“Instead of sending in biologists, DSE and VicForests sent in the bulldozers”
Thanks to some dedicated work by EEG and a small team of volunteer wildlife surveyors over the 08/09 summer season, plans to quickly annihilate the rest of Brown Mountain’s old growth forests were averted.
The Forest Management Plan for East Gippsland states that, where over 10 Greater Gliders are found in a set area, 100 hectares of that forest must receive protection. MUST. This is mandatory under law. At no surprise to anyone, this rich population of arboreal mammals was easily identified. The stand also turned up a Long-footed Potoroo and endangered owls. Then the beautiful rainforest-lined Brown Mountain Creek was shown to have the endangered Orbost Spiny Crayfish living in it – both the Potoroo and Cray have legal protection under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.
VicForests plays Rambo
Such an ancient forest with large hollows is bound to have high populations of sensitive tree-dwelling mammals. The government would just prefer they remain undiscovered so logging can continue. No pre-logging surveys are ever carried out which means volunteers must do this work if these species are to have any hope. In case of Brown Mountain, the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) wildlife manager from Orbost took the right action and halted logging plans while DSE biologists carried out their own surveys to confirm our findings.
VicForests “cracked a wobbly” which turned a simple process into a very hot potato. The moratorium still holds at the time of writing – just – and the union and VicForests are still in the Premier’s office playing political Rambo.
Premier Brumby shows no backbone when it comes to the logging heavies within his cabinet and the inner ALP circle. Strangely, VicForests is lying, breaking the law, wasting government money, and throwing its weight around. And strangely John Brumby appears happy to submit.
VicForests logs illegally
Despite the precedent of Brown Mountain, when the survey team moved on to equally valuable ancient forests planned for logging in the Stony Creek, Delegate headwaters and Bungywarr forests, their findings were ignored. Equally rich populations of Greater Gliders, Yellow-bellied Gliders and large forest owls were also identified in numbers that trigger protection. Instead of sending in biologists, DSE and VicForests sent in bulldozers!
The survey team consisted of two trained ecologists and others experienced in environmental management. Reports were drawn up professionally and presented to the DSE. By this time, the Brown Mountain moratorium had caused such outrage from the logging mafia that Brumby’s office took control.
Instead of following due process, Environment Minister Gavin Jennings handed the survey reports to VicForests and asked they “take appropriate action”. They thanked DSE for the alert and duly sent the bulldozers in to start smashing down these very same forests. The wildlife is now dead, injured or without food, shelter and territory. DSE’s response? A short manifesto of how terrific they are – liberally sprinkled with their favourite catch-words of “balance”, “sustainable”, “in accordance with comprehensive regulatory”, “high compliance standards”, and that (after already having two months notice), they will “seek further information to determine if any further action is warranted”. Then an invitation to drive the 1,000km round trip from East Gippy to have a little face to face chat.
Legal avenues explored
EEG sought legal advice on what can be done to force the government to adhere to its own laws. This will be costly but hey – we’re supposed to live in a democracy; citizens must abide by the laws, why not those who wrote them?