VicForests has confirmed it will appeal the court’s findings that its operations were in breach of state and federal laws designed to protect threatened species, on 31 grounds.
“Having carefully considered the recent decision of the Honourable Justice Mortimer in the Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum matter, VicForests has made the decision to appeal,” a spokesperson said.
It was only the second case in the 21-year history of Australia’s national environment protection law to challenge the special exemptions in regional forest agreements.
FLBP, represented in court by Environmental Justice Australia, argued that VicForests had breached the federal Environment Protection Act – which contains protections for threatened species – when it logged forest coupes in Victoria’s Central Highlands region.
But VicForests told the court it was exempt from federal threatened species obligations set out in the act because of a separately negotiated regional forestry agreement.
The court case prompted Bunnings to stop stocking VicForest timber products. Last month, the Bob Brown Foundation launched a similar Federal Court case in relation to Tasmanian forests.
The appeal comes as new research from the Australian National University finds that over 22 years of monitoring data there has been a 50 per cent decrease in Leadbeater’s possum populations and an 80 per cent decline in greater glider populations in the wet eucalypt forests of south-eastern Australia.
Using data gathered between 1997 and 2018, ecologist David Lindenmayer and co-authors also found evidence the number of hollow-bearing trees (a critical den site for possums) had declined substantially. The peer-reviewed paper will be published in the journal Animal Conservation this week.
It also found Leadbeater’s possum numbers had declined from increasing logging, while greater glider numbers had declined with increasing fire and logging.
Miki Perkins is a senior journalist and Environment Reporter at The Age.