Fate of native forest hangs on “DAVID VS GOLIATH” court case

Environment East Gippsland Inc (EEG) v Vic Forests
Brown Mountain Court Case, Sale, Monday, March 1

The fate of a native forest with trees dating back to Joan of Arc’s time is at stake in a Supreme Court case to be heard at the Victorian centre of Sale from Monday (March 1 2010).

The landmark Brown Mountain case has national implications for all native forests in Australia and major political implications, with the green vote likely to be vital for both State and Federal Labor Governments in an election year which is also the UN’s Year of Biodiversity.

In a David and Goliath battle, Environment East Gippsland (EEG) is seeking to stop state-owned logging monopoly VicForests from clear-felling Brown Mountain, a rich and ancient forest which is “chockablock” with threatened and endangered species.

The action marks the first time a Victorian court has been asked to grant a permanent injunction against state-sanctioned logging.

It will also raise the fundamental conflict in Australia’s Regional Forest Agreement – where the State Government charged with protecting the forests is also the logger.

That was underlined in Victoria last year when Environment Minister Gavin Jennings gave the go-ahead to logging at Brown Mountain, declaring there were no threatened species in there. That very morning an EEG camera captured footage at Brown Mountain of a Long-footed Potoroo, one of Victoria’s most endangered species.

In the absence of government protection, EEG was forced to take legal action to defend the forest – an enormous and costly step for a community group.

In an Australian first, EEG last year won a temporary injunction on logging at Brown Mountain, ahead of the full hearing, with Supreme Court Justice Forrest comparing images from the forest to the WW1 battlefields of the Somme.

But even if successful with their action, conservationists anticipate the Victorian Government may favour the logging industry and over-ride the court’s decision as has happened in previous high-profile cases in both Victoria and Tasmania

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