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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.

The Environment Department and VicForests are arguing that their new old growth forest tool will protect old growth forests, but as we found out last week in court, even the Department’s own expert witness, Dr. Peter Woodgate, admitted the tool isn’t up to scratch, and deviates from his original definition of old growth forest. If that’s the case, despite the government’s promise old growth forests will keep being logged.

The Environment Department’s own witness thinks the tool isn’t good enough. The government hasn’t met the legal minimum requirements to protect old growth forests, and they’ll keep breaking the law if they use this dodgy tool. This tool is being used on the ground right now, even though its clearly not going to save critical old growth forests across East Gippsland which the government said they would protect. Read more about the Government's tool here.

Glossy Black Cockatoo spotted earlier in the year in old growth forests far East Gippsland, still scheduled for logging

In the last few days we've been on the ground in the Colquhoun area where logging is active in a coupe containing modelled old growth, this forest hasn't been protected. The case is seeking to protect these important forests, and The court case is the only thing holding the government’s Environment Department and their logging agency accountable. With the final two days scheduled for next week, FFRC needs to raise the last round of funds for their legal defence for old growth forests. The case has been running for over two years, and has only been possible thanks to the generous donations from so many people who know how important old growth forests are, and that they need to be protected.

Old growth forests in the Colquhoun

We also saw that the Environment Department’s dodgy old growth tool looks to be copied from an earlier VicForests tool, so much so, even the photos in the documents are the same. We also saw evidence of the Department caving into VicForests requests to make it harder for old growth forests to meet their dodgy new definition. What's clear is that the Department and VicForests aren’t interested in protecting old growth forests, but are giving the green light for logging in these precious forests to continue.

The Deputy Secretary of the forests section of the Environment Department Christine Ferguson was also cross-examined. On the one hand she claimed the tool would protect old growth forests, but then didn’t know how it would be used, who would be using it, when it would be used, and, when pressed, whether it would even be effective. Its clear the tool has no scientific basis, and it doesn’t reference any scientific papers, it only references logging documents, and seems to plagiarise VicForests original old growth tool. Late last year conservation groups sounded the alarm when it became clear the Environment Department weren’t going to be putting all the mapped old growth in logging free zones like the government said.

The case is making history and could prove the government’s own Environment Department have broken the law, and finally hold them to account. Please donate to help FFRC with the legal costs for the two final days of trial, so old growth forests have the best chance of being protected.

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