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Protecting Victoria’s native forests for a safe climate

Victoria’s native forests are wonderful places with an incredible array of plants, animals and fungi seen nowhere else on earth. These forests are not only important for biodiversity and the wildlife that relies on them, but are vital for water security, carbon storage and are of great cultural significance to First Nations peoples.

Yet many of Victoria’s native forests are under threat from the impacts of industrial logging. Each year, thousands of hectares of native forest are logged by State-owned agency VicForests, with the overwhelming majority woodchipped for cheap paper and cardboard products. VicForests’ last annual report revealed a whopping loss of $54 million. This devastating waste of public funding and destruction of precious ecosystems is not even necessary. We already have enough plantation timber to meet supply demands.

Amid climate change, Victoria’s native forests are worth so much more standing. That’s why forest conservation groups are working together, using a range of strategies, to protect these precious forests. Citizen science and community court cases, often together, have been particularly effective at enforcing environmental laws and protecting wildlife and their habitat.

Harnessing the power of everyday people

Citizen science enables ordinary people to collaborate in scientific research by contributing to the collection of data. Citizen science has long been a critical tool in protecting forests. Community organisations like WOTCH (Wildlife of the Central Highlands) and GECO (Goongerah Environment Centre) have protected thousands of hectares of forest by finding threatened species. The presence of these threatened species can trigger protection under logging regulations and court orders, and build compelling campaigns. Committed and passionate volunteers spend long days and nights searching untracked forests for threatened animals and plants.

In 2022 the Victorian Forest Alliance (VFA) established its citizen science program to support these incredible volunteers through paid employment, recognising the huge sacrifices they make to help care for our forests. This program has also enabled a coordinated, strategic approach to surveying in Victorian native forests scheduled for logging. 

Through the VFA program, more than 110 forest areas scheduled for logging have been surveyed, leading to the protection of around 1600ha of forest to date.

The program has also provided support to communities campaigning to protect their local native forests, including:

  • Save the Little Dargo: Surveyors were hosted at a local family’s homestead, coinciding with events organised by Friends of the Earth. The discovery of numerous endangered plants will protect much of the valley.
  • Save Boola Boola Trees: The program identified that logging was set to begin in Boola Boola State Forest and worked with the local group to campaign for protection of the area, and to survey for rare eucalypts and Greater Gliders.
  • Gippsland Environment Group: Intensive surveying trips in Gippsland forests have identified rare plants, habitat for the threatened Glossy Black Cockatoo and Greater Gliders, triggering protections under logging regulations and court orders.
  • Friends of Mt Stirling: Working with Friends of the Earth, Victorian National Parks Association and Friends of Mt Stirling, the program found Yellow-Bellied Gliders and Hairy Eyebright, a rare plant with just 37 records in the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas.

VFA surveyors also helped uncover that new so-called protection areas for the Greater Glider, announced by the Environment Department, included several large areas that had recently been logged.


A Victorian Forest Alliance surveyor recording a Mountain Leafless Bossiaea in the Little Dargo River Valley, one of many threatened plants found that will protect much of the valley from logging.Native forest protection through court action

In recent years, multiple community groups have launched court cases to prevent the continued destruction of our native forests. These include cases focused on old growth forest, logging’s exemption from national environment laws, VicForests’ response to the Black Summer bushfires, protection of communities from increased fire risk due to logging, and the protection of threatened species.

These legal challenges have been incredibly powerful, despite varying degrees of success.  Some have halted logging in critical areas and provided interim protections for forests and wildlife under imminent threat. Other potential successes have been overturned on appeal or derailed by government changes to logging regulations. However, two big decisions in late 2022 marked a turning point in the protection of wildlife from logging.

A Warburton Environment case established that VicForests was not protecting the endangered Tree Geebung, an understorey tree species endemic to the wet forests of the Central Highlands, that can live for hundreds of years. The court heard that in just a handful of investigated areas, hundreds of Tree Geebungs had either been felled by logging or destroyed in post-logging regeneration burns. Where left standing by logging operations, the species was susceptible to the effects of exposure and windthrow. The court ordered that VicForests undertake better surveying for the Tree Geebung and that identified mature trees are to be protected by a 50m-radius exclusion area.

Environment East Gippsland, Gippsland Environment Group and Kinglake Friends of the Forest ran cases on the protection of the Greater Glider and Yellow-bellied Glider. Both species depend on mature forest and hollow-bearing trees for their survival and both species are particularly sensitive to the effects of intensive logging. The court found that neither species was being appropriately protected and has ordered VicForests undertake surveys likely to find the species and adopt less intensive logging where they are found. The cases have also resulted in a reduction in logging while VicForests develops a new survey standard that complies with the orders.    

The protections now in place, due to successful court cases, mean that citizen science is more important than ever. But it shouldn’t be left to everyday citizens and community groups to protect threatened species and hold VicForests to account.

The recent Sixth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change lists halting deforestation and restoring land as a key solution to mitigate climate change. Protection and restoration of forests is also highlighted as a part of the ecosystem-based adaptation solutions needed to protect lives and livelihoods. The window to act is rapidly closing, but there is still time and hope, and the report affirms that if we act accordingly, ‘we can still secure a safe, liveable future’. We need strong and proactive environmental leadership that prioritises the rapid protection of Victoria’s native forests, because our survival is now inextricably linked to theirs.

About the Victorian Forest Alliance

The VFA brings together more than 30 existing and well-established grassroots forest groups actively protecting native forests across Victoria. Collectively, we have decades of experience working with our local communities. You can learn more about our citizen science programs at and follow us on social media:
Twitter @alliance_forest

Instagram @victorianforestalliance

Facebook @VictorianForestAlliance

Laws regulating logging in Victoria are complicated, so Lawyers for Forests and the VFA have published a guide for community groups wanting to take legal action to protect the environment. Go to for more information.


Phil is the Citizen Science Coordinator at the Victorian Forest Alliance. The VFA is proud to support citizen science groups - including Wildlife of the Central Highlands, Gippsland Environment Group, and Goongerah Environment Centre. The program supports existing citizen science groups with paid surveying work including; surveying for critically endangered Leadbeater's Possum, threatened Greater Gliders, and more.

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