Both VicForests and their owners and trainers, DEPI are being sued by that champion of litigation against forest plunders, yet again. Environment East Gippsland served the writ on them Monday afternoon 22nd September.
In the 170,000 ha of forest that the Goongerah-Deddick summer fires burnt out, were 46 protected zones set aside for threatened owls. These areas also would have supported other rare and endangered species.
The law states that the owls (and certain other species) must have a specified area of high quality habitat set aside to ensure their survival. But after these areas were burnt, no authority has bothered to abide by this and VicForests has been clearfelling unburnt and potentially critical owl habitat that could now be vital to the East Gippsland owl population.
The Powerful, Sooty and Masked owls prefer the same type of habitat that the loggers want to get into – mature and old growth forest with healthy understorey.
Neither minister would commit to halt logging in other areas while a review was done of areas needed for the owl. So, the only thing left was for VicForests and their partner in crime DEPI to be sued.
EEG is asking that all logging stop in the region while this happens, or alternatively, take off the 81 known high value stands of forests planned for clearfelling that have positive owl records in or near them.
Owls that lived in the now burnt zones could have easily perished as they are very territorial. Old growth and other suitable owl habitat are at a premium across the region. That means any surviving owls would have found it difficult to move into and survive in poorer habitat that doesn’t support a healthy population of their prey species. Each pair of Powerful Owls needs about 3,000-5,000 ha to survive and raise young. Currently the government offers them just 800 ha per pair. And this isn’t even being adhered to with the average being 640 ha.
The response by DEPI was that it already has in place very good prescriptions for managing threatened species (or managing public perception?). VicForests said they are happy to negotiate with EEG and avoid more costly court battles. So they do have the ability to learn it seems – in some areas.