Supreme Court prevents VicForests from logging five more sites of threatened species habitat
Victoria’s Supreme Court has issued five more temporary injunctions to stop VicForests from logging areas of unburnt threatened species habitat following Victoria’s catastrophic bushfires.
Community group Wildlife of the Central Highlands (WOTCH) won the temporary injunctions – halts on logging – for five Central Highland areas scheduled to be logged this month, in addition to previous interlocutory injunctions to immediately halt logging in areas of unburnt habitat for the Greater Glider, Sooty Owl, Powerful Owl and Smoky Mouse.
This takes the total areas currently protected until WOTCH’s Supreme Court case proceeds to 31.
WOTCH is represented by lawyers from Environmental Justice Australia.
In its argument to the court, WOTCH demonstrated that the coupes planned for logging are located in areas that DELWP had assessed as being the most valuable 20% of habitat for bushfire-affected threatened species. In May, the Office of Conservation Regulator advised VicForests to postpone or avoid logging in these highest value habitat areas where possible as a precautionary measure for threatened species post-bushfires. VicForests has not adopted this OCR advice and has planned logging in these areas over coming months.
Justice Keogh granted temporary injunctions for five out of ten coupes in WOTCH’s application. A further injunction hearing is set for early August over these and other logging coupes.
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 and the impacts of the bushfires. The areas subject of the hearing 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%.
 DELWP preliminary report, ‘Victoria’s bushfire emergency: Biodiversity response and recovery’, pp 13,15 & 5.
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