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Letter 19th December, 2016 - via email - to the Premier of Victoria The Hon Daniel Andrews MP and The Hon Lily D' Ambrosio MP - Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change.
RE: East Gippsland's Regional Forest Agreement and the logging industry exemption from federal environment laws
Dear Premier Andrews,
Since the flawed Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) were signed 20 years ago, fires, climate change and markets have all combined to create a vastly different set e of circumstances, threats and opportunities in Victoria's forests.
Please do not support the regressive move to extend the obsolete RFAs.
The RFAs exempt the logging industry from complying with the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.
The industry is given special treatment by not having to refer planned logging operations for assessment and approval under the EPBC Act.
The exemption from the EPBC Act is based on state logging regulations protecting federally listed threatened species. However, for many Victorian forest-dependant species listed under the EPBC Act, there is very limited or no protections from logging under Victorian law.
The Greater Glider is an iconic Australian animal that has recently been listed as vulnerable to extinction under the EPBC Act. Very limited protections for Greater Gliders in East Gippsland were created over 20 years ago when the species was relatively common. These protections have failed. This is evidenced by a dramatic decline in the last 20 years, mainly due to extensive logging of habitat with very weak state based protections. In other regions in Victoria, the species has no protection from logging whatsoever.
The Greater Glider's decline shows how the RFAs have failed threatened species. Despite the Greater Glider's listing as vulnerable under the EPBC Act, the outdated state based protection in East Gippsland has not been reviewed and strengthened in light of its decline and listing as threatened under federal law.
Other industries need approval from the Commonwealth Environment Minister before taking an action that may significantly impact federally listed threatened species. Native forest logging does not. The result has been catastrophic for Victoria's forest dependant wildlife.
In February 2017 the East Gippsland Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) will expire. We respectfully request that you do not extend the East Gippsland RFA and instead ensure that logging is subject to the same environmental assessment and approval processes as any other industry under the EPBC Act.
Whilst the Victorian Government is examining options for the conservation of Victoria's forests and threatened species through the Forest Industry Taskforce, it would be irresponsible to extend or reinstate the failed and out-dated East Gippsland RFA. An extension would result in prolonging the special treatment the logging industry has exploited for 20 years.
This means more destruction of habitat for federally listed threatened species at a critical time when important steps to conserve native forests and wildlife need to be taken.
Ed Hill - Goongerah Environment Centre - firstname.lastname@example.org
Jill Redwood - Environment East Gippsland - email@example.com
Andrew Lincoln - Fauna and Flora Research Collective - firstname.lastname@example.org
Cam Walker - Friends of the Earth - email@example.com
Lauren Caulfield - Lawyers for Forests - firstname.lastname@example.org
Jenny Weber - Bob Brown Foundation - email@example.com
Matt Ruchel - Victorian National Parks Association - firstname.lastname@example.org
Peg Putt - Markets for Change - email@example.com
Sarah Rees - My Environment - firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Meacher - Friends of Leadbeater's Possum - email@example.com
Tom Crook - East Gippsland Rainforest Conservation Management Network - firstname.lastname@example.org
Oisin Sweeney - National Parks Association of NSW - email@example.com
Frances Pike - Australian Forests and Climate Alliance -firstname.lastname@example.org
John Hermans - Gippsland Environment Group - email@example.com
Martyn Hiley - Friends of Mallacoota - firstname.lastname@example.org
Susie Russell - North Coast Environment Council & North East Forest Alliance - email@example.com
Virginia Young - Australian Rainforest Conservation Society - firstname.lastname@example.org
Karina Doughty - Warburton Environment - email@example.com
Karena Goldfinch - Knitting Nannas of Toolangi - firstname.lastname@example.org
Harriet Swift - South East Regional Conservation Alliance - email@example.com
Frances Pike - Native Rules - firstname.lastname@example.org
Sarah Day - Eco Shout - email@example.com
Bertram Lobert - Strathbogie Sustainable Forest Alliance - firstname.lastname@example.org
Bernard Mace - Save Mount St. Leonard Community Campaign - email@example.com
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First Dog on the Moon has made a great little bumper sticker to help the Swifties along. Order your yours by clicking on the Swifty...
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Options to improve the protection of critically endangered species under national environmental laws.
Report cover: edotasmania. Swift Parrot photo by Dr Eric Woehler, BirdLife Tasmania
This report (commissioned by the Bob Brown Foundation and prepared by EDO Tasmania) examines some of the weaknesses in the current operation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and identifies 5 key areas in which the laws should be strengthened to better protect those species and communities at greatest risk of being lost.
The summary of the recommendations in the report are reproduced here, and the full (PDF) report is linked at the bottom of this page.
Summary of recommendations
Critically endangered species and ecological communities should be afforded strong protection under Australia’s national environmental laws. Currently, inclusion of a threatened species or ecological community in the category representing the highest level of endangerment under federal laws does little to increase the protection provided.
There are 5 key areas in which our national environmental law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, can be strengthened to provide more effective protection to critically endangered species and ecological communities.
The key findings of this report are outlined below:
1. Streamlining assessment decisions
- A species listed on the IUCN Red List in the category of Critically Endangered must be automatically upgraded to that status under the EPBC Act.
- The Minister should have clear emergency listing powers in relation to species and communities considered to be critically endangered.
- The Minister must act on the advice from the Threatened Species Scientific Committee to list a species or community as Critically Endangered.
- Commonwealth, State and Territory threatened species assessment criteria must be synchronised to allow for reciprocal recognition of assessments.
2. Strengthening recovery actions
- Within 6 months of a species or ecological community being listed as critically endangered, a recovery plan must be adopted for the species or community (or revised, if one already exists). Some exceptions may apply where the Threatened Species Scientific Committee advises that a plan is not required.
- Recovery plans for critically endangered species must identify critical habitat for the species. All critical habitat identified in such recovery plans must be entered on the Critical Habitat Register.
- Recovery plans must include clear performance indicators, and the Department of Environment must report against these indicators in its annual report.
- The Commonwealth must be required to “use its best endeavours” to get a State or Territory government to implement recovery plans and threat abatement plans within its territory.
- Commonwealth funding for environmental and scientific research programmes should give priority to proposals that will further the survival of a critically endangered species or ecological community.
3. Avoiding impacts
- The Significant Impact Guidelines should provide that any adverse impact on a critically endangered species or ecological community, including any adverse impact on listed critical habitat, will be “significant”.
- The Minister must seek, and act consistently with, the advice of the Threatened Species Scientific Committee in relation to any proposed actions which may adversely impact on a critically endangered species or ecological community.
- The Minister must be able to vary or revoke an approval where a threatened species or ecological community impacted by the approved activity is ‘uplisted’ to Critically Endangered.
- The obligation to avoid damage to registered critical habitat on Commonwealth land should extend to critical habitat on land owned or managed by a State or Territory government.
4. No delegation of responsibility
- Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) forestry operations should not be excluded from the requirement to obtain approval from the Commonwealth Minister.
- If the RFA exemption is retained, it should not apply to forestry operations in an area of registered Critical Habitat.
- The Minister must not be able to delegate approval powers to a State or Territory government for actions which will have, or are likely to have, a significant impact on a critically endangered species or ecological community. All actions likely to impact on critically endangered species or ecological communities must be assessed by the Commonwealth Minister.
5. Encouraging strong action by State and Territory governments
- The Commonwealth should exercise powers under the current Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement to require the Tasmanian government to implement restrictions on broadscale clearing on private land.
- The Commonwealth should promote the implementation of best practice laws for the protection of threatened species by States and Territories, including through planning and building laws.
- The Commonwealth should consider entering into conservation agreements under the EPBC Act with State and Territory Governments to secure protection for critically endangered species and ecological communities.
The full report may be downloaded as a PDF here.
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Environmentalist and former Greens leader Bob Brown will not face prosecution over his arrest at an anti-logging protest in Tasmania's north-west.
Tasmania Police commissioner Darren Hine issued a statement saying the charges had been dropped.
"The decision not to proceed was made by Tasmania Police after receiving legal advice from the DPP," he said.
"In this case the DPP observed that it was difficult for police officers to determine whether a person was in a business access area or on business premises."
Read the full story on the ABC website.
Also see similar articles at:
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Regional Forest Agreements should end when they expire if not before
Swift Parrot. Photo: Henry Cook
For nearly 20 years native forest logging in Victoria, Tasmania, NSW and WA has received special treatment under commonwealth environmental laws. Other industries need approval from the commonwealth Environment Minister before taking an action that may affect threatened species or World Heritage. Native forest logging does not. The result has been catastrophic for wildlife and other forest values.
The environmental exemption for native forest logging is governed by Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs). These 20-year contracts, like the Coalition’s stalled ‘one stop shop’ plan, hand state governments the power to make environmental decisions about native forest logging. Numerous assessments show how comprehensively they have failed.
RFAs start expiring from 3 February 2017 (East Gippsland) followed by Tasmania, other Victorian RFAs, WA and NSW. Special treatment for native forest logging should end. RFAs should be abolished forthwith or at the latest when they expire.
A number of groups (including the Bob Brown Foundation) have endorsed the following RFA statement and will not accept extension, roll-over or renewal of Regional Forest Agreements. Any future proposal to log public native forests should be subject to commonwealth environmental laws in the same way as for all other industries.
Download the full RFA statement (PDF) here.
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abc.net.au - Convenor of Birdlife Tasmania Dr Eric Woehler does not believe the species can be managed without a logging ban on the endangered bird's habitat.
Dr Woehler said a logging moratorium would be a good first step.
"Destroying habitat for swift parrots on an island that doesn't have its predators is just another nail in the coffin."
Read the full article on abc.net.au here.
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The Guardian's "First Dog on the Moon" has honoured the Swift Parrot's plight with a cartoon: "First Dog on the Moon Institute National Scientific Survey of Animals Interesting Enough To Appear In A Cartoon Part 246 The Swift Parrot"
Take a look at the full cartoon on theguardian.com
"FSC accreditation is pretty easy to get you just have to NOT KILL EVERYTHING IN SIGHT!"
Swift Parrot. Photo: Henry Cook
Bob Brown Foundation has urged immediate action by Tasmania’s Premier and Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt to protect Swift Parrot habitat and cease current and proposed logging immediately.
Bob Brown Foundation’s Campaign Manager Jenny Weber has called for immediate action to prevent extinction of a species rapidly losing habitat to ongoing logging. ‘Tasmania’s Premier Hodgman and Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt can avoid ongoing international shame of driving a unique species to extinction and take urgent action to protect the Swift Parrot. It’s time for the politicians to act now and end all logging of the critically endangered species habitat,’ Jenny Weber said.
‘On Bruny Island and in the southern forests of Tasmania, habitat that is critical to the Swift Parrot is being logged. On Bruny Island alone, in the next three years, 500 hectares are scheduled by Forestry Tasmania for logging while the island is one of the last critical refuges for the Swift Parrot,’ Jenny Weber said.
IUCN has announced, worldwide, 40 more bird species are now classified as having a higher risk of extinction in the 2015 Red List, including the Swift Parrot. The Swift Parrot is just one of seven species that have seen their status upgraded to Critically Endangered. The IUCN Red List is the world’s most comprehensive information source on the conservation status of plant and animal species.
‘The logging of Swift Parrot habitat on Bruny Island and in Tasmania’s southern forests are driven by Ta Ann, the largest logging company in Tasmania. One of Sarawak’s worst six logging companies, Ta Ann is still selling this conflict wood to Japan. It is long overdue that Ta Ann’s logging practices in Tasmania need to cease sourcing timber from high conservation value native forests. The home of the Swift Parrot is being lost for this controversial company, Ta Ann and needs to cease,’ Jenny Weber said.
‘The fastest parrot on earth requires the fastest action to protect it from extinction. Action can be taken to remove the greatest threat, stop logging its habitat,’ Jenny Weber said.
0427 366 929
Logging of Swift Parrot habitat on Bruny Island. Photo: Warren Frey
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The Mercury, Sunday September 6 2015, NEWS 17 - article by David Benuik.
"Locals and environmentalists have raised serious concerns about cash-strapped Forestry Tasmania's ability to provide a world-class tourism experience around its reopened Tahune AirWalk.
Government enterprise FT closed down the attraction and its access road for six weeks during winter for maintenance and to log a nearby eucalyptus forest coupe."
See the related posts: "Forestry Tasmania Lockout", "Arve Forest Gallery", and "Arve Forest Logging Aftermath" for further information.
Logged coupe. Photo: Adam Burling. September 2015
As a follow-up to our press release "Forestry Tasmania Lockout" and article "Arve Forest Gallery", here is a photo of the effect of logging near the main tourist route (Arve Road) inland from Geeveston to the Tahune Airwalk and the Hartz Mountains National Park.
Forests intact before logging. Photo: Dan Broun. July 2015
Log truck - with logs from this coupe. Photographed August 2015
Forestry Tasmania is currently about $30 million in debt. The tourist industry seems to be doing quite well. Perhaps this log is more valuable as part of a healthy forest along the road to the popular Tahune Airwalk.