The ongoing problem of firewood theft has been highlighted again, with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Forest Fire Management Victoria and Parks Victoria officers acknowledging several cases across the district.
Following a severe fire season, and with the coronavirus epidemic limiting contact and inspections, officers have relied upon surveillance to catch wood thieves operating in state forests, national parks and reserves, with several offenders being discovered.
The 2020 autumn firewood collection season for 2020 started across Victoria on Sunday 1 March.
"We want to remind the public that firewood can only be taken from designated collection areas in state forests or parks during approved times and for personal use only, and cannot be sold, Forest Fire Management Victoria's Deputy Chief Fire Officer Grampians Region, Tony English said in a comprehensive statement..
"It's important that people only collect firewood from designated collection areas in State forests where collection is allowed, and to stay within collection limits. These designated collection areas are put in place to protect sites of cultural and environmental significance.
"It is important to stay within collection limits, which are in place to prevent households stockpiling large volumes of firewood from public land and denying others a supply.
"Collection limits include taking a maximum of two cubic metres per person per day and a maximum of 16 cubic metres per household per financial year."
Hoarding and resale of stolen wood is also a problem, with reduced loads of wood available due to bushfire.
"The felling of trees and cutting downed hollow logs for firewood is also prohibited. Authorised officers will be patrolling parks, forests and reserves to ensure people are doing the right thing while collecting their firewood," Mr English said.
"We take a zero-tolerance approach to illegal firewood collection, given the negative impacts it has on forest health, wildlife habitat, public safety and the sustainability of firewood resources that local communities rely on. Most people follow the rules, however, it's important for anyone collecting firewood on public land to be aware of where, when and what firewood can be collected to avoid significant penalties."
Under the Forest Act 1958, people who collect firewood outside designated collection areas or season or take more than the maximum allowable amounts can face fines of up to $8,261, or a maximum penalty of one-year imprisonment or both, if the matter proceeded to Court.
For any further information on firewood collection or to report illegal or suspicious behaviour in public and areas, please contact the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning on 136 186.
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