18 January, 2001

Powerful owl spurs protesters to forceful campaign

Dorothy Cook
The Age (article), 18/1/01

Two grandmothers chained themselves to a door during a protest yesterday against logging in the Wombat State Forest near Trentham, which threatens to destroy the habitat of a pair of rare owls. About 40 environmentalists picketed outside the Daylesford office of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment.

The department this week approved the immediate logging of 76 hectares of mainly old-growth eucalypt forest in the habitat of the powerful owl, an endangered species under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act. As part of the protest, Trentham grandmothers Margaret Thorpe, 58 and Lori Victorsen, 62 chained themselves to the doors of the department's office in Daylesford.

"We've written nice letters and nothing's happened so we have decided we wanted to do this. We are quite willing to be arrested because it's so important to us," Mrs Victorsen said. The Actively Conserving Trentham conservation group, which took part in the protest, said about 500 pairs of powerful owls were left in Victoria. Group spokesman Mark Cowie said by allowing logging to destroy the powerful owl's habitat, the government was breaching its own wildlife regulations.

These regulations said that a minimum of 25 pairs of powerful owls must be protected in the Midlands region, which includes Trentham. Mr Cowie said only 16 pairs of owls were protected in the Midlands.

It was highly likely the Trentham breeding pair - which last year had two chicks in a tree hollow 1000metres from the block ap- proved for logging - would flee or die if the logging went ahead, Mr Cowie said.

A spokesman for Environment Minister Sherryl Garbutt said scientific advice from powerful-owl experts was that a 500-hectare special protection zone in place for the owls was adequate. "(The logging) doesn't appear to be a threat to the owls," the spokesman said. "If it turns out to be a threat then we have advice from experts that the mater will be reviewed then."

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