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Men detected for illegal firewood collection in Barmah National Park

Friday 24 May, 2013

Two men have been questioned about serious offences in relation to the destruction of habitat in Barmah National Park last weekend.

Operation Detroit was the first stage of an ongoing joint compliance operation between Parks Victoria, Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) and Victoria Police, aimed at detecting illegal wood collection in protected areas. To date in excess of 30 people have been detected committing various offences in the national park since the compliance operation began.

Two men were detected allegedly committing offences under the National Parks Act 1975 and the Wildlife Act 1975 including removing wood from Barmah National Park, approximately 20km outside the designated domestic firewood collection area.

An investigation is now underway into possible offences under the National Parks Act 1975 and the Wildlife Act 1975, including commercial sale of firewood, felling and cutting of habitat trees and driving off-road. Various items were also seized including two chainsaws and a trailer, pending an outcome in court.

“It is pleasing to see the first stage of this ongoing operation implemented with resounding success,” said Parks Victoria Murray Riverine Ranger in Charge Brooke Ryan.

“Barmah National Park is a significant RAMSAR listed site and protecting these unique wetland environments is of critical importance,” Brooke said.

Experienced compliance staff from Parks Victoria and DEPI gathered intelligence that led to the identification of the two offenders.

Rangers were shocked at the level of destruction at a number of sites, where a significant number of trees with important habitat values were felled and removed. The method in which the wood was removed was extremely dangerous and it is surprising no one was injured in the process.

“Illegal harvesting of wood from the national park has a detrimental effect on the environment, tourism and park visitor enjoyment and the local economy. Such illegal activities put the ongoing availability of legal firewood collection areas across the district at risk,” said Brooke.

“As well as the environmental damage, this activity has also put a number of significant cultural sites, including scar trees, at risk throughout the park.”

It is an offence to cut, take, remove or possess wood from a national park and penalties can range from “on the spot” fines of $563 to court appearances that can result in heavy fines and convictions.

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