Endangered owls have legal win

The day after the national Threatened Species Summit ends, a Supreme Court case brought by Environment East Gippsland has reached an out of court settlement The case challenged logging in threatened owl habitat by the state government’s Environment Department and VicForests, which have now agreed to set aside over 2,000 ha.

This 10 month case sought to enforce the state government’s obligations to protect 3 threatened owl species – the Sooty, Masked and Powerful Owls.  EEG argued that the government had failed to protect the legal minimum habitat for threatened owls, and that bushfires in 2014 destroyed large areas of protected owl habitat. Meanwhile, VicForests had plans to continue clearfelling unabated in areas where the rare owls survived.

“This is our 4th successful case against the government to compel it to comply with its own environment protection laws”, said Jill Redwood from EEG. “Today this out of court settlement has seen the Department of Environment Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and VicForests agree to:

  • move nine stands of old growth forest off the logging schedule and into protection zones
  • put a 4 year moratorium on 16 stands of prime owl habitat planned for clearfelling around the fire-zone and at Kuark forest.
  • increase the size of all protected areas for owls that are below legal minimums in East Gippsland. 
  • carry out expert research to help inform whether further protection is needed for owls after the major 2014 fires. 
  • pay part of our considerable costs to bring this case to court.

“We are pleased that the government accepts there needs to be more work done to ensure our large forest owls survive. We will be keeping a close eye on the progress of the Department’s work over the next year”, said Jill Redwood. “This case began under the previous Napthine government. We would hope our new Labor government is more sympathetic to protecting Victoria’s threatened wildlife.”

“This agreement is one step in the right direction – but the most cost-effective way to protect threatened wildlife and avoid future legal disputes is to permanently protect their habitat, especially all remaining old growth forests in East Gippsland. The owls are just one of so many rare native animals in need of urgent protection.    We hope to see the new Labor government works with the community to find win-win solutions, rather than paying out $5.5 million a year for VicForests to continue clearfelling critically important habitat.  

“If the reckless plan by the Andrews government to send shipments of whole logs to China – critical habitat for wildlife – goes ahead, we guarantee it will lead to increased disputes about the protection of our threatened wildlife.” 

For comment: Jill Redwood – 5154 0145

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