A community group of citizen scientists has launched a Supreme Court case against VicForests to stop the state-owned agency from logging areas of unburnt habitat for threatened species following the catastrophic bushfires.
Wildlife of the Central Highlands (WOTCH), represented by lawyers from Environmental Justice Australia, is today seeking an urgent injunction from the court to immediately stop logging in ten areas of Victoria’s Central Highlands where threatened species have recently been sighted, while the case proceeds.
The group alleges that logging operations in coupes where the threatened Greater Glider, Sooty Owl, Powerful Owl and Smoky Mouse 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 has responded to the impact of the fires on threatened species which they are obliged to consider in their planning and operations.
“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.
“Logging unburnt habitat for threatened native wildlife like the Greater Glider, Sooty and Powerful Owl and the Smoky Mouse, will have a devastating impact and is likely to put these unique species on a rapid trajectory to extinction. As citizen scientists who monitor these species, we can’t sit by and watch this happen, so we are taking VicForests to the Supreme Court and seeking an immediate halt to logging operations in threatened species habitat,” he continued.
“As climate change increases the frequency and severity of bushfires, we need to make sure that the laws designed to protect our threatened species hold up. These laws require that logging agency, VicForests, must avoid serious damage to threatened species and carefully manage our unique wildlife in light of expert research and current monitoring,” said Danya Jacobs, Senior Lawyer for Environmental Justice Australia.
Logging has continued in Victoria despite bushfires destroying almost 6 million hectares of forest and an estimated 1 billion animals nationally, including threatened species.
Threatened species including the Greater Glider, Sooty Owl, Powerful Owl and Smoky Mouse have been sighted and recorded in active VicForests coupes in Eastern Victoria.
The Victorian government’s own preliminary response to the bushfires lists the threatened Greater Glider, Smoky Mouse, 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%.
The application for the urgent injunction to stop logging in the areas in question will be heard by Justice McMillan in the Practice Court, Court 10, 210 William Street, Melbourne today: Wednesday 29 January at 10am – 12pm. Media and the public can attend. The date for the trial is yet to be determined.
 DELWP preliminary report, ‘Victoria’s bushfire emergency: Biodiversity response and recovery’, pp 13,15 & 5.