18 August, 2010

Forests NSW investigated over logging breaches

Ben Cubby, August 18, 2010
Sydney Morning Herald (article)


Forests NSW is being forced to review its logging practices, after the discovery of a spate of new breaches including logging old-growth rainforests and destroying the habitat of threatened native animals.

The latest damage, at Girard State Forest near Tenterfield, is the fifth time in five months that the state agency has come under investigation.

The NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water, which oversees environmental protection licences, is conducting a joint audit with the agency of logging in the region.

The review will examine the regulations under which contractors are employed by Forests NSW, and rules protecting native wildlife, young trees and trees surrounding waterways.

The department has already handed out four penalty notices to the agency this year for breaking logging rules in the nearby Yabbra State Forest.

Damage in Girard State Forest was uncovered by a team of zoologists and botanists, working with an environment group, North East Forest Alliance.

It included a nine-hectare stand of mature trees, some of them two metres wide at ground level and 50 metres tall, which was part of a ''special prescription zone'' under the area's forestry agreement. This does not forbid logging, but requires contractors to "maintain or enhance the values that the area is zoned to protect".

The area was also part of Forests NSW's 1995 Tenterfield environmental impact statement, and part of one of the wildlife corridors the state government is striving to link up along the Great Dividing Range, from Queensland to Victoria.

Girard State Forest provides a home for koalas, stuttering frogs, sooty owls, powerful owls, golden-tipped bats and yellow-bellied gliders.

"Recent audits have exposed illegal logging of rainforest, wetlands, endangered ecological communities and now old-growth forest,'' said a spokesman for North East Forest Alliance, Dailan Pugh.

''These are what the regional forest agreement was meant to protect. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. This is in addition to systemic failures by Forests NSW to implement many of the measures required to protect threatened species and streams.''

Altogether, the report documented 24 recent breaches of a threatened species licence, 10 of an environmental protection licence, nine of a fisheries license and two of the site's integrated forestry operations approval.

Forests NSW, a public trading enterprise within the NSW Department of Primary Industries which plays a central role in the state's $1 billion timber industry, confirmed it was taking part in the joint audit.

''In addition, a compliance response team has been established to address these issues,'' the agency said in a statement.

''Forests NSW is committed to ensuring that the highest possible standards are maintained during harvest operations.''

The environment department said separate investigations into other breaches in Double Duke and Grange state forests were still under way.

''Once these investigations are complete and, if a pattern is identified, [the department] would consider further regulatory steps,'' a spokesman said.

13 August, 2010

LETTER: Plantations the solution

John Renowden, Princes Hill

The Age, August 13, 2010

THE government must recognise that the community is overwhelmingly opposed to the continued woodchipping of our native forests. Modern forestry is destructive, with clear felling followed by intensely hot regeneration burns. These practices obliterate wildlife and convert natural forest into even-aged monocultures for industrial use. They are uneconomic and are subsidised by taxpayers. The time is long overdue to transition logging into plantations, which have sufficient wood to meet 90 per cent of our timber needs. Mr Brumby, respect the wishes of the broader community, and protect our forests for biodiversity, water and carbon storage.

LETTER: Volunteers to the rescue

Chris Owens, Lysterfield South
The Age, August 13, 2010

IT IS now official. Protection of rare and endangered species now relies on volunteer organisations rather than governments. This case demonstrates how you can't find rare animals if you are not looking for them.

The only question now is: Will the Victorian government change the rules so the plunder can continue, as occurred in Tasmania?

LETTER: Signs there decades ago

Judith Wakeman, Templestowe

The Age, August 13, 2010

THOSE asserting that thousands of jobs will be lost and rural towns decimated by the decision to suspend logging should ask the forestry industry and state governments why they did not heed the recommendations of the Land Conservation Council review into East Gippsland in 1986, which stated that the industry was operating at twice the level required to ensure it was sustainable, and that the biggest threats to employment in the forestry industry were unsustainable practices and the development and implementation of methods aimed at greater efficiency.

The review also stated that the best hope for increasing employment opportunities was in the environmental education and tourism industries, provided they were properly supported.

These opportunities are undermined by logging activities.

Maybe this decision will open the door to an alternative future for Gippsland.

LETTER: The many faces of conservation

April Reside, North Ward, Qld
The Age, August 13, 2010


As entrusted custodians of our environment and biota, we would hope that our government would act to protect our iconic endangered species. Sadly, this is not the case.

If it weren't for the community group Environment East Gippsland, rare and endangered species such as the long-footed potoroo would have seen their old-growth forest habitat on Brown Mountain destroyed long ago (''Greens hail win on logging'', The Age, 12/8). VicForests is aware that logging practices in Victoria are unsustainable.

Protecting forests is a pivotal conservation issue, with many states banning land clearing. However, protecting forests is not just an endangered-species issue: it is a water conservation issue, a carbon issue, a tourism issue and a community issue. This landmark case will hopefully show the government that the community will hold it accountable.

12 August, 2010

Greens hail win on logging

Adam Morton
The Age (article), August 12, 2010


ENVIRONMENTALISTS are claiming a landmark victory after the Supreme Court upheld a ban on logging of old-growth forest in hotly disputed parts of East Gippsland.

Environment East Gippsland had sued VicForests, the government agency responsible for logging in state forests, over plans to log about 60 hectares at Brown Mountain, near Orbost.

Justice Robert Osborn yesterday ruled that campaigners had shown that part of the proposed logging zone was home to endangered potoroo and glider species and should be protected.

The rest of the area cannot be felled until the court is satisfied the government has carried out surveys that show endangered frog and quoll species are not present. The judgment effectively rules that government surveys that prompted Environment Minister Gavin Jennings to lift a moratorium on logging in the area failed to properly examine whether endangered wildlife was at risk.

Justice Osborn ruled VicForests was obliged to take a precautionary approach if warned that endangered animal species were in proposed logging areas.

Environmentalists said they were confident new surveys would force an end to logging at Brown Mountain, which is seen as a symbolically important battleground by greens and the timber industry.

Greens leader Bob Brown, in court supporting the environmentalists' case, said the judgment was ''breakthrough territory for the whole nation''. ''This is a green letter day for the forests, for endangered species and for the 80 per cent of Australians who want the destruction of our wild forests [with] their carbon stores and their magnificent biodiversity ended,'' he said.

Environment East Gippsland won a temporary injunction over logging last year after producing video footage showing an endangered long-footed potoroo in the area to be felled.

The group's co-ordinator Jill Redwood said the ruling was a significant win that would force the state government to abide by its logging laws.

Agriculture Minister Joe Helper said the judgment meant extra precautions needed to be taken before the ban on logging the four Brown Mountain zones could be lifted.

''The decision does not mean that logging cannot occur in these areas in the future,'' he said.

11 August, 2010

Environmentalists hail court win

Michelle Draper
The Age (article), August 11, 2010



Logging in an environmentally significant old growth forest in Victoria will remain banned until the state government implements a host of measures to protect endangered species.

Victoria's Supreme Court has upheld the ban preventing logging at Brown Mountain in the state's far east under an injunction, while a number of surveys on endangered wildlife are carried out.

In a decision hailed as a victory by environmentalists, Justice Robert Osborn also ordered special protection zones and "habitat retention" areas be created at Brown Mountain, north of Orbost in East Gippsland before logging can start.

Anti-logging campaigners Environment East Gippsland took action in the Supreme Court last year to stop the state-owned timber agency VicForests logging at Brown Mountain.

Logging was due to start at the site last September but it was halted until the outcome of the Supreme Court trial, which took place in March.

In a pivotal point for the environmentalists' case, video footage of an endangered long-footed potoroo was captured at the site and formed a key piece of evidence in the trial.

The decision will benefit several threatened and rare species including the potoroo, greater gliders and yellow-bellied gliders, the spot-tailed quoll and two species of endangered frogs, the giant burrowing frog and the large brown tree frog.

Wednesday's decision means VicForests will be legally obliged to take further action to protect endangered species, along with the Department of Sustainability and Environment, before logging can take place.

Unless VicForests complies with the requirements to establish the special protection zones and habitat retention areas, logging at Brown Mountain would be illegal, Justice Osborn said.

Greens leader Bob Brown labelled the ruling a "breakthrough".

"This is breakthrough territory for this whole nation," Senator Brown told reporters outside the court.

"It is now up to the legislators in Melbourne and in Canberra to follow through and not leave it to the courts but to represent the people of Australia by legislation with teeth in it to protect our forests and our wildlife."

Environment East Gippsland spokeswoman Jill Redwood hailed the decision as a win and said it sent a strong message to the DSE and VicForests.

"This is a huge win for not just Brown Mountain, that's just the tip of the iceberg, but old growth forests right across the state," Ms Redwood said.

Ms Redwood said the decision was significant because pre-logging surveys had not been required previously.

She said if the surveys ordered by Justice Osborn were carried out correctly then endangered species would certainly be uncovered in the logging areas.

Justice Osborn ordered habitat retention areas be created for potoroos found at the logging site while special protection zones should be established for the gliders and further surveys for the frogs.

"In order to give effect to these conclusions VicForests should be restrained by injunction from harvesting until the relevant steps have been completed," Justice Osborn said.

Reviews of management areas that are currently under way for powerful owls and sooty owls should also be completed, he said.

VicForests director of strategy Nathan Trushell said the organisation wanted time to digest the 232-page judgment.

"Clearly the injunction remains until a number of conditions that need to be met to the satisfaction of the Department of Sustainability and Environment are met," he told reporters.