Opinion

Funding cuts lead to tree chops

By John Lewis

Today's story on the illegal felling of trees north of Shepparton comes on the back of similar activity in bushland near Mooroopna reported last month.

We have no way of knowing whether these illegal activities are being performed by the same people, but they are to be condemned whoever is responsible.

Random tree felling is upsetting and highly destructive. As well as destroying the natural habitat of hundreds of species of native birds, mammals and reptiles, the saw blade removes living networks of carbon recycling, food and shelter that have taken hundreds of years to grow.

This insults us all - indigenous people, environmentalists, tourists, local nature lovers and parks authorities.

Organised illegal logging does all this and more.

Those who systematically destroy our native forests for financial gain are able to do so only because they feel the threat of punishment is remote.

Shepparton man Joel Hoffman says he first reported illegal tree felling in the area to Parks Victoria four years ago, but nothing has been done.

Parks Victoria says it is doing its best and has measures in place to regularly patrol and photograph the targeted areas.

However, if illegal loggers can operate so close to urban areas with impunity, it appears these measures are not working.

Unlike trees, large bureaucratic organisations rot from the top downwards.

So we find a continuing drop in Parks Victoria funding from $122 million in 2011-12 to $70.6 million in the 2018-19 state budget.

No state body charged with the protection of our natural assets can sustain this level of funding drought without something being sacrificed.

To catch illegal loggers inevitably requires many hours of patrol and monitoring tactics which, for an organisation already under funding pressure, would be difficult to say the least.

This does not mean that illegal loggers can look forward to open slather on our forests.

We can all play a part in thwarting their damaging activities.

If anyone sees illegal activity they should phone Parks Victoria on 131963.

If we think illegally harvested firewood is being sold either on social media or at markets we can report it to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning's customer service centre on 136 186.

Anyone who cares about the preservation of our precious native woodlands can and should make a stand against these selfish environmental vandals.