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Illegal wood harvesting targeted

A father and son accused of taking timber from the Lower Goulburn National Park have faced Shepparton Magistrates’ Court. Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning prosecutor Stephen McGrath told the court a Parks Victoria officer observed the co-accused entering Reedy Swamp on 28 March 2020, in a ute with an attached trailer. It was heard Parks Victoria was investigating the illegal removal of trees and the destruction of wildlife habitats at the time. Sources: Shepparton News, Timberbiz

The court was told that one of the two was seen carrying river red gum to the vehicle. One of the accused was also found to have around five cubic metres of river red gum stored at his property in preparation for sale.

Illegal firewood harvesters are being targeted in a statewide operation to protect native forests and critical habitat.

Shepparton has had an ongoing problem with illegal clearing of timber from state parks, especially along the Goulburn River.

The multi-agency operation has been launched to protect wildlife habitat.

Conservation Regulator authorised officers, Forest Fire Management Victoria crews and Parks Victoria rangers have combined for Operation Hollows, targeting people attempting to illegally cut or remove trees for firewood.

“It’s important to remember that cutting trees for firewood is habitat destruction,” Parks Victoria Enforcement and Regulatory Services senior manager Ron Waters said.

“Anyone illegally taking firewood is taking a home away from one of our threatened native wildlife species.

Firewood can be legally collected from designated areas during collection seasons.

Illegal timber harvesters target more isolated areas where the trees and fallen timber are crucial habitats for native wildlife such as the powerful owl, greater glider, fat-tailed dunnart, spotted-tail quoll, and small geckos, skinks and lizards. Some trees removed illegally also have cultural significance.

The ongoing operation also targets people selling large quantities of illegal firewood.

The maximum penalty for people caught illegally destroying habitat trees is $8261 plus potential seizure of equipment, including vehicles and chainsaws and/or one year in prison.

From March to November 2020, 183 people were fined a total of $98,801 for removing wood from widespread areas across the state.