Tessa Akerman, The Australian
An environmental group has sought to stop the state government-owned timber company VicForests from logging areas home to the Greater Glider and the critically endangered Leadbeater’s Possum, saying the future of the two species was in jeopardy.
Barrister Jim Delany QC, for Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum, said the future of the Leadbeater was entirely dependent on its wild population, as he sought Federal Court orders to stop VicForests from logging in 41 forest areas (coupes) and to protect an area of forest to mitigate for 26 areas alleged to have been unlawfully logged in the past.
The court proceedings relate to logging in Victoria’s Gippsland, or central highland, and whether it is allowed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
The areas are covered by a Regional Forests Agreement between the state and federal government which gives VicForests a limited exemption from national environment laws.
Mr Delany told the court VicForests failed to carefully evaluate management options to avoid damage to the greater glider and also failed to assess risk and the consequences of various actions.
“VicForests fails to recognise in the central highlands the risk that options held to the greater glider,” he said.
He said VicForests operated on a coupe by coupe basis with the premise the habitat will grow in time.
“We say that approach starts from the wrong premise,” Mr Delany said.
“The case is VicForests really fails to recognise the dire situation of the species.”
Mr Delany said the habitat of the possums was old Ash forest which created hollows after 120 years “such habitat is increasingly rare”.
He said the area was affected by the 1939 bushfires and logging of older trees: “takes us back nearly to year zero.”
“Unless sufficient habitat corridors are retained, the greater glider population will become isolated and either can’t breed or become inbred,” he said.
“Really VicForests does not recognise or plan for and have at the front of its mind the threat that proposed forestry options pose to the species.”
The trial before Justice Debra Mortimer is set down for three weeks.