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Loggers 'reap bushfire windfall'

Herald Sun, 24feb03

CONSERVATIONISTS in Victoria's fire-ravaged north-east have expressed outrage over what they claim is illegal logging of the Snowy River National Park. A spokeswoman for conservation group Environment East Gippsland, Jill Redwood, said logging crews, given control of the fire break by the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE), had logged and cleared about 300ha along the park's eastern edge. A DSE spokeswoman said the department, in conjunction with Parks Victoria, had launched an investigation into the removal of trees on the Yalmy Road side of the park.

She said the investigation was in response to concerns that works were not in line with good practice. Ms Redwood said the loggers had gone too far. "This is not a fire control line but a massive lineal logging operation, taking advantage of the fire crisis situation," Ms Redwood said. "This was undeniably an opportunistic grab for sawlogs at a time when the industry thought they could get away with it," Ms Redwood said. She claimed many trees had gone straight to mills, in breach of government legislation.

The DSE spokeswoman said the department had implemented measures to make sure wood removed from the park was accounted for. The fire campaign, which has burnt 1.11 million hectares of park and forest, is the state's largest public land wildfire in 60 years. The DSE investigation is expected to take several weeks.