BACK TO COURT

EEG sues VicForests for not protecting rare Glider habitat

UPDATE – 2/7/21 – injunction granted for buffers

Good news. EEG had no option but to seek an urgent injunction to stop VicForests from clearing forests up to the roadside. This is despite the Code clearly stating that it must leave a 20m buffer between a logging area and roads and tracks. This is part of our larger case. Such shameful looting of protected public forest has been happening for years. The injunction stops them logging these zones until the trial next year.

The arguments were heard by the Honourable Justice Incerti who handed down her decision on Friday 2nd July. The crux of the orders are below:


June 25th 2021

Greater Glider habitat along Koolabra Track. Clearfelling had just started when EEG obtained an urgent injunction to stop the logging.

After the bushfires destruction must end – but it continues.
In May 2021, Environment East Gippsland inc. launched another legal case against the state-owned logging monopoly, VicForests. This means VicForests is currently facing eight legal challenges to its logging operations (one of them soon to be heard in the High Court we’re hoping).

While we prepare a case to argue in court, EEG and its lawyers have managed to stop logging machinery from doing extensive damage to some of the best, unburnt Greater Glider habitat remaining in East Gippsland. As well as these forests SW of Bendoc, (where a blockade camp had been for months), we are also hoping to extend VicForests legal undertaking to not log in all other glider-rich, unburnt or lightly burnt forests in East Gippsland.

Gliders have suffered an 80% reduction in their population in East Gippsland over the last 20 years of logging and bushfires. The 2019-20 Black Summer fires burnt 80% of the region. This alone illustrates the desperate need to urgently protect all Glider habitat. It has been 18 months since the devastating bushfires, yet no added protection or recognition of now imperiled wildlife like the Greater Glider, has been formalised.

Protests and wildlife surveys by GECO and others helped to keep logging contractors at bay for a few months until VicForests engaged extremely expensive 24/7 security guards to camp on site and prevent tree sits and lock-ons being set up at night. VicForests then managed to chainsaw and bulldoze a few ha of forested habitat over about four days while the urgent injunction was prepared for the Supreme Court by our sharp shooting lawyers.

On 12th May our injunction was granted and the logging was stopped.  

Healthy mixed age forests where a significant population of rare Greater Gliders were detected. Despite the need for protection, clearfelling began. May 2021.

The 2020 summer bushfires impacted about 80% of EG.
Only around 37% of Glider habitat is now unburnt across the East Gippsland, Tambo and North East FMAs. Just over half of that area is unprotected and still available for logging despite supporting significant populations and containing some of the best habitat for the species.

VicForests is planning to clearfell (under names such as ‘variable retention’ and ‘adaptive silvicultural system’) the best forests that remain. These high-value conservation forests are also targeted for their high-profit wood values.

VicForests argues that it only logs a teeny-tiny percent of forests every year. This is like a museum manager claiming he only takes one art piece in 10,000 – these just so happen to be Rembrant’s masterpieces.

What we claim

Our basic argument in this case is that:
VicForests has failed to apply management actions (protections) in respect of greater gliders and yellow bellied gliders and unless restrained will continue to do so.

We strongly believe it has not adhered to its legal obligations in the Code of Forest Practice (2014) or the Management Standards and Procedures (2014) or the Planning Standards (2014).

These documents say where a certain number of the Greater Gliders or Yellow-bellied Gliders are found, either in a hectare, along a kilometre, after an hour of spotlighting or where there are substantial populations in isolated habitats, that 100ha of suitable habitat MUST be protected. As a logging coupe can be 30ha on average, 100ha protects a reasonable area of forest, but VicForests’ or DELWP’s definition of ‘suitable’ is not always the same as the gliders. Any nearby north-facing dry, or ridgetop forest can be unsuitable or useless.  

VicForests appears to be putting its own interpretation on these requirements. A new office which the government set up in early 2019 called the Office of the Conservation Regulator or the OCR (some say it’s a fancy name for a brick wall) seems to interpret the wording differently as well.

These detections were obtained along the roadsides. They indicate how significant the population would be across this entire forested area.

Precautionary Principle
There is also reluctance by all of these bodies to apply the Precautionary Principle. This is another legal obligation, but conveniently considered discretionary. However, both the Supreme Court and the Federal Court have clarified its meaning. It is also clear that it is not optional. This is another part of our argument.

Roadside buffer breaches

The other breach we claim has been happening for years is the disregard for the clause in the Standards which states there must be a 20m forested buffer left unlogged along all roads and tracks.   

Timeline
As these legal cases require a lot of preparation of evidence, arguments, swapping documents, requesting information from the other side, various preliminary hearings and so on, this process will take time. However, we’ll be adding regular updates to this page as they happen. The court hearing could be early 2022 and we hope to secure interim protection for important glider habitat in East Gippsland meanwhile.  

We are also hoping to force VicForests to respect its legal obligations to leave a 20m forested buffer between roads and tracks and its logging exploits.



This case will be costly, but we intend to pursue this and force the Andrews government’s lawless and immoral logging entity to keep these beautiful forests stay standing.

Tax-deductible donations to help us see this case through will be extremely valuable – and greatly appreciated both by us – and the Greater Gliders.


The other cases are, Warburton Environment’s two case, including the protection of rare Geebungs Friends of Leadbeaters possum case, WOTCH’s case against post-fire logging, Kinglake Friends of Forests, on lack of 20m roadside buffers and overlogging its quota in bushfire management zones and lastly, the old growth case brought by the FFRC.

3 Replies to “BACK TO COURT”

  1. Wendy Radford June 27, 2021 at 7:33 pm

    Thank you so much for your continued effective action against that blight on the landscape, VicForests. We in Bendigo have been campaigning for decades to get protection for our last remaining old forests against mining interests, and the destructive recreational uses of our forests. We’ve been shattered by the duplicitous government response to the VEAC recommendations last week – no national park for our pre-European big trees either. Except we only have a handful left, whilst you are the last buffer between voracious VicForests and a magnificent functioning temperate rain forests in Victoria. We donate and will encourage others to do so. We trust you to fight the good fight until the end. You are incorruptible, which is a mighty compliment in a country which sees Bridget McKenzie and Barnaby Joyce on the front bench.

    Reply

    1. Thanks so much Wendy, and we feel for your desperate situation out there. Australia seems to have declined seriously and can no longer be called a democracy. This is the end game for so much of our environment to keep the extractive industries rampaging through the country. It will take some serious action by a large number of voters, but we certainly plan to keep at it!

      Reply

  2. Ingrid Crosser June 29, 2021 at 7:37 pm

    Thanks for all you do!!! My children’s children will thank you too

    Reply

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