EEG’s fourth Court case challenging the government’s non-adherence to its own environment laws has been settled (17.7.15). This time it was for the owls.
EEG, DELWP and VicForests have agreed that the environment department (DELWP) take action to adhere to legal obligations and increase owl protected areas as well as assess the damage done to owl habitat and study owls post-fire to inform whether new protection zones are necessary. Logging in key areas of unprotected owl habitat scheduled for clearfelling will be halted for 4 years while this work is underway.
The department and VicForests have agreed to:
- move 9 stands of old growth forest off the logging schedule and into protection zones
- put a 4 year moratorium on another 16 stands of prime owl habitat planned for clearfelling
- increase the size of all owl protected areas that are below legal minimums in East Gippsland
- task biologists to study owls post-fire and consider if additional owl protection measures are needed
- carry out assessments of burnt owl zones
- pay a portion of our considerable legal costs
Specific areas include:
An additional 180ha added to a protection site for the Powerful Owl in the Cobon forest including 58ha that was scheduled for clearfelling. An additional 1,390 ha of good quality forest for the Masked Owls (including 500ha within Kuark and 36ha that was scheduled for logging).
Brown Mountain’s remaining unprotected stands of 580ha (including a Powerful Owl nest site) to be included in a Special Protection Zone, including 185ha that was scheduled for logging.
Forests totalling 537ha planned for imminent clearfelling will be put under a 4 year moratorium. This includes old growth areas of:
- 235 ha around Bonang-Bendoc
- 65ha at Martins Creek
- 237ha around Kuark/Freds Track
The case was launched 10 month ago when the Napthine government was in power. Then Ministers Walsh and Smith refused to review the owl protection zones. Although we were disappointed that the new Labor government chose to continue along the legal path for some 7 months, we are pleased that it now accepts that it must do more work to ensure our large forest owls survive.
We look forward to working with the department on these owl protection measures over the next year while continuing to demand permanent protection for all remaining old growth forests and the many other threatened wildlife species in East Gippsland.
Read the EEG media release
Listen to a 3TR radio interview with Jill here
In summer 2014 bushfires raged across some of East Gippsland’s best old growth forests in and around the Snowy River National Park. The loss of primary habitat for many threatened wildlife was obvious. The constant crashing of hollow bearing trees for 2 months (and afterwards, thanks to the department’s habit of falling every big tree within cooee of a track) made it clear this would have a shocking toll on wildlife – especially those dependent on old trees with large hollows.
There were 46 protected owl zones impacted in the final 170,000ha of burnt forest (much of which was deliberately burnt by the department). Some zones suffered very severe fire that killed trees and ‘evaporated’ the understorey. Others had less severe fire through them but still resulted in many hollow bearing trees being lost.
Owls, gliders, frogs, bandicoots, potoroos and untold other species were wiped out in the inferno. It will take decades for the damage from this shockingly managed fire to start to recover. East Gippsland’s rare species that relied on the Snowy Park for refuge will now be under even greater threat and need all the help they can get.