EEG legal injunction to stop logging at Brown Mountain

Environment East Gippsland has applied for an injunction in the Supreme Court of Victoria to stop the logging of Brown Mountain.

On Friday 21st August the Brumby Government announced the go-ahead to clearfell the controversial 600-800 year old forest along Brown Mountain Creek that they promised in 2006 would be the ‘old growth walk’ for tourists.

Their spin doctors told the media that they are protecting 400 ha of the summit, but they didn’t tell the media that this was already protected thanks to an endangered Long-footed Potoroo that was found there 8 years ago by an EEG survey. They announced they were protecting an existing protected area!

This legal injunction is the last and hopefully the most powerful piece of ammo left in our kit bag. Our lawyers are confident it will work. A win would have implications for other areas as well.

Costly attack

This David and Goliath legal battle against the state Labor government will be extremely costly but if we let them get away with destroying this area, no area of old growth will be safe. Someone’s got to do it and we are lucky to have a little in reserve to start the ball rolling.

We’ll need to rattle the donations tin in the near future though. But what price do you put on forests that are seven times older than Federation?

There’s been open slather woodchipping in East Gippsland for 40 years but Brown Mountain is where we draw the line. We have no option but to challenge this bloody-minded boys club in our courts.

Threatened wildlife

The media statement by the government also stated there were no threatened species in the area – but on reading the report from the DSE biologists who carried out a few short surveys earlier in the year, they found high numbers of sensitive hollow dependent arboreal mammals (gliders) that should trigger the protection of 100 ha. However, the DSE have decided to instead say this triggers an evaluation of whether the protection should be given!

Despite our verified Potoroo hair from our hair tubing surveys, they couldn’t find any. Potoroos are very evasive and hard to detect. The biologists report stated clearly that there were signs of Potoroo diggings, the habitat was suitable for Pots and as there had been a Long-footed Pot found just across the track, there is every likelihood that they also occur in this forest.

We found the endangered Orbost Spiny Crayfish on several occasions but they were unable to be positively identified by the local ‘expert’. His confirmation trapping session of three hours in shallow end of summer stream pools was fruitless. Despite the lack of solid identification, the DSE were given permission by the commercial logging arm of DSE VicForests (!) to allow a 100 mt buffer along the creek as a precaution. But VicForests would not allow them to protect arboreal mammals that were positively identified!

There are also a good number of large forest owls like Sooty and Powerful Owls which use this forest for roosting, hunting and no doubt nesting. Despite them being listed as threatened, they don’t score protection.

John Brumby is just another in a long line of Premiers who have been subservient to the logging union and the export woodchip industry. He is too weak to stand up to the logging union mates he has in his inner circle, too weak to say no to the export woodchip industry and shows barefaced disregard for the majority of voters.

The injunction relies on the area being critical habitat to a number of threatened species under both State and Federal legislation and requiring a conservation order to protect the area. One of the classic govt-speak quotes in their media release on the 21st was that they would log Brown Mountain “under modified conditions designed to provide greater protection for the area”. Doesn’t that sound comforting? “Protective logging” – what will they use, rubber chainsaws?

The managers of VicForests are the tail that wags the government dog. If John Brumby is too weak to stand up to them and protect endangered forests, then we have to make his government legally responsible.

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