Bushfires – ecological catastrophe

Gospers Mt, @nampix

The bushfire crisis has burnt 8.4 million hectares – so far. The cost in lives lost, homes and livelihoods destroyed is immense. It is equally an ecological catastrophe. The number of individual birds, mammals and reptiles affected is in the millions; the number of flora and fauna species pushed closer to extinction, if not over the edge, can’t even be counted until the fires stop.

These bushfires change everything. They underline the imperative to get out of fossil fuels within the decade. They expose the fundamental weakness of the EPBC Act which has no provision to respond to ecological crises. They require radical change to the scope and approach of the EPBC review to meet the new circumstances as far as is possible. They require native forest logging under already-failed RFAs to end.

EPBC Act Review

Giant Freshwater Crayfish, Todd Walsh

Environment Minister Sussan Ley announced the legislatively required 10-year review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act on 29 October 2019.  The reviewer is businessman Graeme Samuel supported by a four-person panel, none of whom is an ecologist or conservation scientist.

Government and industry are looking to the review to get rid of ‘green tape’. Scientists and environmentalists are fighting for stronger national laws to tackle the extinction crisis. The RFA debacle is a pertinent and cautionary model for what to expect when the Commonwealth surrenders its responsibility for the environment.

EPBC review website.  Submissions due Friday 14 February 2020

Victorian RFAs expire 31 March

Bendoc Road East Gippsland, Judith Deland

On 7 November 2019 Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced that native forest logging in Victoria would end by 2030. As details have emerged in the following weeks the commitment looks increasingly problematic: logging will continue at current rates until 2024 after the next Victorian and federal elections; protection for old growth forests is in the hands of VicForests; protection for Greater Gliders is weakened in East Gippsland; logging is taking place outside legally permitted boundaries.

Victoria’s five Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) expire on 31 March 2020. They may be extended at any time once the Victorian Premier and the Prime Minister reach agreement. If the Victorian RFAs are not extended, native forest logging would no longer be exempt from the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.


Possums case – trial starts 3 June


It’s on! Come to the Federal Court in Melbourne and show your support for this landmark legal action. It’s Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum against VicForests and the RFA exemption for native forest logging.

When: Any day from 3 June, for three weeks, 10am–4pm
Where: Court 8B, Federal Court, 305 William St, Melbourne

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Signing up for extinction

Last November, Prime Minister Morrison signed up for extinction. He put his name to the Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) through which the Commonwealth devolves environmental responsibility to the states and washes its hands of the outcome. Unless overturned by a court or a future government, native forest logging in NSW will remain exempt from Commonwealth environmental laws until at least 2039, even as species like the Swift Parrot, Greater Glider and Koala are pushed to the brink.

More on the RFA debacle: https://greenagenda.org.au/2019/03/signing-up-for-extinction/

Repeal Victoria’s Wood Pulp Agreement Act

Australian Paper (Nippon) Maryvale pulpmill

A bill to repeal Victoria's Forests (Wood Pulp Agreement) Act 1996 and end the legal requirement to log the Mountain Ash Forests is being debated this week in the Victorian parliament.  For over 80 years the Maryvale mills, currently owned by Australian Paper (Nippon), have had their native forest wood supply guaranteed by legislation.  At the same time parent company Nippon Paper Group is importing plantation woodchips from Victoria to feed its mills in Japan. The ash forests and their wildlife are on the brink of collapse; it's time to stop.

More about Sam Dunn's bill: https://protectourforests.org.au/woodpulp-agreement-act/

More about the Maryvale mills and the legislated wood supply agreement: http://woodpulpagreement.org/

Extinction crisis – Senate inquiry submissions due 10 September

Swift Parrot, Judith Deland

How can it be that, in one of the richest countries in the world, 500 fauna species found nowhere else on Earth are threatened with extinction? That's the question before the Senate Environment Committee which is inquiring into all aspects of Australia's faunal extinction crisis -- what's happening, what are its wider ecological impacts, who is responsible, what's failing and why.  Get involved -- make a submission before 10 September 2018. 

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RFA revelations divide parties

Federal and state governments have legal and political concerns about extending Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) based on badly outdated science, now over 20 years old, according to reports in the Guardian’s excellent series on neglected environmental issues: ‘Our Wide Brown Land’.

The Guardian’s reports have exposed divisions between Labor and the Coalition with Labor’s Tony Burke and Joel Fitzgibbon committing to ‘proper, independent and full scientific assessments’ of RFA outcomes while Assistant Minister for Agriculture, Senator Anne Ruston is refusing to undertake or fund new assessments, claiming that existing information is more than adequate.

Our Wide Brown Land – links to individual logging reports or to the Guardian’s whole series.

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