  5. I believe that the inclusion into the NP system would great as there are so many sensitive and rare flora and fauna there.

  6. Ah Ok – well it sounds like you know way more about the domestic firewood issue than me – I agree it is a vexing question.

  7. Thank you for your work and willingness to try and explain, it shounds like hell in jargon land.
    I just want to know that the best is being done for the forest and its remaining native inhabitants. That they are given the best chance to thrive. It sounds like that is happening . Thank you to all involved.

    1. Thanks Ben! A great read! And I appreciate the criticism. 🙂 It is funny I had not realised that this concept was used in favour of privatisation! That would be like me saying, I would rather VicForests have the Wombat forest, over a community forest management model. I took it to mean that if there is a growing human population, and everyone wants firewood or access to the forest, these effects are multiplied as each user uses the forests according to their own needs.

      1. I am reading a great book about Elinor Ostrom, who won the Nobel memorial prize for economics a while back, for her work on the theories of commons management. There are of course situations where “commons” result in plunder and destruction. The point is about how they are managed, which is what Ostrom studied. You’re right though, national park is state managed, so not really part of “the commons” (though state forest isn’t either).

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