200 Yarram trees illegally destroyed

Photo: File

MORE than 200 Yarram trees have been stolen to be sold as firewood, with the public urged to report information about firewood theft in state forests in the area.

Gippsland firewood thieves are being put on notice as the Conservation Regulator and Victoria Police ramp up patrols in forests near Yarram after a recent spike in offending.

More than 200 trees were illegally cut down and their timber removed from Won Wron, Alberton West and Mullungdung State Forests during June, with the illegal timber likely used and sold on as firewood.

Thieves have been illegally targeting living and dead yellow stringybark trees in forests and along forest roadsides, creating safety risks for other forest users and destroying vital habitat for native wildlife species, including the boobook owl, lace monitor and greater glider.

The areas impacted in the Alberton West State Forest are also within a special protection zone which has been set aside to protect lowland forest, warm temperate rainforest and powerful owl habitat.

Conservation Regulator Authorised Officers and Victoria Police officers from Yarram are targeting firewood thieves through dedicated patrols in the area over the next few months, and are calling on the public to report any information they know about the offending to 136 186.

Sergeant Floyd Nevis, from Victoria Police, Yarram, said police will continue to support the Conservation Regulator in targeting thieves illegally removing timber from public land.

Penalties apply for anyone caught illegally removing timber from public land, including an on-the-spot fine of $769 or $9615 per charge if the matter is prosecuted in court.

It is also a timely reminder to people buying firewood to consider where firewood for sale has come from.

“Illegally cutting down trees, dead or alive, destroys important habitat that our wildlife depends on for survival. It will take hundreds of years for nature to regenerate and create hollows in these trees again,” Regulatory Program Manager, Gippsland Region, Bradley Woods said.

“We urge the public to buy firewood responsibly and report dodgy dealers or those taking timber illegally from our forests to use for firewood.”

Firewood sellers can only sell timber sourced legally from a wholesale supplier, commercial wood lot or from private land with the permission of the landowner.

Victorians are encouraged to ask where the firewood is from before they buy, make sure they get a receipt and question if the wood seems cheaper than similar sales nearby to avoid inadvertently supporting illegal firewood operators and to reduce the impact of illegal firewood activities on the environment.

The autumn firewood collection season finished on June 30 and the spring season will open on September 1.

For more information, go to vic.gov.au/buying-firewood