Over fifty people converged in Goongerah this weekend for the ninth GECO citizen science survey camp. People from across Gippsland, Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra took part in old growth forest walks, forest carbon accounting surveys, remote fauna camera deployment and data collection, spotlighting surveys for greater gliders and rainforest mapping.
We had a busy time at our citizen science camp last weekend, surveying forests threatened by logging. We deployed five fauna cameras for endangered Spot-tailed Quolls and Long Footed Potoroos, surveyed for Greater Gliders and mapped areas of protected rainforest, all within VicForests scheduled logging coupes.
Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO) has been awarded the Bob Brown Foundation Community Environment Prize as part of Bob Brown’s annual Environmentalist of Year awards.
The awards recognise and encourage the commitment and courage of environmentalists in their pursuit of environmental protection, preservation and justice.
GECO campaigner Ed Hill joined Environmentalist of the Year, Peter Owen (The Wilderness Society South Australia), Young Environmentalist of the Year, Josh Creaser (350.org) at an awards ceremony in Hobart today.
“Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO) are local environmental heroes. Time after time, the authorities have failed to enforce their own laws designed to protect forests and their wildlife, and this brave band of activists have stepped in to ensure the law is upheld.”
“Thanks to GECO’s persistent and innovative campaigns, hundreds of hectares of habitat for threatened species like the Greater Glider and Long-footed potoroo have been saved from destruction.”
“Incredibly, GECO’s activists have been prosecuted for exposing illegal logging. We think they deserve accolades, so it’s a great pleasure to present them with the Community Environment Award for their courageous work”, Bob Brown said.
“GECO is honoured to have our community based citizen science work recognised on the national stage. It should not be left up to the community to ensure threatened species and rainforests are protected from logging, greater scrutiny of VicForests by the Andrews government is urgently needed,” said GECO spokesperson Ed Hill.
Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO) - 2016 Community Environment Prize
Goongerah Environment Centre Office (GECO) is a grass roots community group based in the small town of Goongerah in far East Gippsland, Victoria. GECO have been campaigning for protection of East Gippsland’s forests since 1993.
Using a variety of strategies including education and raising public awareness, political lobbying, non-violent direct action, citizen science and forest monitoring, GECO take action to protect high conservation value forests from logging.
Through their forest surveys and citizen science camps, GECO have been successful in stopping illegal logging in several East Gippsland forests.
The state-owned logging agency VicForests regularly breaches environmental laws by logging threatened species habitat and protected forest types. Through their Citizen Science Program, GECO takes action in the face of inadequate government regulation, collecting data on threatened species and ecological values that are protected by Victorian law but threatened by logging, reporting the results to the Victorian government.
GECO have undertaken surveys for species such as the endangered Long-footed Potoroo, Greater Glider and large forest owls in areas scheduled for logging. The program has protected habitat by creating reserves and stopped several unlawful logging operations.
GECO’s citizen science program was nominated as a finalist in the 2015 United Nations World Environment Day Awards.
Regular educational forest survey camps based in Goongerah are organized by GECO, with participants learning about forest ecology, logging threats and ecological survey skills.
Although DELWP are supposed to regulate VicForests logging operations, inadequate and irregular auditing of their operations means logging often occurs in breach of environmental laws. GECO audits logging areas for compliance to the law and searches for threatened species before logging occurs, they this provide information to DELWP in sophisticated scientific reports.
GECO campaigners are being prosecuted by the Victorian Government for exposing rainforest logging, charged with entering a logging area to document and expose logging of protected rainforest.
In March operations at Cabbage Tree Creek were stopped after GECO reported logging of rainforest buffers and several rare and protected slender tree-ferns. The operation remains under investigation by Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP). This is the fifth rainforest logging operation GECO has reported to DELWP in 2016 that has been forced to a halt after GECO's survey efforts.
In 2016, GECO surveys have halted logging in four areas where protected Greater gliders were found on surveys. Since reporting the presence of large populations of protected Greater gliders, 500 hectares of forest on the Errinundra plateau has been saved with DELWP declaring they will now formally protect these areas that would have been logged if not for GECO's surveys.
While VicForests reported to the media that they protected habitat for nine threatened species in 2016 because of surveys they had conducted, it was in fact the incredible work of GECO and their surveys that halted the logging in these areas.
Ed Hill, GECO Forest Campaigner, is available for interview on 0414 199 645
Today is National Threatened Species Day, held each year to commemorate the tragic death of the last Tasmanian Tiger that died in captivity in Hobart in 1936.
GECO has submitted a report to the state government this morning detailing a high density of Greater gliders within the controversial 'Abra Cadabra' logging coupe in the Cottonwood Range.
This coupe was set aside for conservation by the Victorian Government's Forest Industry Taskforce, but VicForests commenced logging anyway. Logging here is undermining confidence in the Taskforce process.
Logging in this coupe is impacting on protected species habitat in breach of logging industry regulations.Read more
GECO campaigners Ed Hill and Joe Henderson appeared in the Bairnsdale Magistrates Court today. They’ve been charged with entering a logging area. It is alleged they did so to document and expose logging of protected rainforest.
The charges have now been listed for contested hearing in Court at a later date.Read more
We conducted a spotlighting survey in the Cottonwood range on Tuesday night and recorded twenty two protected greater gliders. The survey was conducted in a VicForests logging coupe where logging was due to commence any day. Where more than 10 greater gliders are found in 1km or more than 2 greater gliders per hectare of forest, the law requires 100 hectares of habitat to be protected from logging.
We submitted a report to the Department who must now implement the legally required protections and prevent logging from occurring.
It’s hard to believe the Victorian government would prosecute people for exposing rainforest logging, but that’s precisely what they’ve done.
GECO campaigners Ed Hill and Joe Henderson appeared in the Orbost Magistrates Court today. They’ve been charged with entering a logging area. It is alleged they did so to document and expose logging of protected rainforest.
Forty people made the journey to Goongerah for the GECO winter citizen science camp over the long weekend.
People from Melbourne, Canberra, East Gippsland and as far as the USA and Hong Kong joined us for old growth walks, forest carbon accounting practicals, remote fauna camera deployment, habitat mapping and nocturnal spotlighting surveys.
Lots of valuable data was collected to help protect East Gippsland's forests and threatened species from logging.Read more
Three people who were arrested and charged for taking part in a direct action protest in the Kuark forest in January have appeared in the Melbourne magistrates court this morning. They were protesting at Pikes Hill in the Kuark forest, a critically important area of habitat for a number of threatened plants and animals.
Image: The three activists with their legal support team.Read more
Great news for greater gliders! Our recent survey that found 11 greater gliders has resulted in a 100 hectare protected area and stopped VicForests from destroying their habitat.
The Department of Environment Land Water and Planning verified the survey last week and found the same number of gliders that we did, they are now in the process of creating a protection zone. Logging will no longer go ahead in the area and the gliders remain safe.
We're calling on Environment Minister Lisa Neville to make her department conduct their own surveys. It's not the job the community to look for and protect unique creatures like the greater glider before their homes are logged.
It's the government's job, but they're not doing it.
Goongerah Environment Centre has joined with 31 other environment groups today, calling on the Federal government to abolish the Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs).
The RFAs are agreements between state and federal governments that lock in access to public forests for logging and exempt the state based logging industries from federal environment laws.
The twenty year agreements are set to expire in the coming years, with the East Gippsland RFA being the first agreement to expire in February 2017. We've joined with a coalition of groups calling on the RFAs to be scrapped and not rolled over.
Media Release – May 2nd 2016
Logging of old growth forest in East Gippsland has been halted after citizen surveys documented a large population of Greater Gliders in a VicForests logging coupe near Bendoc on Wednesday night.
Greater Gliders are Australia’s largest gliding marsupial, capable of gliding up to 100 meters. They need large old trees with hollows to sleep in during the day.
The law requires Greater Glider habitat to be protected from logging when more than 10 individuals are recorded on a 1km survey. GECO’s citizen science survey recorded 11 Greater Gliders in 850m.
The Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP) will conduct their own survey this week. Logging has been put on hold in the forest until the DELWP investigation concludes.
A citizen science survey has stopped logging on the Errinundra plateau again! Last night 11 Greater Gliders were found on a spotlighting survey in a forest being logged by VicForests. In East Gippsland Greater Gliders are protected by law when more than 10 individuals are found in a 1km long survey. GECO surveys identified 11 Greater Gliders in a 850m survey, triggering the legal requirement for the area to be placed into a Special Protection Zone (SPZ).
After burning the midnight oil with Australia's large gliding marsupials, we submitted our survey data first thing this morning, calling on the Department of Environment to stop the logging.
Logging was occurring in protected species habitat, before the Department could investigate. This afternoon DELWP confirmed that VicForests has suspended operations! Another great result for protected species thanks to an epic survey effort. Citizen surveys keep finding protected species where VicForests refuse to look.Read more
Great news! Environment Minister Lisa Neville has cancelled the planned burn of logged areas in the iconic Larissa Lane in #KuarkForest!
Last week we raised concerns that the Department of Environment and VicForests' burns of a logged area at Larrissa Lane would endanger the rare rainforest and Slender-tree ferns in the gully directly adjacent to the planned burn.