Large areas of forest earmarked for logging in Victoria’s Central Highlands are safe from the chainsaws – for now – until part of a case, brought by Environmental Justice Australia on behalf of the Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum, is determined by the Court.
Federal Court orders made on Friday afternoon state that VicForests will not log in 34 areas across the Central Highlands, while a landmark case to be heard in December will determine whether its operations in certain areas are exempt from federal environment protection laws.
The case is set for an initial two-day hearing, to begin on 14 December.
This initial hearing will consider a question relating to whether or not logging operations named in the claim are being conducted in accordance with the RFA, and are exempt from the EPBC Act requirements for assessment and approval of actions that significantly impact threatened species. (The full text of this ‘separate question’ can be found in the orders made by the court.)
The State of Victoria and the Commonwealth have indicated they may intervene in the case.
The case challenges whether logging in endangered species habitat can continue to have a special exemption from Federal environment law, by asking the court to prohibit logging at 34 sites where Greater Gliders and Leadbeater’s Possums live unless those laws are complied with.
Logging in public native forests is controversially exempt from most federal environment laws, provided it is carried out in accordance with a Regional Forest Agreement – federal-state agreements introduced in the 1990s.
The case alleges that logging operations named in the claim are significantly impacting the Leadbeaters Possum and Greater Glider, and have not and will not be conducted in accordance with the RFA due to the failure to undertake five-yearly reviews mandated by the agreement.
“We are relieved to see these 34 important forests safe for now,” said Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum spokesperson, Steve Meacher.
“Logging in the forests of the Central Highlands is threatening the Leadbeater’s Possum and Greater Glider with extinction.
“The federal-state Regional Forest Agreements have failed to protect endangered wildlife and have not been complied with, but they’ve nevertheless been used to try to exempt the logging industry from environment protection laws,” Mr Meacher said.