Timeline – EEG vs VicForests – Brown Mountain
12th August 2009
EEG requests Environment Minister Jennings to make an interim conservation order under the FFGA to protect Brown Mt and adjoining forests as a critical habitat due to a number of threatened species.
19th August 2009
Letter to Jennings asking for an urgent reply to 12th Aug letter by 21st August as we believed VicForests were planning to log the area in question.
21st August 2009
Minister Jennings announced no endangered species existed at Brown Mt so lifted the logging moratorium which had been in place since February. DSE biologists surveyed to verify our findings for the Potoroo and Gliders but found nothing. These species should have triggered immediate protection. DSE weren’t able to verify our Potoroo hair sample, but did verify the rich glider population. They chose to ignore the protection measures for these.
22nd August 2009
Endangered Long-footed Potoroo captured on survey camera in Brown Mt, giving hard evidence of the presence of endangered wildlife.
23rd August 2009
Report and photos of Potoroo find sent to DSE Orbost.
25th August 2009
Writ served in the Supreme Court to stop VicForests logging Brown Mt. Writ asked for a permanent injunction/stop to logging. That means we were suing VicForests for planning to illegally log. This type of injunction is the non-urgent type and could take longer to hear than it would take VicForests to log the area.
27th August 2009
VicForests lawyers reply to the writ stating they intend to start logging Brown Mt next week. They refused to provide documents requested.
28th August 2009
Summons seeking interlocutory injunction – i.e. EEG asks the court for an urgent stop to logging plans.
1st-2nd September 2009
Justice Jack Forrest of the Victorian Supreme Court heard the case for an immediate halt to logging (until the case for permanent injunction could be heard). Reserved his decision with undertaking by VicForests not to log meanwhile.
14th September 2009
Justice Forrest decided it is “appropriate to grant an injunction” stopping VicForests from logging 2 coupes on Brown Mt. But allowed VicForests to put up a case for “security” that they are demanding EEG pays for loss of profit while logging is halted.
17th September 2009
VicForests argued for EEG to put up $163,000 for possible losses if VicForests wins the case. Justice Forrest reserved his decision.
24th September 2009
DSE asked for SD card of the entire camera’s history of photos while on Brown Mt (and other cameras) before accepting or verifying find.
29th September 2009
Justice Forrest refused VicForests application for $163,000 as a “bond” from EEG before the case can be heard. He did not think VicForests case was convincing.
23rd October 2009
Directions hearing in Melbourne heard by Justice Osborne. Date for court hearing set for March 2010 at the Sale court. Justice Osborne will hear the case.
31st October 2009
Further evidence of LF Potoroo documented in an adjoining area.
BROWN MOUNTAIN – 20 years on
Here’s a quick summary of the Brown Mountain saga so far:
This controversial area of National Estate forest has been in the limelight since 1989. Small but viable stands of ancient forest remain after years of butchery.
A 20 ha stand of old growth was clearfelled on Brown Mountain over summer 08-09. VicForests claimed they absolutley needed to log it. VicForests also mockingly called the coupe “the Walk” knowing it was the mapped and planned old growth walk Steve Bracks had previously agreed to fund.
The logging was targeted for protest action and people were arrested and charged and media reported the conflict.
Ministers staffers visited
The adjoining stands of ancient forest were surveyed, species were found that should be protected; a moratorium was placed on logging the adjoining forest and it was later surveyed by DSE biologists.
The DSE survey results were held by the Minister while waiting for a decision. We put in an FOI for the report which was refused.
When finally it was released it showed the same densities of gliders which should have triggered protection as our own biologists had detected.
EEG took samples from a large stump and sent it off for radiocarbon dating; one tree was found to be about 600 years old.
The clearfelled site and the resprouting 600 year old tree stump were killed off totally in a department incineration burn in April 2009 (this done supposedly to prpare the site for regrowing into a forest!).
We’re still waiting for Mr Brumby to announce that the remaining areas will be protected due to high densities of sensitive tree dwelling marsupials.
Many people wrote to the Government objecting to this logging. The response was an insult. It basically said:
1) We identified all the old growth areas needing protecting back in 2006 and Brown Mt wasn’t one of them. These other areas have a moratorium on them now.
** what they didn’t say is that over the last 2 years while they protected thousands of hectares of degraded regrowth, they destroyed key old growth forests. They ignored urgings to protect Brown Mt. The ALP also promised to protect the old growth walk in the same 2006 election promise – the area they logged and provocatively called ‘The Walk” by VicForests.
2) There’s more parks than logging areas, we only log 8% of public land and it’s all done under law and to the highest standards which are checked by EPA audits.
** Reserves are often areas not wanted by logging industry (Alpine snow gums, coastal scrub, Mallee etc) so the very best is still being destroyed.
The amount of loggable forest on Victoria’s public land is small anyway and, as most of it has already been converted to pulp farms under the guise of regrowth, what is being logged now is the absolute best of what remains – less than 8% of our original forests.It was also legal to hunt whales once upon a time. Destroying things by law does not make it right. The destruction of old growth and killing threatened wildlife is not audited by the EPA. Though its audits consistently show serious breaches of logging Codes.
3) We are currently reviewing the lines on the map for old growth areas and when we’ve finished it’ll be all hunky dory and will only be destroying a little bit.
** Meanwhile much old growth that should have been protected has been wiped out. Offsetting those losses with 100% protection of what remains would be decent. Their crooked definition of old growth allows them to claim they don’t log it when they do.
4) The most outrageous comment in their form letter is their last paragraph. It says that clearfelling and burning is actually good for climate change! And that they replace all the species again and in time it’s all beaut.
** The most recent Australian and overseas scientific research states the opposite. We don’t have 500 years to soak up the lost carbon from logging forest and burning it to the ground. Despite it being law, forests are never restored to their original composition – they are converted to single species tree farms managed intensively for short rotation wood pulp. Evidence is right across Eastern Victoria’s forests to prove it. Values lost include water, species composition, biomass and carbon storage capacity.
If you receive these insulting letters, please let them know you are not placated (which they hope you have been). Express your outrage at being treated like fools and fed manure by Brumby (via bureaucrats). Just a one paragraph spit will let them know they haven’t fooled you.
BROWN MOUNTAIN BACKGROUND
Brown Mountain, in East Gippsland in Victoria, contains old growth forest with ancient trees, one carbon-dated to 600 years old. It is prime habitat for threatened species including the Long-footed Potoroo, Spot-tailed Quoll, Sooty Owl, the Large Brown Tree Frog, the Square-tailed Kite, and the Giant Burrowing Frog. It is also a hotspot for arboreal mammals, like the Greater Glider and the Yellow-bellied glider.
Environment East Gippsland (EEG) alleges that logging four coupes on Brown Mountain is unlawful because it breaches provisions to protect endangered and threatened species in the Victorian Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act 2004 and the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988. In particular EEG says that VicForests has failed to comply with the Code of Practice for Timber Production 2007.
In the 2006 election, the Bracks Labor Government promised to protect “the last significant stands of old growth currently available for logging”. Brown Mountain should clearly have been included but, instead, 20 hectares were logged in summer 2008-09. Threatened species surveys triggered a moratorium in February 2009 followed by more surveys over winter and spring and, in August 2009, an EEG survey camera recorded the presence of a Long-footed Potoroo, one of Victoria’s most endangered species, despite the government’s declaration – earlier that same day – that there were NO threatened species at Brown Mountain.
In September 2009, EEG successfully obtained an interim injunction against VicForests to prevent logging in the coupes. In granting the injunction, Justice Forrest likened photographs of logging to “pictures of the battlefields of the Somme”.
Already the case has delivered important precedents:
The Supreme Court refused VicForests’ application for up to $163,000 in security from EEG before a court injunction was granted to stop logging on Brown Mountain. Having to pay such a large sum would have stopped the community group being able to challenge critical habitat logging.
The interim injunction, granted late last year, was also a groundbreaking decision because no Victorian court has ever ordered an injunction on logging before.
However there are concerns that the Victorian Government could override a logging ban, if the EEG case is successful.
Greens Leader Bob Brown successfully brought a court case to halt logging at the Wielangta forest in Tasmania because it threatened the endangered Swift Parrot, Tasmanian Wedge-tailed Eagle and Wielangta Stag Beetle. Then Prime Minister John Howard and Tasmanian Premier Paul Lennon amended the Regional Forest Agreement to permit logging to continue.
In 1998, logging at Goolengook in far eastern Victoria, the site of Australia’s longest running forest blockade from 1997 to 2002, was found to be unlawful because it was within a protected area next to a Heritage River. The Victorian government changed the law retrospectively to make the logging legal.