Standing their ground… members of the Intra-Agency and Forestry Management Liaison Group Kieran Gosden, ForestrySA, Mike Lawson, SFM Asset Management, and Aiden Laslett, Department of Environment and Water, pictured in native forest near Mount Gambier.

COMMUNITIES are being urged to join the fight against native firewood theft by ensuring the wood they purchase is sustainably and legally sourced.

Firewood theft has plagued the Green Triangle forest industry for many years, but more recently, forest owners have reported a sharp increase in illegal activity.

A group of Green Triangle forest owners fed-up with widespread environmental destruction and theft of native timber, have joined forces with law enforcement and government agencies to address the issue.

The new intra-agency and forestry management liaison group spans both sides of the South Australian-Victorian border, with representatives from ForestrySA, SFM Asset Management, Green Triangle Forest Products, OneFortyOne, HVP, Australian Blue Gum Plantations, PF Olsen, Timberlands Pacific, Birdlife SA, SA’s Department for Environment and Water, Department of Environment, Water, Land and Planning Victoria, SA Police and Victoria Police.

Group chair and SFM asset management portfolio manager Joel Turner said it was important for community members to ensure they purchased only legally and sustainably sourced firewood.

He said plantation grown blue gum was an excellent sustainable choice which burnt at the same temperature as redgum, was easier to split and ignite and was readily available from local merchants.

“What the public doesn’t realise is that the wood they are purchasing from private sellers has often been cut down illegally from native reserves or private land across the region,” Mr Turner said.

“Illegal firewood theft damages the native environment that is protected for conservation and native animal habitat. Many of the trees being cut down are 150 to 200 years old and they can’t be replaced. It takes more than 100 years for a redgum to provide a suitable habitat for native species such as the endangered Red-tailed black cockatoo.”

Fellow group member ForestrySA forest ranger Kieran Gosden said camera surveillance and patrols had been increased in and around plantation and native forests to help catch thieves operating across the region.

“The forest industry is working collaboratively with regulatory authorities and police,” he said. “We’re all ramping up our efforts to catch those responsible.”

Green Triangle forest products harvesting manager and group member Mark Wells said the community had a collective responsibility to look after the environment for the benefit of future generations.

“This is a pretty unique environment and if we’re not careful, we’ll destroy it and lose more than just trees,” he said. “I think a lot of the people who are buying redgum are probably unaware of the impact of what they’re doing. For them it’s just a heating resource to keep them warm in winter, but the real environmental impact – they just don’t see it.

“We really need to convey to the community that we understand what they are looking, but there are alternative resources they can use to do that. Cutting down our redgum is going to have a huge impact on our natural resources going forward.”