News - 21 August 2020
A historic forest judgement confirmed
The final orders for Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum’s historic win against state logging agency, VicForests have been delivered by the Federal Court. This affirms the outcome in May that we described as “the Franklin Dam of forest legal outcomes”. Today’s confirmed injunctions related to 66 coupes (or logging areas) in forests that are home to threatened Great Glider and the critically endangered State emblem - Leadbeater’s Possum. This decision will keep these iconic creatures a step further back from extinction.
Importantly Justice Mortimer also identified unlawful logging by VicForests was planned in those 66 areas and has occurred in a further 26 already logged areas.
In the future, if VicForests wants to log in those coupes, not only will it have to apply to the Commonwealth for approval to log threatened species habitat, VicForests will also have to return to the Federal Court to ask for the injunction to be lifted. And then, it will have to find a buyer for the wood.
Danya Jacobs, Senior Lawyer from Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) summarised it “This case proved that a state agency unlawfully logged 26 areas home to species at risk of extinction which are meant to be protected by both state and federal law – and planned to unlawfully log another 66.”
You can read a summary of the case and outcome provided by the EJA.
We now look forward to Victoria’s remaining threatened Mountain Ash forest getting robust, permanent protection as part of the Great Forest National Park proposal. We can’t rely on citizen science and heroic legal cases like this to identify illegality and maintain protections of threatened species and environment.
This decision also puts wood buyers on notice. They need to be aware that their customers do not expect to be purchasing illegally harvested wood. Bunning’s recent decision regarding halting sourcing from VicForests has made it clear that major Australian retailers can’t afford to be associated with illegally logged native forests.
Any buyers of wood or products sourced from VicForests now have questions to answer about whether they are in breach of Australia’s illegal logging laws. The Illegal Logging Prohibition Act requires processors of domestic logs to undertake due diligence to remove risks of illegality from their supply chains - either imported or local sources. The Wilderness Society has filed a formal complaint with the Federal department responsible for enforcing Australia’s ILPA (Dept. Agriculture, Water & Environment), in what is set to be the first significant test of the legislation.
This is a significant achievement by the Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum and Environmental Justice Australia that will have substantial positive impacts for forests in Victoria and across Australia and we’re proud to stand with them in this important outcome.