The catastrophic bushfire emergency of the past six months has fundamentally changed the landscape that supports Australian wildlife. Huge swathes of habitat areas for Australian animals, including many threatened species have been heavily impacted.

The Commonwealth Department of Environment recently released a provisional list of 113 animal species requiring urgent management intervention and mapping that indicates bushfires have affected approximately 54 per cent of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia (NSW, Qld) and 81 per cent of the Greater Blue Mountains Area (NSW).

Our lawyers work with clients across the country.  As an office, we have been inundated with calls from clients concerned about the impact of the bushfires on Australian wildlife, and further threats posed by activities already approved, or currently being assessed for approval, at the State, Territory and Federal levels.

Given the scale of devastation wrought by the bushfire emergency and community concern about the survival of Australian wildlife and their habitat, particularly in areas already earmarked for clearing, the Environmental Defenders Office, with Humane Society International (HSI) is writing to the Commonwealth Environment Minister and State and Territory Premiers and Ministers outlining existing powers available to them to urgently protect threatened species and ecological communities affected by the fires from further harm, as the assessment of impacts continues.

Post-fires logging in NSW – a decision that flies in the face of scientific evidence

EDO has deep concerns over the NSW Government decision to permit selective logging in areas that were subject to this season’s unprecedented bushfires – known as post-fire logging or salvage logging.

This decision flies in the face of substantial evidence warning against post-fire logging. Detailed studies by the ANU, including those done after Victoria’s devastating Black Saturday fires, showed that post-fire logging did widespread damage to forest recovery. It hampers species recovery, destroying important areas for refuge, and has negative effects on water, increasing sedimentation and catalysing erosion. Perhaps counter-intuitively, the research also showed that post-fire logging increases future fire risk.

The justification for this decision is stated as to “help to maintain local jobs and meet critical timber supply” and the legal mechanism used to do this is to make additional site-specific conditions under the Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval. As experts, EDO lawyers are examining this closely and, for example, looking at whether the government can lawfully circumvent biodiversity protections and public consultation requirements. EDO has already been contacted by a number of concerned groups and we will be ensuring that legal resources are available to scrutinise the legal validity of the Government’s actions at this critical time.

With the bushfires having killed an estimated 1 billion animals and as the impacts of the climate crisis take hold, now is the moment to listen to the science and use our legal protections to aid in the recovery of species and reduce risks of future fires. This decision appears designed to do exactly the opposite.