Forests around planned sea to summit hiking trail must be protected

Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO) and the Wilderness Society today expressed serious concerns about continued logging of old and rare forests in East Gippsland, as the Andrews Government announced that if re-elected, they will commence planning for a multi-day Sea to Summit hiking trail route in far East Gippsland. 

GECO spokesperson Ed Hill said: “Establishing a Sea to Summit forest trail in East Gippsland is a good move; it will boost the regional economy and create sustainable jobs. However, we are very concerned that logging is occurring right now on the proposed route of the trail, degrading the natural values that make this region so attractive for nature-based tourism—values that are essential for the success of a hiking trail such as this.” 

The Emerald Link is a proposal to protect the forests of the last unbroken forest wilderness area on mainland Australia, that connects alpine forests to the rugged coastline. Alleged unlawful logging of forests on the proposed route of the sea-to-summit trail was reported to the environment Minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, and the ineffective logging regulator, DELWP this week (detail below). 

Wilderness Society Victorian Campaigns Manager Amelia Young said: “With improved management and greater investment, the supreme natural beauty of East Gippsland’s Emerald Link can become a world-class conservation tourism destination. However, the Summit To Sea Trail is but one part of the Emerald Link, which proposes increased protection and improved management for four icon areas within East Gippsland.” 

GECO and the Wilderness Society call on all parties contesting the state election to commit to protecting forests from logging in the icon areas of the Emerald Link proposal: Kuark forest, Errinundra, Nunniong and the Coopracambra coast. 

Amelia Young said: “The next Victorian Government must protect the forests of the Emerald Link. Logging and nature-based tourism projects such as the Sea to Summit Trail are incompatible. The proposed planning process to establish the hiking trail must include a plan to formally protect the forests, that must involve consultation with the region’s Traditional Owners about their aspirations for country and for co- or joint-management.” 

Ed Hill said: “Right now logging is occurring directly adjacent to the proposed route of the government’s walking trail. If Labor are serious about this hiking trail in the iconic Kuark forest—and the future of the East Gippsland region—it will create the trail whilst protecting the forests of the region. Nobody wants to hike through logged and burnt landscapes.” 

Ed Hill said: “East Gippsland is the only place on mainland Australia with intact forests that run uninterrupted from alpine environments to the coast. The Sea to Summit Trail will showcase this world class landscape, but unless these forests are protected from logging this precious and unique environment is gravely threatened.” 

Amelia Young said: “Right across eastern Victoria, the next Victorian Government needs to get on with protecting forests from logging, including by creating the Great Forest National Park and support sustainable jobs in regional communities. The Sea to Summit Trail provides an exciting opportunity to begin this transition but meaningful conservation measures to protect special and endangered forests are urgently needed. Once they are gone, they are gone.” 

For information: 

Amelia Young, Wilderness Society: 0404 074 577 
Ed Hill, GECO: 0414 199 645

Background: 

The Emerald Link proposal seeks to link existing parks and reserves in East Gippsland to create a continuous network on protected forests from the alps the coast while investing in nature based tourism. Read more about the proposal here.

This week, GECO reported unlawful logging in the Kuark forest to the Department of Environment Land Water and Planning and Minister D’Ambrosio. Logging in coupe within the proposed Emerald Link area is threatening a number of threatened and protected species. GECO reported the presence of Endangered Orbost Spiny Crayfish and threatened Slender Tree-fern in forest being logged now. Logging has already occurred within legally required protection zones for both species.

Read GECO's Spiny Crayfish report here
Read GECO's Slender Tree-fern report here