Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Partial loss in court for Leadbeaters Possum

Submitted to Green Left Weekly

Healesville based group, MyEnvironment, has lost a court case it mounted against government body VicForests over the logging of Central Highlands areas that include habitat for the endangered Leadbeater’s Possum.

Justice 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 Gunbarrel 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 Leadbeater's habitat, to take account of the effects of the 2009 fires, and did not allow complete clearfelling of the coupes in question.

The Black Saturday bushfires destroyed large parts of the remaining habitat for Leadbeaters Possum, and the area at Toolangi was shown by conservationists to be inhabited by the possum.

VicForests made a commitment to exclude Leadbeaters’ habitat in the three coupes from logging, to not log Gun Barrel by clearfelling, and not to conduct a regeneration burn.

The environmental damage done by this logging will be much less compared to the extensive clear-felling that would have occurred if protesters had not forced the issue to stop for 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, according to Toolangi resident Steve Meacher, who was arrested while protesting the logging at Gunbarrel coupe.

While welcoming the call for a review of the zoning system for Leadbeaters’ Possum, Meacher told Green Left, “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 are considering their response on the decision, and making an appeal for donations to cover the high costs of their litigation. Donations can be made online at MyEnvironment's site.

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