Hello friends and supporters
There’s a sudden rush to gut the minimal environmental laws that we have; by both the conservative state governments as well as the Gillard Government. We know it can be painful to read about these things, but please do, as we will be needing your help. We have a choice - we can stand back, or we can link arms and face them front on. So please read on and stay in touch.
Firstly, in this update we welcome all our extra supporters to this list - who have now boosted our numbers to 834. Many have joined up since the Easter Forest Ecology Camp which was again fantastic and our network of quality planet savers and carers becomes larger.
If you have friends or family who love forests, suggest they also click on our website Potoroo to join up, receive updates and help out when we need it.
In the good news department, My Environment has lodged an appeal against the Supreme Court decision that didn’t quite stop VicForests from destroying the highly endangered Leadbeaters Possum habitat in the Central Highlands. More on that below.
The other good news is that we have some of our legal costs paid after a long drawn out battle. But we’re far from ‘rolling in it’.
Our legal wins and ongoing challenges are certainly keeping the pressure up and costing them a lot of time and money. It’s also forcing the government to contort various plans, regulations and laws to avoid any obligation to do what the law says the government must do.
As we jump from one legal win (Brown Mt) to challenge another blatant infringement (Cobb Hill rainforest and other areas), we’ll need to soon pass the hat around again to help pin them to the wall. And that includes challenging their plans to sidestep their legal obligations. In order to help raise funds, we’ll be starting up a web based ‘shop’ with a variety of eco-friendly goodies to sell. Yes - we know - more consumables, but we’re being very careful to maintain a minimal footprint. We’ll let you know when it’s up and running.
Also - don’t forget you can donate at any time through our new on line (fee-free) donation button, which automatically sends you a tax-deductible receipt. Sadly it means I don’t get to send our donors a big kiss and a thank you, but it allows me/us more time for sharpening the legal bayonet, stockpiling weaponry and keeping the grenades landing in their dug-outs. This isn’t a dramatization - it’s a serious war for the forests and planet we are engaged in - and there’s no Geneva Convention to keep things ‘nice’. So thanks for being there as support crew. When you read the news below, you’ll understand.
- Rare Potoroos - search and destroy
- VicForests pays some of our legal costs
- Supreme Court decision to be appealed
- Gunns jilted
- Aerial baiting plans stopped
NOT SO GOOD NEWS
- Gillard plans to gut Federal Environment laws
- NSW Coalition plans to log National Parks
- Baillieu reviews green laws
- Illegal logging - Australia walks away
- Government Eco-cidal burns continue
- Cow poo is bad for our drinking water
- The global GE gum tree campaign
- The true cost of corporate profit
THINGS YOU CAN DO/HEAR/WATCH/LEARN/HELP WITH
- The Climate Challenge ABC this Thursday 8:30pm
- Legal seminar: Victoria’s flora and fauna - what Guarantee?
- Play Tag in Harvey Norman stores
Rare Potoroos - search and destroy
The discovery by VicForests contracted surveyors of the endangered Long-footed Potoroo only kilometers from its known range is not at all surprising. Bemm River and its ‘epicentre’ Bellbird Creek are very close by.
What is surprising is VicForests’ claim to be looking after these rare animals, after the Minister in charge of logging, Peter Walsh, recently set about changing the laws so that it can continue to clearfell the forest habitat of these animals even where detected.
VicForests was forced to carry out pre-logging wildlife surveys when they lost the 2010 Supreme Court battle that cost them in the order of $2 million to argue against. Up until this time, government approved clearfelling of prime threatened wildlife habitat had gone on relentlessly and in ignorance of what was being destroyed.
Environment East Gippsland has been trying to obtain VicForests survey data under Freedom of Information for almost a year now.
The home range of the LFP is still very small in relation to the range of most of our wildlife. They occupy the same type of rich wet forests that the logging industry has been targeting for over 50 years. That the Potoroo still survives in the small areas that remain unlogged is not astonishing.
The LFP eats exclusively fungi. This is provided by a healthy mature forest with diverse understory and plant/fungi associations. If a Potoroo is found passing through logged regrowth adjoining a mature forest it doesn’t mean they can survive and flourish in thin regrowth after a healthy mature forest is clearfelled.
In the past, where we have found LFPs, VicForests has refused to protect the detection site, but rather maps an area away from where logging is intended - along a nearby gully line for instance.
We will continue to press for the wildlife survey reports that should be made public, and would like to see these latest images verified by an expert. The Long-footed Potoroo and the Long-nosed Potoroo can appear similar. After all, Dr Chela Powell, VicForests’ biologist, did report in an official VicForests document that Phascogales lived in tall wet ash forests! Her PhD was done on beetles in Blue Gum plantations, so we would hope VicForests has had a second opinion on these images.
VicForests pays up
Since September 2010, VicForests have been under an order to pay 90% of our Brown Mt court costs. However, they argued the toss at every turn, claiming our costs claim was excessive, unnecessary and so on. We were forced to engage a costs consultant, and then a court mediator and the last move would have been to have the dispute heard by the court (costly).Right up until one second before the bell, they were refusing to offer us a decent settlement. We were determined to not take less than was reasonable plus the extra cost they put us to. We still didn’t receive what the case cost us in total (or even 90%) but we managed to get around $630,000 from them. But don’t get too excited - there were still outstanding bills to pay plus the new rainforest logging case to cover. But we at least have that hurdle cleared and can now plan to keep the pressure on.
Again - huge thanks to our supporters who helped fund this landmark case through ’09-10.
MyEnvironment appeals Supreme Court decision
MyEnvironment is challenging the Supreme Court's recent decision that VicForests' planned logging in the endangered Leadbeater’s Possum areas in the Central Highlands was legal. It has lodged an appeal in the Victorian Court of Appeal where three Judges will review the decision.
In March, the Supreme Court found against MyEnvironment, saying that VicForests' logging was not illegal, despite the evidence presented. The Court did make note of the crisis facing the Possum, and the urgent need to review the laws intended to protect them. EDO solicitor Nick Croggon wrote more about the case in his blog.
No date has yet been set for the appeal hearing.
This is another small group in need of funds to help with its legal costs. Visit MyEnvironment's website to learn more.
Gunns planned $3 billion Bell Bay pulp mill remains as a pie floating way up in the sky. Singapore-based Richard Chandler Corporation pulled out of a $130 million investment in the company in early March because of the shaky politics of investing in Tassie forest destruction. This means Gunns is having to look for another foolish backer and remains in a trading halt as of this week.
The Examiner Northern Tasmania - 23rd April 2012
Aerial baiting plans stopped
The Bailieu/Ryan Coalition Government promised to allow the dumping of thousands of poison meat baits over public forests in an attempt to satisfy some farmers belief that it would kill off wild dogs. But after several objections were received from various groups and people, the Federal Governmet’s Environment Department stepped in. Under the EPBC Act, where a Federally listed species is being threatened by the action of a state government, they can override the state government’s plans. This is what recently happened, sending the Coalition government and certain farming bodies into apoplexy.
1) The plane drops of poisoned meat would have killed much more than simply wild dogs. Protected wildlife and in particular, the highly endangered Spot-tailed Quoll would have had its numbers knocked out.
2) There’s no evidence that it would have much if any impact on dog numbers.
Some evidence even suggests that the reason dog numbers have increased is due to the explosion of feral deer in the bush. Why have feral deer had a population explosion? Because they are moving around more easily now that DSE has bulldozed ‘feral animal highways’ along every ridge line and spur from Omeo to Melbourne during the ‘03, ‘06 and ‘09 fires (in an attempt to be seen to be doing something.)
It might be more effective and cheaper for the government to assist farmers to use livestock guard animals like Maremmas and alpacas and establish good electric fencing.
NOT SO GOOD NEWS
Gillard plans to gut Federal Environment laws
Little has changed since Howard era
The Commonwealth EPBC Act (Environmental Protection and Biodiversity) was set up during the Howard years. It was fairly weak but did have some useful aspects. It was recently reviewed and some improvements were recommended (while other weak points were left intact). Last year Environment Minister Tony Burke announced that he was not going to accept the recommendations of the review, but instead prepare his own reforms for the EPBC Act. This was seen as a backward move to weaken the Act. The reforms announced by Burke were ‘coincidentally’ close to the suggested reforms put to the government by the Business Council of Australia.
At the recent COAG meeting the Business Council wish-list for more freedom to destroy and develop without boundaries was accepted.
The major asks of the business council included fast tracking of major project approvals, moving approvals back to the states except for World Heritage and national Heritage issues, general agreement to reduce red tape, lower business costs, avoid duplication – all buzzwords for reducing environmental protection.
This is the biggest step backwards in environmental protection and environmental law in over a decade.
Corporations have taken precedence over communities, profit over people, and greed over preserving our life support systems.
The proposed changes to the EPBC Act will be tabled this year, anytime between June and September.
Burke and Gillard need to feel major electoral pain. This plan needs to be made known to all Labor voters. Please pass this news on.
NSW Coalition Government plans to log National Parks
The previous NSW Labor government over-committed log volumes to the logging industry. It was unable to supply the promised mountain of sawlogs and was having to buy out and compensate logging businesses. But now that there’s a spanking new Coalition Government in, it has a clever new solution. They are going to hold an inquiry into past ‘conversion’ of state land into National Parks, with the intention of opening them up to ‘sustainable’ logg'n and shoot'n!
It’s sounding nightmarish isn’t it?!
The inquiry is chaired by the Shooters and Fishers Party and dominated by the Coalition. No guessing what the outcome will be. Let’s hope their brethren south of the border don’t pick up on this idea!
Jill/ Dailan Pugh
Baillieu to downgrade green laws
Which state has lost more native vegetation that any other and is the most ecologically stressed? Victoria. This loss is dramatic and continues.
Planning laws that were introduced to protect native habitat are now being secretly reviewed by the Baillieu government. The Coalition has clearly been asked to get rid of ‘environmental red tape’ to smooth the way for greater clearing of native grasslands, woodlands and forests.
Victoria's 10 year old law was designed to halt decades of clearing and ensure a ''net gain'' in native vegetation. The offset rule is seen as too hard to calculate and many farmers and developers want to get rid of it.
Treasury has even chimed in saying environmental regulations are very costly and might not do any good anyway.
Jill/The Age March 12, 2012
Illegal logging is gutting the globe: why isn’t Australia acting?
Illegal logging of the world’s forests is going on at a rate of 30 football fields a second. It enriches criminal gangs and corporations. People speaking out against it have been gunned down. Its profits and power rivals the illegal drug trade.
Of the 15 top timber-producing nations, two-thirds lose over half of their timber to illegal loggers, with some losing up to 90%.
Most of it ends up in developed countries like Australia (which also takes part in a scaled down version of similar practices itself)
So what are we doing about it? In Australia, the federal government has talked about this for years but last year drafted legislation called the Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill 2011. If properly enforced it could make it more difficult for wood products flooding in from places like Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and China.
But - the Lib-Nat Coalition, that originally supported the bill because it would help Australia’s logging industry sell its wares without cheap imports, is now getting cold feet. Instead of passing it, the Coalition wants another Joint Parliamentary Committee to look at it, even though this exact policy has already been past two Parliamentary Inquiries in the past year. It’s purely a stalling tactic until it can be weakened or done away with.
Besides the Coalition that has a penchant for environmental viciousness, former Australian trade ambassador Alan Oxley has also worked hard against the bill. How so? He’s now a well-paid lobbyist funded by some of the world’s biggest timber and palm oil corporations from in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Say no more. This shows what we would face if Abbott ever gets in - the support of global plundering, bribing and even killing of people in order to keep criminal empires pumped up with illegal money. There’s much more to politics than we can see.
Jill / theconversation.edu.au/illegal-logging-takes-30-football-fields-a-minute-why-isnt-australia-acting
Government Eco-cidal burns continue
The plans for turning Victoria into a well toasted landscape roll on, though the damp weather this Autumn has seen many burns and burn plans end up as fizzers.
One very controversial planned DSE burn was to be in the Erriunundra National Park, inside the Brodribb Wilderness area, where the forest is modeled old growth, mostly wet or damp forest with rainforest stands. A far cry from the menacing dry eucalypt forests that are portrayed as a threat to all humanity. So we asked for a meeting with the fire managers on site – along Postman’s spur, on the western side.
In early April, Tama, Tom, Rena, Gunter and I met with Steve de Voogd (DSE) and Dave Burton (Parks).
Despite there being no credible reason to burn this area, there was no compromising the plan. There were about 20 ridgelines that would be burnt out and ‘trickle down’ into the wet forest. The only consolation we had is that it’s a wet year and if this area must be ticked off, it’s the best year for it. They reckoned they weren’t after a total wipe out, just a 20%-40% burn area would be sufficient.
As it’s classified as Wilderness, no one knew what was in there, rare plants, animals, vegetation classes … but it was defined as an ‘ecological burn’. We asked for detailed reasons that justified the need for helicopter incendiary drops along ridgelines. They could only mention the need for ‘maintaining age classes’. Yes? And what are the current age classes? When was the last lightning strike and where? They had no idea. Well - if this was to mimic nature and establish a diverse lot of ‘age classes’ why not burn the ridges over a period of 20-50 years as lightning might do? Not all in the one go. No answer on that one.
Despite the feel-good term ‘ecological burn’ there’s bugger all ecological knowledge of what’s being burnt. It’s perfect untouched habitat for quolls, potoroos, owls, rare frogs and so on. But there’s no credible data at all on this area. Bugger the precautionary principle. We expressed all the concerns about the futility and pointlessness of the planned burn, especially given the minimal knowledge base they were using. They implied they have no room to move.
If people have similar stories to tell, please let us know. I think this issue is one where we need to unite. The 3 fold increase in burning is purely political and extremely damaging to many ecosystems. There is some need for some burning, but not the level of incineration we are now seeing.
Startling new report - cows pooing in rivers is a health issue
A report released this month by the Department of Health confirms that grazing along the edges of rivers creates significant risks to water quality. The report was ‘quietly placed on the Department of Health’s website last week’ The Age reported.
The Environment Defenders Office and the VNPA made the same point over two years ago in a report on the obligations of water authorities and the government. This latest report to the Department of Health makes a number of recommendations for action to address the risk. Are farmer’s votes more valuable than clean town water we wonder.
The Global GE Gum Tree campaign
For years, the US government, industry, universities and research institutions have colluded to develop GE eucalypt trees specifically designed for bioenergy (growing fast to make wood for ethanol or burning to generate electricity). Alongside this has been a global campaign to stop the release of GE trees which would be a major environmental disaster.
A 2010 lawsuit by environment groups against GE trees had a chilling effect on the industry by scaring off investors.
Government-industry backroom deals are using the crisis of climate change and the need for renewable energy to stack the deck in favor of the mass-release of millions of GE trees. The US government planned changes to their laws to enable corporations to bring their GE products to market in half the time it used to take–down from three years to 13-16 months. One of the GM plants is ArborGen’s GE eucalyptus tree.
GE eucalyptus trees are seen as invasive, explosively flammable and water hungry in other countries. If they reached Australia, their fast growing but weaker genetics would be a disaster for our native forests.
To read more of the report from March 20, go to:
Analysis of the Current State of GE Trees and Advanced Bioenergy
The true cost of corporate profits
A recent report by global accounting giant KPMG shows the true cost of environmental damage. It estimates that the corporate sector as a whole is generating environmental damage worth around 40% of its profits.
One estimate in the report puts the amount of environmental damage caused by the top 3,000 companies at around $2 trillion. This is predicted to soon bite them - and we consumers - on the bum.
In the past this destruction of resources was seen as only damaging a companies’ public image but it is now seen as a serious threat to their future operations as water, fossil fuels and other resources look set to become scarce and expensive.
ABC Radio National PM, March 6, 2012 Listen to the story or read the transcript here
THINGS TO GET INVOLVED WITH/HELP WITH/LEARN ABOUT
The Climate Challenge documentary
Thursday 26 April 8.30pm ABC1
A provocative ABC1 event designed to kick-start a new national conversation about the big issue dividing us.
Separated by a generation, and divided by their beliefs, two passionate, intelligent and successful Australians, former senator Nick Minchin and youth activist Anna Rose, go on a journey of mutual discovery to see if they can change each other’s minds about the most divisive issue in Australia today: climate change.
In a unique interactive experience over 2 hours of riveting viewing, a one-hour documentary is followed by a live studio audience. At home, and on-line, the national audience joins in, leading to a cliffhanger decision.
Will it shift the national mood or change people’s minds?
Followed by a Special Edition of Q&A at 9.35pm
TAKE THE CLIMATE CHALLENGE www.abc.net.au/tv/changeyourmind
The data from this survey will be used to determine Australia's differing attitudes to Climate Change.
Anna is co-founder of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition. With 70,000 members, it has more members than the Liberals and ALP combined. 28, Anna has led AYCC delegations to the UN, Copenhagen and Montreal climate conferences.
Recently retired Senator, Nick Minchin has been the kingmaker of conservative Australian politics for a decade. A senator for 18 years, he spent 11 years in Cabinet. He is a committed climate sceptic.
Legal seminar: Victoria’s flora and fauna – where’s the guarantee?
Carlton, Tuesday 15 May 2012
The Environment Defenders Office (bless ‘em) will release a report in late April on Victoria’s biodiversity laws in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to allow logging in Toolangi and the Victorian Government’s decision to wind back protection for threatened species via the Forestry Code.
Come along and hear the expert panel talk about what these changes mean and what you can do.
See the speaker list and more on the EDO website. www.edovic.org.au
5.45pm for 6pm start. 7.30pm expected finish.
Free entry but bookings essential.
Register now on the EDO website at www.edovic.org.au/seminar-registration.
LET'S PLAY TAG
Here is a handy little DIY campaign against Harvey Norman, who still insists on selling furniture made from clearfelled native forests, old growth and Leadbeaters Possum trees.
As Harvey Norman doesn't want to tell their customers the truth, The Last Stand has decided to help them along with a bit of culture jamming ACTION.
Markets for Change has created a tag to be placed on Harvey Norman's native forest furniture - the catch is, when customers scan the code to find out 'HOW THEY CAN WIN' in the Aussie furniture blitz... well, it takes them to a video that shows footage of real destruction caused by the logging of our native forests - for which furniture is often the excuse.
It is all laid out here, as well as a template for the tags. If you can adopt your local store then great.
Many of you have signed the online petition, participated in the global day of action and contacted Harvey Norman to let them know what you think about the fact that their products are helping drive the destruction of Australian native forests. Can you help? Fun, cheeky and enough of these tags get out there, we can hopefully inform a few customers AND let Harvey Norman know that the public is keeping an eye on them.
It is very easy to download and DIY, or if you want The Last Stand can even post you a few ready made tags - just email them. And also, drop them a line to let them know what store you are covering.
The good folks at Markets for Change are the ones that produced the report that kicked this whole campaign off last year - Check it out if you haven't had a chance.
Jill and the team.
Environment East Gippsland Inc.
FORESTS - our breathing space!
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