A federal court case will challenge whether logging in endangered species habitat can continue to have a special exemption from Federal environment protection law.
Environmental Justice Australia, on behalf of Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum, filed the application with the Federal Court this week against state logging company VicForests.
The case asks the Court to prohibit logging in 34 areas earmarked for logging where Leadbeater’s Possum and Greater Gliders live, unless federal environment laws are complied with, and to order the protection of areas to mitigate the impact from unlawful logging completed at 32 sites.
Yesterday afternoon, VicForests agreed to immediately halt logging at two sites named in the claim until Friday, when an urgent hearing of an injunction application may take place.
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 arrangements introduced in the 1990s. The RFA requires a performance review every five years.
The case alleges that as five-year reviews were not completed, logging is not occurring in accordance with the RFA and must comply with the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, which requires Federal approval for actions that significantly impact threatened species.
The Victorian Central Highlands RFA was signed on 27 March 1998. Five-year reviews were due by 2003, 2008 and 2013. But the Victorian and federal governments say they have done just one review, which they say looked at the period up to 2009 and was only completed in 2015.
“Logging in Victoria’s eastern forests is threatening the Leadbeater’s Possum and Greater Glider with extinction,” said Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum spokesperson, Steve Meacher.
“The federal-state Regional Forest Agreements have failed to protect endangered wildlife, but have been used to try to exempt the logging industry from environment laws,” Mr Meacher said.
EJA lawyer Danya Jacobs said the case asks the court to prohibit logging at 34 sites where Greater Gliders and Leadbeater’s Possums live, unless Federal environment laws are complied with.
“The case alleges logging operations that are impacting the Leadbeater’s Possum and Greater Glider are not occurring in accordance with the RFA and so those operations must comply with federal environment laws, like other industries must.
“The native forest logging industry has operated as if it’s exempt from federal environment law for almost 20 years, on the basis of agreements that have not been complied with.
”This case asks the Court to examine this situation in specific forests that are home to iconic threatened species that are suffering because of logging,” she said.
The Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum are raising funds to cover the costs of running a court case to defend the Greater Glider and Leadbeater’s Possum from logging. Please consider donating via the Friends’ crowdfunding page.