Media Releases - 05 August 2020

Australian group seeks US and European help to protect forests and wildlife after recent catastrophic wildfires

Following the unprecedented and devastating 2019-20 wildfire season, a leading Australian environment group, the Wilderness Society has appealed to enforcement agencies1 in Europe and the United States to help prevent illegal logging in some of the most fire-affected forests and wildlife habitats.

The Wilderness Society has tracked the end products made from wood logged from Australia’s wildfire-affected native forests. Paper and cardboard, produced by Nippon Paper Group owned Opal Australian Paper, is sold through its German and US subsidiaries, and the Wilderness Society has subsequently filed formal complaints for breach of each country's illegal logging laws with their relevant authorities.

The logging within native forests of the Australian state of Victoria, including within endangered species habitat, is undertaken by the controversial state-owned logging agency VicForests. VicForests supplies the Nippon Paper Group’s Opal Australian Paper with trees that have been harvested from these unique wildfire-affected forests.

“VicForests has recently been found in breach of state and federal environment laws by the Australian Federal Court2” said Wilderness Society Markets Campaign Manager, Peter Cooper. 

“The Court also ruled that VicForests operations are directly contributing to the decline of threatened species, the Leadbeater’s Possum and the Greater Glider—animals found nowhere else on Earth.” 

The Leadbeater’s Possum is the world’s tenth most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered mammal3 and is also the official state symbol of Victoria4.

Under Australian illegal logging laws5, Opal Australian Paper must conduct due diligence to remove any risks of illegality from its log supply chain. Analysis from the Wilderness Society shows that it has failed to undertake this task.

“The concerns of the Wilderness Society regarding the widespread illegality within its native forest supply chain have been communicated to Australian Paper, and its parent, Nippon Paper Group,

“The forests of Australia are slowly recovering from our worst wildfire season on record. The remaining unburnt habitat for our threatened wildlife must be protected, not logged. If Australia’s environmental regulators were effective, then we wouldn’t need to call for international help. But this is not the case. 

“The Wilderness Society is calling on European and American help to strengthen our forest governance and reverse the downward trajectory of our endangered forest-dependent wildlife.

“The United States and European Union have illegal logging laws that exist to protect their citizens from exposure to illegally logged products—such as those produced by Opal Australian Paper—and to provide a market incentive to countries with failing forest governance to clean up their own act. 

“The Australian conservation movement has a history of seeking international assistance when our most important wildlife is at grave risk. Almost one hundred years ago, another Australian conservation group, the Wildlife Preservation Society, successfully sought the intervention of the then United States President, Herbert Hoover, to prevent the imminent extinction of the koala, which was hunted for its fur6

“It is in this spirit, that after our devastating wildfires, we are seeking international help to protect the wildlife that survived those fires and are now at risk from logging,” Peter Cooper concluded.

For additional information or comment, please contact Federal Policy Director Tim Beshara (based in Sydney, Australia), +61 423 787 786 or [email protected]


  1. In Germany, Die Bundesanstalt für Landwirtschaft und Ernährung (BLE); in Denmark, the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark; in the US, the Department of Justice