Calls to end logging’s legal exemption from federal environment law

This week a coalition of 25 environment groups is urging Premier Daniel Andrews to abandon his plans to extend the legal exemption given to the native forest logging industry in East Gippsland.

The East Gippsland Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) is a 20-year arrangement between state and federal governments that gives special immunity to the logging industry from Federal environment laws – laws that should protect nationally listed threatened species. 

“The East Gippsland RFA is the first to expire in early February 2017, just six weeks away.  RFAs were applied in the late 1990s for all states’ native forest logging operations and will commence expiring over the next two years”, said Goongerah Environment Centre spokesperson Ed Hill.  

“Premier Andrews must show progressive leadership and not condemn East Gippsland’s forests to be pillaged for a day longer than the archaic exemption allows,” said Ed Hill    

“The federal Environment Protection Biodiversity and Conservation (EPBC) Act requires states to protect nationally rare species, but since 1997, the RFAs allow endangered wildlife such as the Spot-tailed Quoll to be destroyed by a logging bulldozer, as opposed to a farmer’s or miner’s bulldozer”, said Environment East Gippsland spokesperson Jill Redwood.

“The impacts of clearfell logging  do not have to be assessed. It’s assumed state plans will protect values, but this has been clearly a catastrophic failure,” said Jill Redwood.

“Since the RFAs were signed in the late nineties several forest dependent species have undergone dramatic declines. Extending the legal immunity to logging will push our rare wildlife to the brink of extinction,” said Jill Redwood. 

“What makes this even more shocking is that East Gippsland is Victoria’s stronghold for threatened species like the Greater Glider,” said Ed Hill.

“Australia’s largest gliding marsupial, the Greater Glider, was listed as vulnerable to extinction under federal law earlier this year. Because of the special legal exemption, destruction of this extraordinary animal and its habitat is permitted with the blessing of the state and federal governments,” said Ed Hill. 

“It would be reckless in the extreme for the Andrews government to extend the special treatment given to logging, while its Forest Industry Taskforce acknowledges that urgent steps are needed to protect rare wildlife,” said Ed Hill.

“It’s time for these out dated and obsolete agreements to be scrapped and for the logging industry to obey the same rules that every other industry has to follow,” said Jill Redwood.

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