Vital habitat exploited after the Vic bushfires | the lawyer


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Victoria’s logging agency has been blamed for destroying crucial unburned habitat for endangered species that have been impacted by the Black Summer bushfires. A community group is suing VicForests in the Supreme Court, alleging the state-owned logger evaded its mandatory responsibilities to protect habitat that did not burn in 2019/20. The result deprived four endangered species – the great glider, the mighty owl, the sooty owl and the smoker mouse – of a healthy habitat in which to take refuge after the disaster, the highlands wildlife lawyers told the court. center. Richard Knowles QC said around a billion animals perished in the horrific summer fires and the scale of habitat loss meant it was crucial to protect and properly manage what was left. He said the Victorian and Federal governments have responded by developing emergency responses to minimize risk to endangered species affected by the fires. Yet VicForests continued “without sufficient consideration of these responses” to harvest logging areas known or likely to contain endangered species or their habitat. Mr Knowles said the logger has still failed to meet his obligations under the timber production code of practice, including taking a precautionary approach to endangered species. “VicForests has failed to enforce timber harvesting prescriptions that avoid serious or irreversible harm to affected species, and are proportionate to the threat posed,” he said. The court was told that the fires destroyed mature, hollow trees essential for shelter and nesting, and that the loss was compounded by subsequent logging in unburned areas. Mr Knowles said the impact on the larger population of gliders, for example, was not yet fully known, but preliminary estimates provided by the Federal Government indicated a population drop of 22% in the year. following the fires. “Larger populations of gliders surviving in state forests are of increased importance for the conservation of the species, this species being extremely vulnerable and…recognized by state and Commonwealth governments as endangered extinction.” In the case of Australia’s largest owl, the mighty owl, the effects of the bushfires have been threefold: death of individuals, loss of habitat and fewer large gliders, the owl’s main food source. “The health of the mighty owl population is interconnected with that of the greater glider. We say this amplifies the importance of hollow trees for mighty owls. They and their prey depend on this particular habitat.” Monday’s hearing also shed light on how outdated some of the Victorian government’s action statements are for vulnerable species. Mr Knowles said the action statement for the sooty owl was dated, having been prepared in 2013. Even then the species was in the throes of a significant population decline due to forest loss native. “The action statement for the mighty owl was prepared in 1999 and has not been updated since,” he said, noting that an expert had indicated a review of the document was overdue. 17 years old. “Simply put, as with the sooty owl, there is a need to better understand the potential impact of timber harvesting…and to take a precautionary approach in the wake of bushfires.” The hearing, before Judge Andrew Keogh, will resume on Tuesday. Australian Associated Press



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