The issue

The recent catastrophic bushfires have already destroyed vast swathes of Victoria’s native forests and millions of animals, including threatened wildlife. Shockingly, despite the devastation, the Victorian government’s logging agency – VicForests – continues to log unburnt forests home to threatened wildlife.

Threatened species like the Greater Glider and the Powerful Owl have lost much of their remaining habitat, pushing them even closer to extinction. Even our beloved Koala is in danger.

It’s a devastating blow to the places and wildlife we love.

The Supreme Court case

WOTCH, a community group of citizen scientists from Victoria’s Central Highlands, has launched a Supreme Court case against VicForests to stop the state-owned agency from logging areas of unburnt habitat for threatened species impacted by the bushfires – including the Greater Glider, Sooty Owl, Powerful Owl and Smoky Mouse.

Represented by EJA, WOTCH alleges that logging where fire-affected threatened species have been sighted or their habitat exists is unlawful until the state and federal governments have concluded their bushfire biodiversity response and threatened species are protected in light of the findings.

The Victorian government’s own preliminary response to the bushfires lists the threatened Greater Glider, Smoky Mouse, Sooty and Powerful Owls among the “fauna species of most immediate concern”. And yet clear-fell logging continues in their habitat!

This is the first court case to protect threatened species in the wake of the bushfires.

Case update – 29 April, 2020

Following a hearing at the end of March, the judge has just extended the interlocutory injunction to cover an additional 13 areas of forest.

The additional 13 areas include areas where VicForests had started logging or were preparing to log including areas within the Kalatha Valley of the Giants in Toolangi, Mount Bride near Warburton, Mount Baw Baw, Mount Bullfight, and near Timbertop west of Mount Buller.

26 areas are now in total protected from logging while the case proceeds, this is incredible news for our forests and wildlife.

Whilst the defendant has demonstrated it will suffer some short-term loss, and that long-term loss may exacerbate any likely shortfall in production, this pales in comparison to the potential threat of irreversible environmental damage to the fire affected threatened species. All five of the threatened species have been identified by the state government as on the path to extinction. It goes without saying that once these species are extinct,there is no going back.

Justice McMillan, Victoria's Supreme Court

Case update – 5 March, 2020

On the 5 March, the Supreme Court granted Wildlife of the Central Highlands’ application for an interlocutory injunction to halt logging in unburned threatened species habitat

This will halt logging in thirteen areas of unburnt habitat of Greater Glider, Sooty Owl, Powerful Owl and Smoky Mouse for the duration of the case while we seek longer-term protection. This is a great result and upholds that it is not ‘business as usual’ for forests and wildlife following the extensive destruction of this summer’s fires.

The court rejected VicForests’ arguments against the granting of the injunction.

We are so grateful to everyone who donated to the case. The fight is not over but for now, you are keeping the forests standing.

Case update – 18 Feb, 2020

At the hearing on 18 February for an interlocutory injunction (a halt on logging in the contested areas while the case proceeds), Justice McMillan reserved her judgement and extended the existing halt on logging in six of the contested areas until that judgement is handed down.

Case update – 7 Feb, 2020

Justice McMillan of the Victorian Supreme Court made orders that include three more coupes in the interim halt on logging in unburnt forests until our hearing for an interlocutory injunction on 18 February 2020. That’s now six in total.

Case update – 29 Jan, 2020

The Supreme Court granted an interim injunction to halt logging in the three areas in the case where logging is currently taking place. WOTCH’s application for an interlocutory injunction that would stop logging in all ten areas in dispute for the duration of the case has been listed for hearing on 18 February 2020.