By Jed Lanyon
Environmentalist group Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum is attempting to stop state government controlled VicForests from logging in areas that are home to the endangered greater gliders and the Leadbeater’s possum.
A trial in the federal court commenced on Monday 3 June in the case of Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum Inc v VicForests, and could have ramifications for Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) across the country and change the way that forests and threatened species are managed and protected.
The group, represented by Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) is challenging the legality of logging by VicForests in areas of habitat for the critically endangered Leadbeater’s possum and the vulnerable greater glider.
They seek court orders to prevent VicForests from logging in 41 forest coupes and seek to protect another area of forest to mitigate for 26 locations alleged to have been unlawfully logged in the past.
Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum alleges that VicForests has not complied with the code of practice for timber production as required by the RFA and therefore is not covered by the exemption.
A statement from VicForests said, “VicForests cannot comment on a matter currently before the court.”
“Over the last 24 months we’ve increased our research activity through both in-house and collaborative research with universities, government agencies and other organisations.”
The statement said VicForests’ pre-harvest survey programs continue to contribute to the detection and protection of threatened plants and animals.
A statement from Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum said that if their case were to be successful, it would mean logging proposed in the areas in question would be subject to national environment laws (the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999), and could not proceed without impact assessment and federal ministerial approval under that act.
President of the Friends of the Leadbeater’s Possum Steve Meacher said, “No government or company should be exempt from national environment laws that are in place to protect threatened wildlife like the greater glider and Leadbeater’s possum.
“We are determined to prevent the extinction of our unique native animals and to do that we must stop the senseless logging of critical possum habitat.”
“When the government fails to protect our threatened species, it falls to small community groups like Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum and nature’s legal team, Environmental Justice Australia, to hold them to account in the courts,” Mr Meacher said.