Healesville-based group, MyEnvironment, has lost a court case it mounted against government body VicForests over the logging of Victoria’s central highlands areas that include habitat for the endangered Leadbeater’s Possum.
Justice Robert Osborn handed down his decision in the Supreme Court on March 14. He refused to order a stop to logging in three forest coupes at Toolangi, including the Gun Barrel coupe that was the scene of blockades and protests in late 2011.
Osborn did support a review of the zoning system that is supposed to protect the possum’s habitat to take account of the effects of the 2009 fires. He did not allow complete clearfelling of the coupes in question.
The 2009 Black Saturday bushfires destroyed large parts of the remaining habitat for the Leadbeater's Possum. Conservationists showed that the possum inhabited the area at Toolangi.
VicForests made a commitment to exclude the possum’s habitat in the three coupes from logging and to not log Gun Barrel coupe by clearfelling. It said it would not conduct a regeneration burn in the area.
The environmental damage done by this logging will be far less compared with the extensive clearfelling that would have taken place had the protesters not brought about the court case.
If the same limitations are imposed on the logging of 168 other “similar coupes” identified by VicForests, the implications for protected habitat could be very significant, says Toolangi resident Steve Meacher, who was arrested while protesting the logging at Gun Barrel coupe.
While welcoming the call for a review of the zoning system for Leadbeater's Possum, Meacher told Green Left Weekly: “The greatest disappointment is that the judge found that the Leadbeater’s Possum Action Statement does not operate independently of the Forest Management Plan.
“This dramatically exposes the total inadequacy of state legislation to protect threatened species. State law is designed to facilitate logging of native forests despite the potential presence of threatened species.”
MyEnvironment is considering its response to the decision. It has appealed for donations to cover the high costs of their litigation.