Newly appointed federal environment minister Tanya Plibersek must act to protect forests and wildlife, before it’s too late
The Victorian Forest Alliance welcomes the recent appointment of Minister Plibersek as the federal minister for the Environment and Water. The portfolio comes with incredible responsibility, and opportunity, to address the long and ongoing crisis faced by Australia’s threatened plant and animal communities, which urgently require strong leadership and action to reverse the terrible threats of climate change, bushfires, and native forest logging across the continent. The State of Environment report paints a bleak picture; Australia has lost more mammal species than any other continent, and has one of the highest rates of species decline in the developed world.
The next 12 months will be critical, particularly for species like the Greater Glider which was recently listed as endangered under federal law. Minister Plibersek and the newly elected Albanese government must act now to urgently protect forests and wildlife from logging.
We've put together an urgent ‘to-do list’ for Minister Plibersek, to tackle the precarious future faced by so many threatened wildlife and ecosystems - and communities from increased risk of bushfires from logging close to regional towns.
You can take action by calling on Minister Plibersek to protect climate, forests and wildlife by getting rid of the dodgy exemptions of logging from national environment laws
1. Abolish the ‘Regional Forest Agreements’ (RFAs) which give native forest logging a special exemption from federal environment laws, as recommended in Graeme Samuels independent review of the EPBC Act
In October 2020 Graeme Samuel completed the 20-year review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. His report was damning, particularly about the RFAs.
No other extractive industry gets the special treatment logging is afforded through this dodgy exemption to national environment laws. These state and federal government agreements have accelerated species extinction and ecosystem collapse through destruction of forests over the last four decades.
Minister Plibersek and the Albanese government must act now to abolish the agreements.
2. Prioritise updating outdated recovery plans, and urgently put in place new recovery plans for species listed under the EPBC Act which strengthen protections for wildlife and habitat
Recovery Plans are critical to protecting listed species, yet so many species at risk of extinction still have no Recovery Plans. The work to finalise these Plans is now even more urgent. Some listed species never had Plans prepared at all - others were written in the 1990s and have not been substantively updated or strengthened since then, despite ongoing species declines and obviously weak, vague and inadequate protections.
The Leadbeater’s Possum was listed as critically endangered in 2015. Nearly 7 years later and there is still no recovery plan for the species. When the Greater Glider was listed as vulnerable 6 years ago, it never received a recovery plan.
Now the species has been listed as endangered. Recovery Plans that contain clear and specific on-ground protection for species and their habitat to ensure our wildlife thrives are desperately needed for species both impacted by the recent 2019/2020 fires and threatened by ongoing logging.
3. Take urgent action to support an end to native forest logging across Australia as part of the federal government’s plans to tackle climate change, and for the safety of regional communities against bushfires
The links between climate change, logging, and bushfires are well known and understood. The public has overwhelmingly voted for strong action on climate change at the recent federal election.
Strong action on climate change must centre forest protection. Native forests not only store decades worth of safe carbon, but logging itself is a big emitter of carbon pollution. Protecting native forests is the key to a safe climate future, and safeguarding communities from future bushfire risk.
4. Establish an independent, national Environment Protection Authority with strong powers to ensure proper compliance with environmental laws
In Victoria, illegal logging and non-compliance with state environment laws is crippling forests and wildlife. There have been more than a dozen legal cases against state-owned VicForests, and despite hundreds of breaches to environment laws, the state government has never stepped in and charged VicForests for failing to comply with the law.
A national, independent compliance authority with teeth is desperately needed to ensure the states are complying with state and federal environment laws. State-owned logging companies must be held accountable to the law.
Take action by calling on Minister Plibersek to protect climate, forests and wildlife by getting rid of the dodgy exemptions of logging from national environment laws