Illegal logging has been halted in an important area of forest home to critically endangered Masked Owl, and Yellow-bellied Gliders. Conservation groups sounded the alarm over illegal logging in the Colquhoun State Forest on Gunnai Kurnai Country in December last year when citizen scientists found a high density of Yellow-bellied Gliders.
GECO received a letter from the logging regulator stating the report and detections had triggered a protection zone. But they didn't protect forests up for logging, and refused to prosecute VicForests for illegally logging forests that should've been saved. There's a cluster of four coupes in the area, it's some of the last remaining old growth forest and unburnt refugia for threatened species in the Colquhoun.
Bulldozers were about to move into the adjacent forest, but thankfully Environment East Gippsland and their legal team secured an urgent injunction to stop the imminent logging of the forests. You can support their tireless work to defend East Gippsland's forests in court by donating here.
Unburnt forest refuge in the Colquhoun where logging was halted by a court injunction
Logging had already started in December last year when citizen scientists halted the destruction after detecting a significant population of Yellow-bellied Gliders, requiring protection of the area. GECO, Gippsland Environment Group (GEG), and Friends of Bats and Habitat have been working together to see the area protected. VicForests are required by law to find and protect biodiversity values prior to logging. Despite this, the Department aren't taking any legal action against VicForests.
We were alarmed when the maps showed only a tiny section of the coupe would be protected from logging, didn't include the gliders best habitat, and was placed over an area they already weren't going to log.
VicForests also logged a number of Yellow-bellied glider feed trees which are protected by law. The whole area should never have been up for logging, but the Department have refused to save the forests and charge VicForests for illegal logging. We've had multiple meetings with the government where we were lied to and mislead while logging continued.
Yellow-bellied Glider, photo credit: Lisa Roberts
The government ignored us and refused to follow the law and protect the area. They were allowing illegal logging to go ahead in this critical unburnt refuge for wildlife that survived the bushfires.
We heard from EEG's legal team at the injunction hearing on the 31st August that an expert has given evidence that both coupes, the one subject to the injunction, and the one that had already been logged where we found the gliders, should've been protected. Thankfully the injunction stepped in to stop the bulldozers from moving into the next area. Sadly, the forests where we found the gliders has now been logged.
Gunnai Bidwell man Poogie Hayes witnesses the destruction of forests on Gunnai Kurnai Country, Colquhoun - Photo credit: Lisa Roberts
Statement from GECO spokesperson Chris Schuringa:
"The fact that this area was up for logging at all after the bushfires is just astounding. It's an important refuge for wildlife, yet there were no surveys for threatened species in one of the areas before logging went ahead. The government is required to do surveys by law to protect biodiversity, but even after we went in and found the animals, they still logged the forest."
"We have been arguing with the Department over protection of this area for months. It's an absolute disgrace. They are bending over backwards to defend the logging. Thankfully Environment East Gippsland have stepped in to hold the government accountable. But we shouldn't have to be doing this."
"Our wildlife is in peril after the fires. The laws which govern logging are already weak and aren't being enforced. We expect a lot better. After the worst bushfires in living memory, the fact the government is still logging our forests is unthinkable."
Donate to FoE Australia Member Group, Goongerah Environment Centre here
Media contact: Chris Schuringa - 0418 912 625