Friday, November 26, 2021

LiDAR Data Reveals Illegal Logging

LiDAR data has been used to suggest that the logging company VicForests has been carrying out illegal logging in the state of Victoria, Australia. ABC News has obtained high resolution LiDAR data of Victoria's state forest which has allowed researchers to map the underlying terrain. Loggers in Victoria are prohibited from logging on hills which are steeper than 30 degrees. Thanks to the new LiDAR data it is now possible to reveal that between 2004-2019 VicForests illegally logged over 65 hectares from slopes exceeding 30 degrees.

The trees in the forests of Victoria play an integral role in filtering the drinking water of the city of Melbourne. As water flows down the mountains of north-east of Melbourne the roots of the forest trees slow the water's progress. When slowed the water seeps into the ground, where it is then naturally filtered by the soil. This is one reason why it is illegal to log trees on the steep mountain slopes in the water catchment area.

ABC News' Lawless Loggers uses 3D maps to explain how the newly obtained LiDAR data has been used to model the Victoria terrain and reveal where VicForests has been logging on slopes with a higher gradient than 30 degrees. Environmental researchers analyzed 332 logged areas in the state. 331 of those areas had a slope of at least 30 degrees. 

Sixty percent of Melbourne's drinking water comes from the catchment area being logged by VicForests. That water is delivered to the city's residents with very little filtration. VicForests deny that they are involved in a widespread breach of Victoria's slope limits. The Office of the Conservation Regulator (OCR) is responsible for enforcing the state's logging laws. It has twice found VicForests guilty of illegal logging but on both occasions declined to take any regulatory action against the logging company.

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