Victorian native forest logging exempt from federal environment law

Leadbeater_Possum_Regional_Forest_Agreement.jpg

Yesterday over 100 people joined speakers from Friends of the Earth affiliate Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO) and also The Wilderness Society Victoria in a snap rally to condemn the Daniel Andrews government's decision to extend the 'regional forest agreement' which expired on the 3 February this year.

Since the late 1990s the logging industry in Victoria has been exempt from adhering to federal environment laws that protect our nationally threatened wildlife. Only native forest logging gets this special exemption known as a 'regional forest agreement' (RFA).

Regional_Forest_Agreement_-_FoE_Activists.jpgNot only is Victoria's emblematic Leadbeater's Possum at risk of being wiped out by these out of control logging operations - but also the jobs associated with the controversial industry are at risk because of mismanagement by VicForests. VicForests has now acknowledged that the resource is declining and it is time for the industry to undergo a swift transition to more sustainable practices.

The extension of the RFA has been condemned by proponents of environmental justice with the move widely seen as a precursor to extinction of many threatened species.

“Since the RFA was signed 20 years ago, [populations of] Federally listed threatened species have dramatically declined. State based protections have failed to adequately protect forest wildlife and have allowed industrial scale logging in sensitive habitats,” said GECO and Friends of the Earth Forest spokesperson Ed Hill.

 “Logging should be subject to the same Federal environment laws as every other industry – it should be properly assessed and subject to decisions that consider whether the impacts on threatened species are acceptable and whether they can be managed responsibly. Because of the RFA exemption, these formal assessments required under Federal law are not taking place in our forests,” Mr Hill continued.

“Logging under the RFAs has had severe impacts on Australia’s largest gliding marsupial the Greater Glider. Extending the
agreement will be the death knell for these animals whose forest habitat has been decimated by 20 years of legally exempt clear fell logging,”

“The Greater Glider was relatively common at the time the RFA was signed but was listed as vulnerable on the Federal Threatened
Regional_Forest_Agreement_-_Ed_Hill.jpgSpecies list in May 2016. Federal government scientists identified logging as a major threat with a catastrophic consequence rating. In December 2016 the Victorian Scientific Advisory Committee made a preliminary recommendation to Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio to list the species as protected on the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.”  

“The government’s own science is telling us that logging is a major cause of decline in Greater Glider populations, but nothing has been done to protect it. Instead the logging regime responsible for the decline of the Greater Glider, has been approved and extended with no consideration of the new circumstances surrounding the species status.” Mr Hill continued. 

“If Minister D’Ambrosio is sympathetic to the plight of the Greater Glider she should immediately strengthen protections for the species and protect its habitat. Failing to do this would breach her obligations to ensure appropriate state based protections are in place for federally listed species,”

“[GECO's] citizen science surveys recently found significant populations of Greater Gliders, but due to weak and outdated state based protections these areas will be logged with the gliders literally crushed to death,” said Mr Hill.

“Victoria is facing a threatened species crisis and a timber industry crisis. The government has run out of wood to supply Victoria’s largest mill. The facts speak for themselves – an urgent transition to plantations appears to be the only option available.”

Read the full GECO statement here and TAKE ACTION here.

Media contact: Ed Hill - 0414 199 645 email: geco.media@gmail.com