Sunday, February 12, 2012

my environment -v- vicforests, week one

I've been watching the progress of the MyEnvironment -v- VicForests at the Melbourne Supreme Court with great interest.

The case is testing whether logging operations of VicForests are in compliance with state laws, focussing on three logging coupes in the Toolangi State Forest (Freddo, Gunbarrel and South Col).

Day one and two saw opening statements from both MyEnvironment and VicForests.

Day three saw Justice Robert Osborn and the legal teams visit the coupes in question out in the Toolangi State Forest.

Day four and five saw Prof David Lindenmayer, eminent expert on Leadbeater's Possum take the stand.

After the 2009 bushfires and decades of industrial logging, the unburnt remnant Ash forests now contain the last viable population of the endangered Leadbeater's Possum, along with a large host of other threatened flora and fauna. In his evidence Prof Lindenmayer stated that only 1.16% of the forest remains unburnt or unlogged, there's not much that hasn't been effected by disturbance.

During his cross examination Prof Lindenmayer continued to state the importance of tree hollows in which Leadbeater's Possum spend 75% of their time. His cross examination finished with confirmation that in assessing the Toolangi coupes considerations had been based on hollow bearing trees, occurence of Leadbeater's Possum, added risk of extinction if the coupes were logged, the presence of "Zone 1A" habitat and the impacts of coupe edge effects on the persistence of animals.

VicForests did not make any challenge to the veracity of the underlying data contained in Prof Lindenmayer's report. This week in court it's expected that arguments about the economic impact of logging will be explored.

If you'd like to read more about the case, transcripts are available on the MyEnvironment website, here.

Late last year FSC certification was removed from products coming from these forests because VicForests failed to demonstrate compliance with the principles of biodiversity management.

The primary recipient of wood from the Central Highlands is Nippon Paper Ltd. According to the 2010 URS Treasury Report, Nippon does not pay full costs of production so tax payers are subsidising the wood stream.

Victoria has legislated to guarantee wood to Nippon so the State Government, in a bid to access new resources, are now planning to log parks, water catchments and special protection zones to fulfill the contract.

VicForests argue that they should be allowed to log habitat to keep the industry alive. Whilst resource mapping shows that little forest is left outside special protection zones and buffer strips containing endangered species. The current State Government is proposing 20 year contracts to guarantee industry stability.

I've been in these forests many times, they are magnificent, teeming with life, the most biodiverse of any forest in the country. Far too precious to lose to woodchips for paper production.

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