Media Releases - 27 May 2020

Leadbeater’s possum court case is the Franklin Dam of forest legal judgements

The Leadbeater's possum. Image: Steven Kuiter

The Wilderness Society has today welcomed judgment in Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum vs VicForests as a historic win for Australia’s forests and threatened species.

“This is the Franklin Dam of forest legal judgments. The case has laid bare the staggering unsustainability of industrial native forest logging and the catastrophic failures of governments in stopping their own agencies from sending our wildlife into the abyss of extinction,” said Amelia Young, National Campaigns Director for the Wilderness Society.

“Our message to decision-makers, our message to industry, is to accept the judgement and clean up their operations—whether in the forests, at the sawmill or paper factory, or on the shelves of stationary or hardware stores. And do this today.

“State governments have for decades exploited their exemption from national environment laws under the Regional Forest Agreements, while logging native forests to secure unsustainable volumes of wood, and in doing so, push forest dwelling species to the brink of extinction.

“Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum and Environmental Justice Australia, together with citizen scientists and the local community worked tirelessly to bring this court action. The state government and its logging agency have been held to account, thanks to the efforts of concerned members of the public who want to prevent extinction of Victoria’s state emblem, the Leadbeater’s Possum.”

The case tested whether Victorian state government logging agency, VicForests, when logging in threatened Leadbeater’s Possum and Greater Glider habitat, should continue to be exempt from the national Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (the EPBC). An earlier judgement in these proceedings had confirmed that where logging was having a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance, such as threatened species, and was not being conducted in line with a Regional Forest Agreement, it was therefore not exempt from national environment law. 

“Today’s judgement1 found that VicForests’ past logging operations fell foul of the requirements of Victorian law, and that its future operations were also likely to be illegal. As such, it was also unlawful under the federal EPBC Act. This raises key questions about logging everywhere in Australia—whether Tasmania, New South Wales, West Australian or Victoria where conducted under Regional Forest Agreements, as it confirms that the states have to follow their own laws, or, at a minimum, see their operations called in for assessment under national environment law.” 

“It’s high time the Victorian government reined in its rogue logging agency, VicForests, which has again been found once again to be flouting the law. VicForests’ customers, such as global paper and packaging giant Nippon, have had a huge cloud cast over their supply chains, with clear exposure to illegal logging risk. Any buyers of wood or products sourced from VicForests now has questions to answer about whether they are in breach of Australia’s illegal logging laws.”

Nippon’s Maryvale operations, Opal, which produces office papers such as Reflex, and packaging materials, are the subject of a formal complaint by the Wilderness Society, after analysis found it to be in breach of the Illegal Logging Prohibition Act2. Today’s judgement further strengthens this complaint.

“With wildlife numbers plummeting as a result of the bushfires, it’s non-negotiable that strong and effective laws are in place to control logging and protect forest habitat for threatened species. 

“Last summer’s bushfire season devastated forest dwelling threatened species. Post-fires, these areas are more vital than ever and the priority is to protect them through creation of the Great Forest National Park3, not illegally clear-felling them for cardboard boxes and office paper. 

“Only 1 percent of unburnt and unlogged Mountain Ash forest now remains, after decades of fire and logging. Endorsed by Sir David Attenborough, the Great Forest National Park would provide real and lasting protection to some of Victoria’s—and the world’s—rarest plant and animal species,” Amelia Young concluded.

For more information, please contact: Tim Beshara, 0437 878 786


  1. Justice Mortimer upheld the central aspect of Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum’s case, finding both that VicForests operations were having a significant impact on the Leadbeater’s Possum and Greater Glider as per s.18 of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Protection Act 1999; and that the s.38 exemption is invalid. 
  2. The Illegal Logging Prohibition Act requires processors of domestic logs to undertake due diligence to remove risks of illegality from their supply chains. 
  3. The Great Forest National Park is a proposed park system to protect the critically endangered Mountain Ash ecosystem of the Victorian Central Highlands.