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Whroo state forest in a tangle

Lily D’Ambrosio

An urgent review into the state government’s track-blocking policy has been ordered by the environment minister after a department deliberately tore down trees in protected crown land. Source: Bendigo Advertiser

Hundreds of trees were recently destroyed in Whroo state forest by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning – a decision it says it took to prevent illegal motor cross riders using a trail in the forest.

However, Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said she was not informed of the action and has asked for an urgent explanation as to why this has occurred.

“I’ve also directed DELWP to immediately review its policy for track blocking and closures, this simply isn’t good enough,” she said.

The devastation, which uprooted native Ironbark and Grey Box trees, was labelled “environmental vandalism” by state member for northern Victoria, Wendy Lovell.

“The actions of the department are environmental vandalism by the very people who have been charged with protecting the forest,” Mrs Lovell said.

“Surely there could have been another approach or other methods put in place before they started to destroy the forest.”

The now “dangerous” forest posed risks not only to the public, but emergency services, Mrs Lovell said.

“It (blocking the track) has restricted access to the forest for firefighting and other rescue operations that need to go on.”

The Liberal MP said she will be asking Minister D’Ambrosio for a restoration of the track.

“To put up signs afterwards is not good enough,” said Mrs Lovell, who suggested the local community should have been consulted by the department.

“They (DELWP) have bypassed dead trees because they consider them to be habitat for animals and knocked over completely live trees.”

The member for northern Victoria said video footage of the trail showed motor cross riders could still get around the track, meaning the forest, and the riders, were at further risk.

The department said approximately 100 trees had been pushed over and the non-habitat trees used were small and no larger than 30 centimetres in diameter.

Works to rehabilitate the track are scheduled to start in the next few weeks, while temporary signs will be put up by Wednesday evening and permanent signs will go up this week.

Forest Fire Management Victoria will work with the community on a long- term solution to rehabilitate the track.

Native Vegetation Clearing regulations did not apply to DELWP in this case, the department said.