Damning audit of Environment Department shows failure to stop wildlife extinction

A scathing report from the Auditor General has been handed down in Parliament today showing a catastrophic failure of Victoria's Environment Department to halt the decline of threatened species. It echoes similar findings handed down two years ago after Environment Minister Lily D'Ambrosio commissioned an independent review. The report released today states the Department; "...cannot demonstrate if, or how well, it is halting further decline in Victoria's threatened species populations" and "continues to make limited use of available legislative tools to protect threatened species".

There are almost 2,000 species at risk of extinction in Victoria, and the report says "Australia’s native plants and animals have the highest rate of species extinction of any developed nation..."

Yellow-bellied Glider set to be listed under the FFG Act after the bushfires

Credit: Fauna and Flora Research Collective

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Why we should all be fighting for our remaining forests

Defend Errinundra is a film that gives voice to bushfire survivors who thought they had lost everything in the summer of 2019/20, but then realised there are still many precious forests worth protecting.

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Giant 14m 'Cathedral' tree found in forests slated for logging

GECO volunteers have found a giant 14m Errinundra Shining gum in forests slated for logging, only a few hundred metres from a main tourist road. The tree is around the same size and significance as the giant tree protected in the Old Growth forest walk in the Errinundra NP.

It's just one of many huge trees citizen scientists found in these forests. We're calling on the government to remove this area from the current logging schedule, read our report and recommendations here.

Giant 14.5 metre Errinundra Shining gum in forests slated for logging

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Thanks to those who came to our citizen science weekend and online campaign launch!

Thanks so much to the regional Victorians who came out to our citizen science camp over the long weekend! We went surveying for Greater Gliders, and walked through forests that were recently added to the logging schedule near Errinundra on Bidewell and Monero Country. In one area our volunteers found a 14m circumference tree! This giant is just one of many huge trees which were found in areas scheduled for logging.

We'll be submitting a report to the government to try and get this area protected. We are so grateful to everyone who was able to come out. We'll be hosting more citizen science camps later in the year, hopefully restrictions will ease and we can host folks from Naarm/Melbourne.

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Court injunction stops logging on Gunnai Country

Logging has been halted in an important area of forest home to critically endangered Masked Owl, and Yellow-bellied Gliders where GECO says logging was unlawful. Conservation groups sounded the alarm over illegal logging in the Colquhoun State Forest on Gunnai Kurnai Country in December last year when citizen scientists found a high density of Yellow-bellied Gliders.

GECO received a letter from the logging regulator stating the report and detections had triggered a protection zone. But they didn't protect forests up for logging, and refused to prosecute VicForests for illegally logging forests that should've been saved. There's a cluster of four coupes in the area, it's some of the last remaining old growth forest and unburnt refugia for threatened species in the Colquhoun.

Bulldozers were about to move into the adjacent forest, but thankfully Environment East Gippsland and their legal team secured an urgent injunction to stop the imminent logging of the forests. You can support their tireless work to defend East Gippsland's forests in court by donating here.

 

Unburnt forest refuge in the Colquhoun where logging was halted by a court injunction

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Terrifying future for Greater Glider as it's set to go from vulnerable to endangered

In just over 5 years Greater Gliders are going from vulnerable to endangered under federal legislation, and are also set to be listed as endangered in Victoria. A new study shows threatened species laws are failing to stop the decline of wildlife like the Greater Glider, an article published in the Conversation says "The greater glider is edging towards extinction, but there is still no recovery plan for this iconic marsupial."

In Victoria, so-called protections for the Greater Glider announced by the Dan Andrews government in 2019 allows logging where gliders are found and weakens existing protections in East Gippsland, which were already failing to stop decline of the species.

For years we've been hosting citizen science camp to survey for gliders in forests scheduled for logging. Sign up to our email list to get updates on our next survey camp to be part of the campaign to save these precious critters.

Greater Glider found in forests scheduled for logging in Errinundra

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Andrews government rushing through major changes to weaken logging laws

Alarming changes to the Code of Practice, or "the Code" are being rushed through by the Andrews government. The Environment Department have given communities less than a month to respond to the changes which are spread out over more than 350 pages of documents. 

Submissions have officially closed, but you can keeping sending them directly to the Environment Minister Lily D'AmbrosioCheck out the Friends of the Earth guide and example submission.

Don't have time to make a submission? Victorian National Park Association (VNPA) have set up an easy email action here.

Forests in Swifts Creek, Credit: Friends of Bats and Habitat Gippsland 

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Have your say in the government's bushfire review

In March 2020, just a few months after the devastating 2019/2020 Black Summer bushfires, state and federal governments rolled over the controversial Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) which give logging an exemption from federal environment laws.

A new clause has been introduced where a significant event (like the 2019/2020 bushfires) can trigger a Major Event Review (MER).

The review was announced last year, but since then logging in critical habitat for threatened species has continued, and there have been no changes to logging schedules. The review is now open to public consultation and submissions will be accepted until 31 August 2021.

Read our submission guide and have your say here

Our report, After the fires: Protecting our forest refuges has heaps of info to help inform your submissions. Environmental Justice Australia also released this report in April last year about the legality of the RFAs following the bushfire. 

You can also read more about the review on the Vic government's website here.

Kuark forest after the bushfires, Rob Blakers

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Unburnt forests in Swifts Creek targeted for logging

The Victorian government is targeting forests in Swifts Creek on Gunai Kurnai Country for logging despite being an important refuge area for wildlife after the bushfires.

Conservation groups and East Gippsland locals have recently visited the area and are shocked at the scale of destruction in forests which have never been logged. Two areas have already been clear-felled, and the whole hillside is up for logging. Despite being critical habitat for Greater Gliders, Sooty Owls, and Yellow-bellied Gliders, the state government commenced logging two months ago. Take action and call for the protection of these and other refuges for wildlife! 

Giant habitat tree, logged in Swifts Creek

Photo credit: Friends of Bats and Habitat Gippsland

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Court injunction stops logging in Errinundra!

UPDATE: Two areas have been taken off the immediate schedule, and state-owned VicForests told the courts they won't log forests in 'Alla Turca' till next year, and all the logging machines have left the area!

Environment East Gippsland (EEG) have secured a court injunction to halt logging in 'Alla Turca' coupe in Errinundra! Logging had only just started when the injunction was granted on Wednesday afternoon. For the last month private security has been stationed 24/7 in the area to prevent community members and supporters from protesting the logging. The area is just down the road from Camp Errinundra which has stalled logging for over 3 months.

Thanks to the combined efforts of citizen scientists, EEG and their legal team, and all the folks who've taken action and been out to camp, the gliders are safe for now! But the fight is far from over. There are still hundreds of areas up for logging across East Gippsland, and the legal battle for these forests is just beginning.

 

Drone footage of logging in the area before the injunction was granted

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Bidewell-Maap custodians call for protection of Country from logging

Last year three generations of First Nations Bidewell families visited the Bidewell reserve on the Errinundra Plateau, where logging is scheduled. Over 60 coupes are on the schedule on Bidewell Country around Errinundra/Cottonwood forests
 
But there is no consent from Bidewell Elder's to log, or be on their traditional lands. Last year Bidwell-Maap Traditional Owners have written a letter to the Victorian government condemning logging planned in the Bidewell reserve near the Errinundra Plateau.
 
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Great turn out at Easter Camp as protest enters 9th week!

Over 30 people attended our Easter citizen science and skill share camp over the long weekend, including Green Senator and First Nations activist Lidia Thorpe. Volunteers did surveys for Greater Gliders, tree measuring, and marked out a walk through an incredible area of threatened forest in the Cottonwood area. Community protests have halted logging for the last 9 weeks in the area. One area was removed from the immediate logging schedule, while two others are currently being blockaded. More than 5 people have been arrested and fined in the last week, but a person is still occupying a tree-sit, and another a quad-pod structure blocking access to the area.

Support is always needed at camp. Click here for directions and to get in touch to come out.

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VicForests pulls out of contentious logging coupe in Errinundra

VicForests have removed the coupe in Errinundra where community protests have halted logging for nearly 2 months from the immediate schedule. Multiple tree-sits had been set up in the area, two people have been arrested since the protests started at the end of January this year. The Errinundra Plateau is one of the few remaining unburnt areas in East Gippsland, and a critical refuge for bushfire ravaged wildlife.

While the area is safe for now, logging machines are already moving into an area just down the road where GECO citizen scientists found five Greater Gliders. Protests against the logging are ramping up in the area. Camp Errinundra is still halting logging in this critical area of unburnt forest. Camp is always in need of more support, click here for details of how to get involved.

 

Community protests halted logging for nearly 2 months

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Environment Department handballs wildlife protections to government logging agency

East Gippsland conservation groups were outraged to learn this week that environmental protections for threatened species detected in state forests are being designed by state owned logging company VicForests.

GECO received notice from the Environment Department that a report submitted last year for detections of a high-density of Yellow-bellied Gliders had triggered the implementation of a 100ha protection zone. But we've been informed that the state-owned logging company VicForests were put in charge of designing the zone, and that it's being placed over existing buffers, and does not protect the habitat of the gliders. Logging had already started in the area when citizen scientists detected the species.

In less than a week over 500 people have emailed decision makers to call for protection of forests, over the past few days calls flooded into the Environment Minister Lily D'Ambrosio's office asking her to direct her Department to put in proper zones which protect the forests. Sign and share our email action here to keep making an impact!

 

Forests in the Colquhoun still threatened by logging

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Take action! After the fires, forests need protection

A new report showing analysis of maps and data from the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires has revealed the significant areas of unburnt forests critical for bushfire affected wildlife are set to be logged by the Victorian Government.

These and other important areas are still scheduled for logging, when they need to be protected. Take action and email decision makers to drop logging plans and protect forests and wildlife.

 

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