Illegal firewood thieves caught out in Northern Victoria
Thursday 7 October, 2021
Parks Victoria has teamed up with the Conservation Regulator and Forest Fire Management Victoria to crack down on illegal firewood theft, with two significant operations intercepted near Shepparton and Mildura last month.
Conservation Regulator Authorised Officers seized a truck, chainsaws and mobile phones from two men after they were caught cutting down a 100-plus year-old river red gum tree in the Loch Garry Wildlife Reserve on 16 September.
It followed a joint operation by the Conservation Regulator and Parks Victoria. Authorised Officers found evidence of trees being felled and timber being unlawfully removed during dedicated patrols along the Goulburn River between Murchison and Echuca.
In the north-west, Authorised Officers from all three agencies executed a search warrant at a Mildura property on 21 September, after a 23-year-old man was found allegedly taking river red gum timber from public land.
During the search, officers seized red gum timber from the man’s property, along with related equipment. The investigation is ongoing.
Illegal firewood collectors often target dry, dead standing trees, which provide important habitat to many of our threatened native species, including vulnerable small mammals and birds.
These animals rely on fallen timber and tree hollows for habitat. Crevices under logs and hollows in trees provide safe places for mammals, reptiles, birds and invertebrates to live and are the perfect place to protect their young from predators.
Fallen timber and tree hollows also have value far beyond basic shelter, providing food resources and recycling nutrients in the ecosystem as it decays. To them, people taking firewood is taking their home.
Offenders can face a fine of up to $9,087 and/or a year in prison, as well as risk losing the items used to commit offences, such as chainsaws, vehicles and other associated equipment.
Authorised Officers will continue patrolling public land in Northern Victoria, targeting illegal firewood collection through Operation River Gum, with support from the Victoria Police.
The community is encouraged to report suspected illegal firewood collection by calling 136 186.
The 2021 spring domestic firewood collection season runs from 1 September until 30 November, with designated collection areas and limits protecting the environment and community firewood resources.
For more information on where to collect visit ffm.vic.gov.au/firewood/firewood-collection-in-your-region.
Information about firewood collection rules be found at https://www.vic.gov.au/collecting-firewood.
Quote attributable to Conservation Regulator Director Regulatory Operations, Ash Bunce
“During our patrols we are finding many of the illegally felled trees are more than 100-years-old, so they won’t be replaced in our lifetime, or the next generation’s. These large, dead-standing-trees are disappearing unlawfully from the landscape, and we are committed to finding and penalising the offenders.”
Quote attributable to Parks Victoria Acting Senior Manager Enforcement and Regulatory Services, Chris Mercier
“Parks Victoria Authorised Officers are working with Victoria Police, the Conservation Regulator and the community in an effort to apprehend offenders and ensure prosecution to stop significant wildlife habitat loss and damage to Aboriginal cultural scar trees.”