This Friday 27 March, community group Wildlife of the Central Highlands (WOTCH) is back in Victoria’s Supreme Court in a case to stop VicForests from logging areas of unburnt threatened species habitat, following the catastrophic bushfires.
At the hearing, WOTCH is arguing for an interlocutory injunction – a halt on logging that would last for the duration of the court proceedings – for an additional 13 areas (12 in the Central Highlands and one west of Mount Buller).
The urgent hearing comes after VicForests started or prepared to log these areas including the controversial Zinger Coupe in Toolangi – within the Kalatha Valley of the Giants.
On 5 March, Justice McMillan of Victoria’s Supreme Court ordered an interlocutory injunction to immediately halt logging in another thirteen areas of unburnt habitat for the Greater Glider, Sooty Owl, Powerful Owl and Smoky Mouse for the duration of the case.
If this hearing is successful, it will bring the total number of areas under an interlocutory injunction to 26.
When: 10.30am, 27 March 2020
Where: TBC, likely a tele-hearing. To find out if media can observe or for public information about the case, please contact [email protected]
WOTCH alleges that logging operations in areas where threatened species impacted by the bushfires have been sighted or where their habitat exists is unlawful until the state and federal government have concluded their bushfire biodiversity responses, and until VicForests protects threatened species in light of the outcome. The thirteen areas subject of the hearing today are home to Greater Glider, Sooty Owl, and Powerful Owl.
Logging has continued in Victoria despite bushfires destroying almost 6 million hectares of forest and an estimated 1 billion animals nationally, including threatened species.
The Victorian government’s own preliminary response to the bushfires lists the threatened Greater Glider, Sooty and Powerful Owls among the “fauna species of most immediate concern”, because they were initially identified as having more than 40% of their modelled habitat distribution in Victoria within areas damaged by bushfires or a projected impact area above 70%, and/or a predicted decline in species abundance over 25%.
“I think the Victorian public would be horrified to hear that our government-owned logging agency is continuing to clear-fell log the habitat of threatened species given the scale and severity of the recent bushfires in Eastern Victoria,” said Jake Mckenzie, Citizen Scientist from WOTCH.
“We cannot allow logging to continue the widespread destruction inflicted by these bushfires in areas that are among the last refuges for these precious species. We need these forests protected – and that’s what we’ll be fighting for,” said Philip Marshall, Citizen Scientist from WOTCH.
“This case is an important test for whether laws designed to protect threatened species are able to do so in the aftermath of this summer’s catastrophic bushfires,” Danya Jacobs continued.
 DELWP preliminary report, ‘Victoria’s bushfire emergency: Biodiversity response and recovery’, pp 13,15 & 5.