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.