2020 Wrap up

It's been a rough and challenging year, with lots of ups and down. We watched forests where we've been campaigning for protection for decades turn to ashes. The fires devastated communities across East Gippsland and wiped out forests and wildlife. But in the face of this unprecedented catastrophe we have seen our friends and communities recover.

We were blown away by the support that came flooding in those weeks and months following the fires. We want to say a huge thank you to those who donated, put on fundraisers, organised food and supply drops, and supported the community of Goongerah to rebuild after the 2019/2020 bushfires.

Old growth forests on Sellar's Rd, still scheduled for logging

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Bidewell-Maap Traditional Owners speak out against logging through Bidewell Reserve

Bidwell-Maap Traditional Owners have written a letter to the Victorian government condemning logging planned in the Bidewell reserve near the Errinundra Plateau. There are two coupes planned adjacent to the reserve, access would be through a large coupe within the reserve itself. The letter says:

The reserve is under the custodianship of the Bidewell people, we have had no one approach us to ask for permission to go onto country. Before going onto country there needs to be consultation, there has been no consultation with Elders and Traditional Owners of the land.

The continued destruction of forests cannot continue when they need to be protected [and] which are very significant for our peoples and our connections to country. The reserve is cultural heritage for the Bidewell people.

Bidewell-Maap custodians at the Bidewell reserve

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Citizen scientists find high density of Yellow-bellied Gliders halting destruction of forests!

Logging has stopped in old growth forests in the Colquhoun after citizen scientists from GECO, Gippsland Environment Group, and Friends of Bats and Habitat Gippsland found a high density of Yellow-bellied Gliders. Thanks to the actions of citizen scientists and people taking action and calling the Environment Minister logging has stopped for now!

VicForests and the Environment Department didn't conduct spotlight surveys for the gliders which would have protected the area. A large part of the coupe has already been logged where it is highly likely Yellow-bellied Gliders were present. VicForests is legally required to do the surveys, they failed to protect the gliders making logging in the area unlawful. Read our report submitted to the Environment Department here.

Logging started in the area over two weeks ago, in an ABC article released on Saturday morning a VicForests representative stated that "These coupes would have had all of the appropriate surveys by VicForests." But destruction of the forests started without any surveys.

Logged habitat tree in the Colquhoun State Forests where Yellow-bellied Gliders have been found

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Government says logging in East Gippsland should stop but stalls on forest protections

The state and federal governments have finally agreed to conduct a Major Event Review into the impacts of the 2019/2020 bushfires, but a confidential document obtained by GECO through Freedom of Information reveals the Environment Department has already told state-owned VicForests to postpone all logging in East Gippsland. The hushed up recommendation was given more than 6 months ago, but logging has continued in East Gippsland in and outside the fire extent.

In the document the Department identifies specific areas where they've said VicForests shouldn't be logging which fall in the top 20% of habitat remaining for priority species impacted by the fires, some of which have already been logged in the last few months. We worked with The Guardian to break the story, read and share the coverage here.  

 

Logging in key unburnt forests in the Colquhoun state forest on the doorstep of Lakes Entrance, East Gippsland

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Old growth forest case heats up, Department's witness admits their tool is faulty

Last month community group Fauna and Flora Research Collective (FFRC) were back in court for two days for the second trial of their old growth forest court case. The last two days are scheduled for next week and Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) who are representing FFRC are gearing up to cross-examine the VicForests witness and put in their closing submissions. FFRC will also be calling their final witness, an expert on forest ecology and botany.

With only two days left of the trial, FFRC need to raise money to get over the final hurdle for the fight for old growth forest protection. These ancient forests need your help, please donate now.

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Environment Department fails to put in proper rainforest protections on Mt Jersey

GECO citizen scientists have discovered the Environment Department has failed to put in proper buffers for an area of cool-temperate rainforest on Mt Jersey in East Gippsland currently being logged. Rainforest stands are meant to be given a 100m Special Protection Zone (SPZ) buffer, a requirement by law which the Environment Department is responsible for implementing. VicForests has already logged within the area which should have been afforded protection. The forests are fire-affected but recovering, citizen scientists have observed and documented rainforest species like Sassafrass and Black Olive Berry re-sprouting. Read the report we submitted to the Department here.

Join us this Saturday for an online update of what's happening on the ground in East Gippsland, and how you can get involved. RSVP here.

 

Recovering cool-temperate rainforest, Mt Jersey East Gippsland

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Locals speak out against logging in recovering forests on Mt Jersey

"Today myself and a bunch of locals have come up to Mt Jersey to highlight something that the Victorian Government doesn't want you to see. And it is that old growth forests are still being logged and destroyed in Victoria."

Powerful words and footage from East Gippsland locals speaking out against logging in recovering forests on the doorstep of their township. After surviving the worst bushfires in living memory they're now watching the state government destroy these important areas which still provide critical habitat for wildlife.

You can take action and stand with the community by email decision makers here:

Minister Jaclyn Symes: https://www.geco.org.au/email_symes
Minister Lily D'Ambrosio: https://www.geco.org.au/email_minister_dambrosio
Premier Dan Andrews: https://www.geco.org.au/email_premier_andrews

 

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Contact Jaclyn Symes

Minister Jaclyn Symes, who's responsible for VicForests, is pushing to change laws to remove the democratic right for community groups to take legal action against VicForests. Despite the horrific black Summer bushfires, and the Federal Court ruling VicForests broke the law, she's backing VicForests' new plans to log thousands of hectares of forests across Victoria, against her own government's scientific advice!

You can take action and email Minister Symes, we expect stronger laws for wildlife and an urgent transition out of native forest logging.

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Email the Minister, her Department has failed to protect forests and wildlife

The Department has failed to put in the proper protections for a Large Brown Tree Frog detection on Mt Jersey. We're sick of the Department failing to regulate the rogue loggers, they need to charge VicForests and start acting to protect forests and wildlife, not look after the interests of the logging industry.

Take action now, email Minister D'Ambrosio to push her Department to take action

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New species of rare frog discovered, logging threatens its survival on Mt Jersey

The Large Brown Tree Frog, Litoria littlejohni, endemic to south-eastern Australia has been split into 2 species, now Litoria littlejohni and newly named Litoria watsoni, halving its distribution and population. But state-owned logging company VicForests is currently logging just over 200m away from a detection site of the frog in the Yalmy catchment on Mt Jersey in East Gippsland, and have cleared the vegetation and installed a gate where the frog was found. Mt Jersey was heavily impacted by fire, but Orbost spiny crayfish and a Yellow-bellied Glider were found within the logging area only a few months ago. Long-footed Potoroos were also found pre-fires.

The Large Brown Tree Frog was thought to be extinct in Victoria for over 20 years when it was rediscovered in 2015 by Goongerah Environment Centre citizen scientist and ecologist Rena Gaborov. East Gippsland is a stronghold for the species, which prefers wet and damp forests. According to the government’s biodiversity impacts report 88% of its known habitat in East Gippsland is within the 2019/2020 fire extent.

Read The Age coverage of the story here.

 

Newly discovered Litoria watsoni found on Mt Jersey

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VicForests once again fails to get the green tick

Government owned logging agency VicForests have finally released the results of their 2019 Forest Stewardship Council audit, revealing they've failed to achieve FSC certification. This is the fifth try to get the green tick, the audit report reveals major non-conformances for failure to protect threatened species habitat and high conservation values, continued logging of old growth forest, as well as poor stakeholder engagement.

Remarkably, a few months ago when VicForests announced they were abandoning their efforts to get the green tick, they made a desperate attempt to shift the blame for failing to meet the standards, pointing the finger to the FSC board itself, who have nothing to do with the audit process or the outcome. They also blamed the bushfires and COVID, events which happened after the audit in 2019.

 

Failed regen, Mt Delusion, Swifts Creek

 

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Legal battle for protection of old growth forests continues in the Supreme Court

Our good friends from the Fauna and Flora Research Collective (FFRC) are back in court on September 16th to defend East Gippsland's precious old growth forests from logging! Despite the government's supposed ban on old growth logging, old growth is still getting the chop under a new definition. The case is the only thing keeping the government accountable to protect these ancient forests.

There's still hope for the ancient forests of East Gippsland. FFRC are fighting for protection of old growth in court, and you can help. Please donate to their legal defence fund here.

Precious old growth forests in East Gippsland, still scheduled for logging

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Have your say on inquiry into ecosystem decline

Right now submissions are open into the Victorian Parliamentary inquiry into ecosystem decline. The inquiry is an important opportunity to voice our concerns about how important Victoria's unique and threatened ecosystems and wildlife are, and that we expect the Victorian government to implement better laws, and stronger protections to halt the steep decline of threatened flora and fauna. Submissions close August 31.

Click here to make submission

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East Gippsland's forests under threat & a free pass for illegal logging

In the wake of the most catastrophic bushfires to date, and under the cover of Covid-19, the Dan Andrews government has started logging fire-damaged forests and precious areas outside the fire extent in East Gippsland. Forests that are recovering, and some of the last remaining habitat for threatened species like the Long-footed Potoroo, Powerful Owl, and Yellow-bellied Glider are being logged right now. On top of this, last Friday government owned VicForests announced plans to add over 100 coupes to their East Gippsland logging schedule. 
Destructive salvage logging of recovering forests near Cape Conran, East Gippsland
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Bunnings axe ties with VicForests over illegal logging

A leaked Bunnings staff newsletter has revealed Bunnings will phase out VicForests products from their supply chain following a federal court judgement which found they had illegally logged over 25 areas of native forest, and that their future logging plans fail to comply with state and federal laws. Bunnings have now released a statement which you can read here.

The judgement throws doubt over the legality of all logging in threatened species habitat, the state-owned logging company are still logging forests in the Central Highlands which contain threatened species like the Greater Glider despite the court ruling, and the government is yet to take any action to ensure that its current logging operations comply with state and federal laws.

 

Copy of the leaked Bunnings staff newsletter

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