Logging on dozens of central highlands sites has been suspended after legal action from an environmental group.
The Federal Court has ordered VicForest must not “conduct timber harvesting operations” on 34 sites until a hearing next month.
Harvesting was underway on four sites, known as coupes, with the others earmarked for future logging.
The case related to controversial agreements between state and federal governments that exempts logging of public native forest from environment protection laws.
Environmental Justice Australia launched the legal challenge on behalf of the Friends of the Leadbeater’s Possum earlier this month.
The environmental group wants permanent bans on the 34 sites earmarked for logging where the Leadbeater’s Possum and Greater Gliders live.
The government deals, known as Regional Forest Agreements, require performance reviews every five years.
But the group says the reviews were not completed and, because the logging wouldn’t comply with RFA, it must adhere to the federal environmental laws that protect threatened species.
Steve Meacher, from Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum said the group was “relieved” by the court order suspending logging.
“Logging in the forests of the Central Highlands is threatening the Leadbeater’s Possum and Greater Glider with extinction,” he said.
“The federal-state Regional Forest Agreements have failed to protect endangered wildlife and have not been complied with, but they’ve nevertheless been used to try to exempt the logging industry from environment protection laws.”
But VicForests chief executive Nathan Trushell said he believed their operations were “in accordance” with the central highlands agreement.
“We look forward to the court clarifying obligations in regards to this,” he said.
“We are keen to see the legal matter resolved as quickly as possible to minimise disruption of timber supply to local mills and to important regional jobs.”
There are five Regional Forest Agreements in Victoria — half of the total number nationwide. The controversial agreements are 20-year plans to manage and conserve native forest.
And while they were designed to ease concern about the damage of logging, environmental groups claim they have failed.
By Monique Hore
Published by the Herald Sun on 24 November 2017