Wildlife of the Central Highlands (WOTCH) will return to the Supreme Court tomorrow for the final hearing in the community group’s legal battle to protect forests home to threatened wildlife, from being logged in the wake of the catastrophic Black Summer bushfires.
In January 2020, following the devastating bushfires which killed billions of animals, WOTCH launched a Supreme Court case against state-owned logger, VicForests, to stop it from logging areas of unburnt habitat for threatened species.
The case focuses on wildlife like Greater Gliders – the largest marsupial glider in the world – which have just been listed as endangered by the federal government.
Closing submissions from WOTCH and VicForests will be heard in the final hearing before the Honorable Justice Keogh this week.
WHEN: Wednesday July 27, 9am – Friday July 29
WHERE: Victorian Supreme Court. The hearing will be live-streamed for observers at https://vimeo.com/event/2305774
In the first court case to protect threatened animals in the wake of these bushfires, WOTCH alleges logging in unburnt areas where threatened species impacted by the bushfires have been sighted or their habitat exists is unlawful, and VicForests must put protections in place for these species in light of the bushfires.
WOTCH argues by planning and carrying out logging in these areas, VicForests has, and will fail to comply with the precautionary principle (section 184.108.40.206 ) under the Code of Practice for Timber Production 2014. This would be unlawful under the Sustainable (Forests) Timber Act 2004 (Vic).
The Victorian and Federal governments’ own response to the bushfires listed the threatened Greater Glider, Smoky Mouse, Sooty and Powerful Owls among the species of most concern and in need of urgent management intervention. And yet clear-fell logging continues in their habitat.
During a three week trial in March this year, the Supreme Court heard detailed evidence from scientific experts in Greater Gliders and other threatened species about the combined impact of bushfire and logging, and what protections are required for the species affected.
The Federal Government this month listed the Greater Glider as Endangered and issued a conservation advice under federal law that calls for protection of all refuge habitat for the species post-fire and an end to clear-fell logging in its habitat. It found logging is a major threat to the species, with its population greatly reduced by the bushfires and suffering more than 50% decline in recent years.
Since the trial in March this year, interim protection has covered the Errinundra Bendoc region in Far East Gippsland – an area identified as a critical refuge habitat for Greater Gliders in evidence in the case. Injunctions and court orders also protect 40 vital unburnt forest areas home to Greater Gliders, Sooty and Powerful Owls and Smoky Mice in Eastern Victoria, while the case is heard.
MEDIA CONTACT: Tessa Fluence, 0448 448 326, [email protected]