East Gippsland logging faces fresh court challenge over endangered species
February 18, 2016
Activists have launched legal action against VicForests, alleging it is not properly protecting species such as the Yellow-bellied Glider are to be logged Photo: Ed Hill, Goongerah Environment Centre
Environmental activists have launched Supreme Court action seeking logging to be ruled unlawful in parts of the Kuark Forest, outside Orbost, until the state-owned timber agency VicForests carries out targeted surveys for endangered species and puts in place protection measures.
The green campaigners say their surveys have found evidence that two areas slated for logging are home to threatened animal and plant species, along with protected stands of rainforest.
The creatures central to the legal tussle include the Yellow-bellied Glider, Long-footed Potoroo, East Gippsland Galaxias and a previously undescribed species of crayfish.
The East Gippsland Galaxias, one of the threatened species central to the legal challenge. Photo: Ed Hill, Goongerah Environment Centre
Lawyers with Environmental Justice Australia filed the most recent case last Friday. A short-term injunction was also served by the court to halt logging already under way in one of the coupes in an emergency session of the Supreme Court held on Saturday.
“VicForests declined to halt logging after court proceedings were filed. We discovered that some logging had already occurred, logging machines remained in the area, and another machine was delivered early on Saturday morning, so we requested an urgent court hearing over the weekend,” said Danya Jacobs, a lawyer with Environmental Justice Australia.
“We will be arguing that VicForests started logging in this area without properly looking for these values or protecting them.”
Logging in the Kuark Forest that has now been stopped due to a temporary Supreme Court injunction. Photo: Ed Hill, Goongerah Environment Centre
The green lawyers, who are acting on behalf of Environment East Gippsland, say the landmark case will test whether VicForests is correctly identifying and protecting rainforest patches and whether the agency is allowed to log when threatened species have been discovered but the environment department is yet to put protections in place for them.
VicForests spokesman David Walsh said the timber agency would contest the case as it believed its harvesting operations complied with state law. He said nine workers in the halted logging coupe had been moved to other sites for the time being.
Mr Walsh said the area subject to the injunction had already undergone a survey by an independent ecologist and harvesting plans had been modified to protect potoroos. He added VicForests was reviewing how targeted surveys were being carried out.