December 22nd, 2023Win for conservation in the Wombat Forest
Late last month the Victorian Supreme Court granted an injunction to stop VicForests timber harvesting operations in a coupe known as ‘Silver Queen’ in the Wombat State Forest. This replaces the interim injunction that has been in place since September.
In September, Wombat Forestcare, an environment group based in the Wombat Forest sought an interim injunction to stop salvage harvesting in a coupe where they alleged that VicForests had not carried out adequate surveys for a range of threatened species.
Surveys by VicForests’ contractors found nine endangered mountain skinks in and around the salvage harvesting coupe, and VicForests have applied to the Department of the Environment regarding whether special protections will be required.
During a previous hearing VicForests had said that they had not surveyed for mountain skinks as there was no evidence that they could be found on the coupe.
Wombat Forestcare convenor Gayle Osborne said this showed how important it was to survey rigorously for all species.
“There has already been some salvage work on the coupe, and we do not know if some populations of the endangered skink have been destroyed by heavy machinery.”
Wombat Forestcare expanded its case to allege breaches of species survey requirements in other western forests, including the Mount Cole, Pyrenees, Cobaw and Enfield forests.
“The Victorian Government has committed to creating three new national parks: the Wombat Lerderderg, Mount Buangor (Mt Cole area) and Pyrenees National Parks.
“These forests have conservation values making them worthy of national park status, and contain many threatened species, some of which are critically endangered.
VicForests should not be allowed to carry out timber harvesting operations without establishing whether threatened species are present.”
VicForests’ barrister argued that the salvage operation was not timber harvesting as defined in the code of practice for timber harvesting, however Justice Richards said that it was premature to argue that point.
The case will return to court for a directions hearing in February and is expected to go to trial next year.