Press Release - March 7, 2022

Supreme Court trial begins in case against VicForests

Community group, Wildlife of the Central Highlands, is in the Supreme Court today, fighting to protect forests home to threatened wildlife from being torn down in the wake of the catastrophic Black Summer bushfires.

The three-week trial, heard by the Honorable Justice Keogh, begins today in the Victorian Supreme Court.

Several experts will be called to give evidence on issues including logging impacts on Greater Gliders, Powerful and Sooty Owls and Smoky Mice, and the finances of the State’s logging agency.

The trial will be held online, to request access email: [email protected], or find more information at the Supreme Court of Victoria’s website.

The catastrophic Black Summer bushfires gutted Victoria’s forests, killed billions of animals and scorched the homes of those that survived.

Despite this, Victoria’s state-owned logger, VicForests, continues to cut down what little remains.

In January 2020, citizen scientists at Wildlife of the Central Highlands launched the Supreme Court case against VicForests to stop it from logging areas of unburnt habitat for threatened species.

In the first court case to protect threatened species in the wake of the bushfires, WOTCH alleges logging in areas where threatened species affected by the bushfires have been sighted or their habitat exists is unlawful and VicForests must protect threatened species in light of the impacts of the bushfires.

While the case is heard, injunctions and Court orders protect 40 forest areas home to Greater Gliders, Sooty and Powerful Owls and Smoky Mice.

WOTCH argues by logging in these areas, VicForests has failed to comply with sections and of the Code of Practice for Timber Production 2014. This would be unlawful under the Sustainable (Forests) Timber Act 2004 (Vic), which requires VicForests to comply with any relevant Code of Practice relating to timber harvesting.

Wildlife of the Central Highlands spokesperson Philip Marshall:

“Our case holding VicForests to account is vital to ensure the forest home to threatened wildlife like the Great Glider, Powerful Owl and Smoky Mouse isn’t torn down and these creatures have a chance to thrive,”

“The continued logging of unburnt habitat will have a devastating impact and is likely to put these unique species on a rapid trajectory to extinction.”

“We refuse to stand by as VicForests continues to take what little has been left in the wake of the bushfires and seek immediate protection of the homes of our precious animals.”

Environmental Justice Australia Co-CEO Nicola Rivers said:

“Our environmental laws are designed to protect threatened wildlife from being exploited by logging agencies. The Black Summer bushfires tore through habitat placing even further importance on what little remains,”

“The law requires VicForests avoid serious harm to threatened species and carefully manage our unique wildlife in light of expert research and current monitoring. If VicForests fails to meet its responsibility to Victoria’s wildlife we are here to ensure it faces the consequences.”

Contact: [email protected]