• Lisa Elliott

Environmental Justice Australia

Protecting unburned habitat

Contact Name Brendan Sydes Email brendan.sydes@envirojustice.org.au Address Level 3, 60 Leicester Street Phone Number 0439355747

Charity website www.envirojustice.org.au DGR Registration Link https://abr.business.gov.au/ABN/View?id=74052124375 ACNC Page Link https://www.acnc.gov.au/charity/86ffb6e84065227be07f1c6dc3d467f0

Please provide a brief, two sentence overview of the project that requires funding.

Now is the critical time to protect unburned threatened species habitat slated for logging.We’re seeking support for our Supreme Court case launched in the wake of the catastrophic fires representing community group Wildlife of the Central Highlands to urgently bring a halt to continued logging in critical habitats for fire-affected threatened species.

Overview of Organisation Environmental Justice Australia is a not-for-profit legal practice supporting communities on the ground to stand up for their environment.

We use our technical expertise and understanding of the legal system to protect nature and defend the rights of communities to a healthy environment.We also work to develop and argue for the laws and policies essential for a sustainable future.

Providing legal support to those challenging unsustainable logging of native forests is an important part of our work. We have two lawyers in dedicated forests roles. They work with local communities and the citizen scientists who work on the ground in our public native forests, supporting the continuing scrutiny and challenge of logging that contravenes threatened species protection.

Describe the project that requires funding: Victoria’s forests are at a critical juncture.Recognising that logging in Victoria’s native forests is unsustainable, late last year the Victorian government committed to phase out logging, but not for another 10 years, putting Victoria’s forest dwelling threatened species under enormous pressure.

Then the catastrophic fires had a devastating impact on Victoria’s forests.The fires caused widespread destruction of irreplaceable forest in East Gippsland, and burned huge areas of threatened species habitat, including areas that the Victorian government had committed to protect in some of the last areas of old growth in Victoria.

Preliminary estimates by the Victorian government for threatened species such as the Greater Glider are that 26% and possibly up to 47% of suitable habitat has been lost.

These unprecedented losses make the protection of the remaining unburned habitat in other native forests vitally important.And yet Victoria’s state-owned logging agency – VicForests - intends to continue with their logging plans, unrestrained by government.

We worked with environment groups across the State to rapidly respond to the crisis in our forests with a clear policy platform, media work and direct calls for Government to bring forward the native forest end date and immediately implement the planned transition package in the wake of the fires. But when the chainsaws kept working in native forests throughout January, we then moved to intervene with legal action.Acting for community group Wildlife of the Central Highlands (WOTCH), we launched urgent Supreme Court proceedings in late January this year seeking to halt VicForests from logging important unburned habitat of threatened species such as the Greater Glider, Smokey Mouse and Sooty and Powerful Owls – each of which had been devastated by the fires and is known to be killed or threatened by logging.

We’ve been very successful to date, securing court orders that stopped and continue to prevent VicForests from logging in more than 30 areas home to recorded threatened species until the case concludes.

The case is now listed for trial in October and preparations are underway to ensure we present the strongest possible case. The case argues that logging should not be occurring while Commonwealth and Victorian government assessments of the impact of the fires on threatened species and what response is necessary, are still underway.

The case is a critical test of our environment laws and whether they can operate in the way the community expects to protect identified threatened species which are supposed to be protected under our laws, in the wake of an environmental catastrophe.

EJA’s lawyers are working with a team of three barristers to assemble the evidence and prepare the case.

We’re seeking immediate support for the extensive amount of work required.

Please describe any collaboration you have had with other organisations in relation to this project: Our key collaborator in this case is our client, Wildlife of the Central Highlands (WOTCH).WOTCH is one of a number of voluntary citizen science groups that we work with and support.These groups have developed to play a critical role in undertaking the on ground surveys that have become essential to threatened species protection in Victoria’s forests. They also gather critical evidence video recording the real-time presence of threatened species in areas planned for logging – which has been key to securing Court success in this case to date.

We also work closely with a range of other community organisations and environment groups working on forest protection including Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum, Environment East Gippsland, GECO (Goongerah Environment Centre) and the Victorian National Parks Association and the Wilderness Society.

Funds requested from Pool of Dreams sub-fund: $25,000 - but any contribution would be greatly appreciated.

Other sources of funding This case is one a number of cases and forest protection related in which we are involved.Our support for citizen scientists currently receives some support from the Tucker Foundation, however our work on court cases is mostly supported by donations ranging from generous individual gifts from AEGN members to crowd funding campaigns.

When would this project be expected to start? The case is already well underway, with the next critical phase of preparing for trial, including the important processes of gathering and preparing both lay and expert evidence about the impacts of logging on threatened species, commencing now.

When would you anticipate this project to be completed? As with any legal proceeding, it is not possible to predict an end date with certainty.However, the case has now been listed for trial in early October and we expect the hearing will be completed by November 2020 with a decision later this year or in early 2021.

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