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The Lasting Impacts of Illegal Clearing on Public Land

The illegal clearing of native vegetation along private property fence-lines has become a worrying trend across Victoria. We’re once again warning private landowners and earthmoving contractors to ensure they have the right authorisation before disturbing any native vegetation.

Reports to the Conservation Regulator about the clearing of trees from public land have increased this year, with several cases part of our ongoing investigations.

Last month, a second conviction was handed down for the illegal removal of mature eucalyptus trees in the Annya State Forest, near Heywood, in 2021. A southwest earthmoving contractor was ordered to pay nearly $22,000 in combined fines and legal costs after he was hired by a private landowner to clear trees from the forest along the fence line of their property. The private property owner pleaded guilty to similar charges under the Forests Act 1958 and the Wildlife Regulations 2013 in April last year and was ordered to pay fines and legal costs combining to almost $60,000.

In a separate case, an earthmoving contractor was charged earlier this month with more than 125 offences after allegedly bulldozing 60 large native trees from an area of public land in and around Mount Lawson State Park. The business owner is accused of destroying wildlife habitat and using a vehicle to damage public land without a permit and will face court next month.

Our native trees and other vegetation provide significant wildlife habitat to a range of birds, mammals, and reptile species, some of which are endangered. The removal of native tress like these from public land has lasting negative impacts on the environment and biodiversity.

In Victoria, it is illegal to remove native vegetation on public land without authorisation. Damaging, disturbing, or destroying wildlife habitat attracts penalties up to $9,615 per charge.

Anyone with information about illegal land clearing or other environmental crimes is urged to call 136 186.