Forest campaigner Andrew Lincoln and the Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO) have won the 2017 Peter Rawlinson Conservation Award in recognition of their critical work surveying and defending Victorian native forests.

The honour, which celebrates outstanding voluntary contributions to protecting the environment, will be awarded at the Australian Conservation Foundation’s (ACF) annual general meeting in Melbourne on Friday night.

Established in 1992, the Rawlinson Award is given annually in memory of former ACF Councillor Peter Rawlinson – a zoologist, lecturer in biological science and tireless campaigner for our living world.

Mr Lincoln was nominated for the countless volunteer hours he has spent surveying and documenting rare and endangered wildlife in tracts of threatened forests in Victoria’s Central Highlands and East Gippsland that are earmarked for logging.

Mr Lincoln, working unpaid far beyond the hours of nine to five, has also trained citizen science groups, developed logging coupe and threatened species maps for other environment groups, and collaborated on celebrated legal interventions to protect Victorian forests. This work has led to logging being permanently halted in a number of active coupes and temporarily halted in many more. A significant number of areas slated for logging have been protected and many new protected zones, totalling many hectares, have been created on the back of Mr Lincoln’s tireless efforts.

GECO was nominated for the critical citizen science and on-ground surveying work of its volunteers to protect old growth trees and rainforest plants in East Gippsland forests, which provide critical habitat for species like the greater glider, long-footed potoroo, yellow-bellied glider, spiny crayfish and powerful owl.

ACF Chief Executive Officer, Kelly O’Shanassy, paid tribute to the winners saying their work was critical to defending Australia’s prized native forests and arresting its world-worst extinction rates.

“Both Andrew and the volunteers with GECO have shown immense dedication and love for Victoria’s beautiful native forest habitats. These forests are home to some of our most special creatures and serve as lungs for cities like Melbourne,” Ms O’Shanassy said.

“Sadly, Andrew and GECO’s work is necessary because our laws are too weak to properly protect our native forests and iconic wildlife, and our environmental authorities are not properly resourced to enforce what little protections do exist.

“While we celebrate the work of this year’s Rawlinson Award winners, we call on our elected representatives to take their lead and create new national parks and protected areas, and put in place strong laws for nature.”

Forests campaigner with Friends of the Earth, Ed Hill, who works with GECO and was a referee for Mr Lincoln, said the tireless survey work by both was voluntary, exhausting and often thankless.

“But it has directly resulted in the protection of thousands of hectares of Victoria's forests that would have been logged in breach of environmental protections if these surveys had not been done," Mr Hill said.

"East Gippsland's iconic endangered wildlife such as the greater glider, Orbost spiny crayfish and masked owl are all better off because of Andrew and GECO’s work.

“Critical habitat continues to be subject to poorly regulated and environmentally destructive logging practices, but with people like Andrew on the ground, holding the government and their logging agency accountable, many precious areas of forest and the wildlife that calls them home are safe, for now."

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