For decades our small community group has been fighting to save the magnificent forests of Victoria’s Central Highlands from being clear felled and destroyed. But forest after forest continues to be laid waste by logging. The wild animals and plants that depend on them are being wiped out. Forests we walk in, visit, live near and love are being devastated.
Finally, last November, we launched legal action in the Federal Court to challenge the rules and rein in the logging.
The first part of the case, covering legal questions, has given us new hope: logging doesn’t have a blanket exemption from the federal government’s threatened species laws so it can be challenged by groups like ours.
Now the Federal Court has ordered that our case will go on to the next stage.
David versus Goliath
Logging in the Central Highlands is carried out under a 20-year old ‘Regional Forest Agreement’ (RFA) between the Victorian and federal government. This outdated arrangement tries to exempt native forest logging from federal environment protection law. Instead of protecting threatened species, this special exemption has had the effect of protecting the logging industry.
Our legal challenge is against Victoria's logging agency VicForests but both the Victorian and Commonwealth governments were given leave to intervene. We are being represented by Environmental Justice Australia.
The first phase of the case concerned legal aspects of the logging laws. The Court has made it clear that the logging exemption has its limits -- loggers must comply with state logging rules.
Now the next phase of the case will proceed. It will focus on the particular forests where logging has taken place or is planned. Experts will give evidence about the impact of logging on Leadbeater's Possum and the Greater Glider and whether the rules have been breached. We will allege that VicForests has failed to identify and protect Leadeater's Possums, Greater Gliders and their habitat, in breach of the rules.
Grounds for hope
This case has already broken new ground and given hope for wildlife threatened by logging. More than 30 areas, home to Greater Gliders and Leadbeater's Possums but planned for destruction, have been safe from logging during the first part of the case. We will be asking for an interim injuction to halt logging while the next part of the case proceeds.
The Possums Case is nationally significant. Although it applies to a specific place and set of circumstances, it has implications for native forests logged under RFAs across Australia.
You can join us
From our own resources and with generous support from individuals and groups we have succeeded in bringing this case to court and achieving an important breakthrough.
The next phase of the case will cost at least $100,000. Funds raised will go towards the cost of expert witnesses, legal representation and court costs.
We are working to raise $35,000 this financial year. Please join us in taking the next step to challenge the rules and rein in the logging. If we win it will change the future for forests and wildlife.
You can support our group, Friends of Leadbeater's Possum, directly. Alternatively, you can make a tax deductible donation directly to Environment Justice Australia by clicking here.
Image: Leadbeater's Possum, with thanks to Tim Bawden