People illegally cutting down trees in State forest reserves are unnecessarily risking lives and adding to the escalating levels of damage occurring in state parks and conservation areas throughout Tasmania.
The majority of incidents, both in State forest reserves and parks and conservation areas, are due to people cutting down trees for firewood and it is estimated hundreds of tonnes are taken unlawfully each year, according to Forestry Tasmania’s general manager of operations Paul Smith.
“A recent example at the Forestry Tasmania managed reserve at the Spion Kop picnic area south of Smithton in Tasmania’s north-west showed unsafe practices were needlessly putting lives in jeopardy.
“In the Mersey District in northern Tasmania several incidents, including at Virginstow Forest Reserve, the Castra tall trees management area near Ulverstone, a special values management area at Railton and streamside reserves have led or will lead to prosecution,” he said.
“We have taken steps to block illegal wood cutting at the Black Jack Hill Forest Reserve and there have been incidents of trees being felled on to State forest roads, which are being followed up by police.
“We also have had to close some designated firewood gathering areas because instead of taking dead and down trees, people have been felling trees which is not permitted.
“In the Derwent District at Mt Hobbs north-east of Hobart, about 15 to 30 tonnes of timber is being illegally taken from State forests every day in winter by people who then sell the wood to the public,” Smith said.
Increased patrols by Forestry staff have put a stop to the practice at the moment but it is likely the people responsible have moved on to other areas.
At Spion Kop, felled trees left caught up in other trees have posed a danger to the public, which uses the area for barbecues, fishing and swimming.
“Like many of other areas illegally targeted for firewood around the state, Spion Kop is a reserve and will never be logged. Tree felling in reserves is illegal and can result in heavy fines and confiscation of machinery.
“Illegal tree felling, particularly in reserves, is very frustrating because there is no need to cut down timber for firewood. Forestry Tasmania can issue permits for people to take fallen and dead trees in designated areas for only $15.40 a permit for one stacked square metre of wood. It is a very inexpensive, legal and safe way to collect wood that does not endanger lives, damage the environment or run the risk of heavy fines,” he said.