Today, community group Save Our Strathbogie Forest has launched a legal challenge against the State of Victoria to halt several planned burns in the Strathbogie Forest, pending a review of these burns under Australian Government law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. There is a considerable and growing body of evidence that shows the serious and negative impact planned burning (aka fuel reduction burning) can have on forest ecosystems.
One of the more immediate and consequential impacts of planned burning is the loss of hollow-bearing trees (and their hollows) for those fauna species that rely on hollows either seasonally, for breeding, or daily, for shelter. Australia has amongst the largest number of hollow-dependent fauna, over 300 species, of any country. The Strathbogie Forest is a recognized stronghold for the Southern Greater Glider (Petauroides volans), a species that relies on hollows in large, old trees and is protected under state and national environment laws.
Between 2016 and 2019, citizen science surveys and government research detected high densities of the Southern Greater Glider across large parts of this 24,000 ha forest, among the highest densities recorded for this species anywhere in southern Australia. In the 2023-24 fire season, the Victorian government has plans to burn several thousand hectares of forest habitat as part of their annual planned burning program. Much of the forest slated for burning is known to support populations of the Southern Greater Glider. The Save Our Strathbogie Forest community group believes these burns will 1) significantly degrade Southern Greater Glider habitat by killing and burning many of the hollow-bearing trees the species needs to survive and 2) directly kill many hundreds of the gliders.
Planned burns in the Strathbogie Forest often kill and destroy old-growth eucalypts, which are critical habitat for the Southern Greater Glider. Though we have made every effort to voice our concerns in the strongest possible way to the relevant government agencies and to government itself, our concerns and requests have been completely and repeatedly rebutted. We have enlisted the assistance of Bleyer Lawyers to challenge the legitimacy of these burns in the
The Victorian government maintains its planned burning practices in the Strathbogie Forest are exempt from the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999), which we believe is based on two exemptions it has received. The first of these was in 2009 and the second in 2020 (links below). These exemptions relate to activities in the wake of the Black Saturday and Black Summer fires.
Our arguments are that these exemptions are not general exemptions for planned burning. Should our legal challenge be successful, the Victorian Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action should be required to refer future planned burns in the Strathbogie Forest to the Federal Environment Department. That Federal Department should then decide how or if planned burns should proceed given the significant impact of them on the Southern Greater Glider habitat in the Strathbogie Forest. A positive outcome for the Strathbogie Forest is likely to have broader application, for example to other EPBC listed species and habitats in other parts of Australia.
President, Save Our Strathbogie Forest
M. 0409433276, Ph. 03 5790 8606
EPBC Act exemptions referred to above
11 Feb 2009 Exemption & Statement of reasons
14 Jan 2020 Exemption decision & Exemption statement of reasons