The COVID-19 pandemic created lasting changes to the way Victorians live and spend their leisure time. It has been fantastic to see so many Victorians out enjoying our natural environment with unprecedented visitation across public land. We expect this to continue into 2022–2023, particularly in public land closer to urban areas.
Off-road vehicle use
The rising popularity of off-road vehicles is driving high demand for trail bikes and other all-terrain vehicles in Victoria. Unfortunately, the Conservation Regulator has seen an increase in illegal vehicle use associated with these trends that are negatively impacting the biodiversity values of our state forests. This includes off-road illegal trail bike riding and four-wheel driving.
Bushfire risk and recovery
The significant 2019–20 bushfires burned through 1.5 million hectares of Victoria’s forests, almost all of which was native forest and important wildlife habitat. Native flora and fauna will continue to be at risk during the slow regeneration of lost forest and are more vulnerable to future bushfires. We play an important role in protecting and preserving these forest values and remaining wildlife refuges as our forests recover.
Impacts on wildlife
Despite restricted pathways for the import and export of wildlife due to international travel restrictions, there has been global boom in online wildlife trade over the past few years. We know the pandemic drove an increase in the demand for exotic pets globally with Australian wildlife fetching high prices.
Locally, demand for keeping wildlife as pets has continued to increase. There can also be challenges in managing conflicts between wildlife and human activity which will remain a focus for the Conservation Regulator where there is a risk of harm to native wildlife.
Demand for firewood
Firewood supply continues to be constrained and this is expected to continue in the future. Major bushfires and economic pressures including increased home heating costs are expected to drive continued pressure on Victoria’s firewood stocks. The illegal take of firewood continues to be an issue damaging wildlife habitat and culturally significant sites.