The federal and Victorian governments announced on March 27 a two-year extension of the controversial Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) for East Gippsland, the North East and the Central Highlands. They will be reassessed at the end of the two-year period.
Scientists and conservationists have called on the federal government to strengthen Australia’s national environment laws, chiefly the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBCA).
Environmentalists are outraged that Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has called for a review of the protection status of Victoria’s faunal emblem, the critically endangered Leadbeater’s possum, so new logging zones in Victoria’s central highlands can be opened.
Joyce wrote to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on March 26, criticising the decision to reduce the logging quota offered to Gippsland’s Heyfield mill operators Australian Sustainable Hardwood (ASH) from 155,000 cubic metres a year to 80,000 cubic metres in 2017–18 and 60,000 cubic metres in the next two years.
Volunteer conservationists forced a last minute stay of execution for a section of forest near Toolangi that they had shown was home to the critically endangered Leadbeater's possum, which VicForests contractors were due to clearfell within days.
Despite finding evidence of the possum in mid-April, posted as a video on facebook, “citizen scientists” monitoring logging operations were alarmed on May 4 to find the Imperium logging coupe where the possum was found was due to commence logging any day.
A plan for a new national park to protect the endangered Leadbeater's possum has been dealt a blow with revelations VicForests has locked in millions of dollars of new logging contracts.
State Labor ducked a promise to create a Great Forest national park in the recent state election following pressure from the CFMEU, which had threatened to campaign against Labor on the basis that ending logging in the area would threaten jobs.
Thirty environmental, scientific and recreation groups have called on the new Victorian government to create the Great Forest National Park.
The proposed park would add 355,000 hectares of protected forests to the existing 170,000 hectares of parks and protected areas in the Central Highlands of Victoria by amalgamating a group of smaller parks. The park would stretch from Healesville to Kinglake in the west, through to Baw-Baw plateau in the east and north to Eildon.