The Leadbeater’s Possum in Victoria’s Highest Court

The Environment Defenders Office is very proud to announce that we will soon by representing MyEnvironment, a small Healesville-based environment group, in a one-day hearing in Victoria’s highest Court, the Court of Appeal.

The case is an important one: MyEnvironment is challenging a Supreme Court decision which allows logging in three areas of native forest in the Central Highlands, which MyEnvironment believes is habitat for the Leadbeater’s Possum.

The Leadbeater’s Possum is a nationally threatened species.  Indeed, it has been estimated that as few as 1,500 of these possums are left in the world.  In 2009, around half of their habitat and their population was wiped out by the terrible bushfires that swept through Victoria.  The remaining Possums live in Victoria’s Central Highlands forests.  The Central Highlands is one of the areas where logging is carried out by Victoria’s State logging agency, VicForests.

In 2011, MyEnvironment brought proceedings in the Victorian Supreme Court seeking orders that VicForests be prevented from logging three coupes in Toolangi, near Healesville, because they contained Leadbeater’s Possum habitat.  At the hearing, the leading expert on Leadbeater’s Possum, Professor David Lindemayer, gave evidence that the coupes concerned were habitat for the Possum.

The Court ultimately found that the legal prescriptions in place did not protect the Toolangi coupes, and VicForests was permitted to chop them down.  You can read more about this decision on the blog, here.

MyEnvironment have now appealed this decision to the Court of Appeal.  The Court of Appeal will decide whether the Supreme Court’s decision that the Toolangi coupes are not protected from logging is correct.

Recently, Leadbeater experts have taken the extraordinary step of coming forward to warn that the Leadbeater Possum faces a very real threat of extinction in the near future, a threat which is increased by logging.

For the Leadbeater’s possum, this case is important and urgent.  Victoria’s environmental laws promise to protect our threatened species – this case will test whether, in the case of this Possum facing extinction, they actually do so.

If you too think this case is important, we urge you to support MyEnvironment by visiting their website to find out more about the case, and consider contributing to the small groups’ costs for bringing this case.  You could also donate to the EDO so we can continue to run cases like this in future.

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