Monday, May 20, 2013

world expert on leadbeaters to brief yarra ranges councillors

I was delighted that my councillor colleagues agreed to an invitation by Professor David Lindenmayer to brief us. Prof Lindenmayer is world expert on Victoria's State Faunal Emblem, the Leadbeater's Possum, having studied them for over 30 years.
Most recently Prof Lindenmayer wrote to the Prime Minister highlighting his concerns around the management of the forests that are home to Leadbeater's Possum.

Prof Lindenmayer reports to the PM that he has seen "increasingly poorly informed management of these forests that is akin to some of the worst I have seen anywhere in the world during his  32+ year research career. 

The Victorian Government is now well aware that 43% of the habitat of Leadbeater’s Possum was burned in the 2009 fires and our long-term research clearly shows that animals do not occur in burned forest (irrespective of fire severity)."

Adding to this is the large old tree crisis in these forests – a problem on which Prof Lindenmayer with the Fenner School of Environment and Society - the Australian National University have published widely with major papers in the world’s leading journal Science in 2012 as well as detailed peer-reviewed scientific articles in PLOS One (in 2012) and Conservation Letters (in 2013).

Yarra Ranges Councillors were briefed on the large old tree crisis by Prof Lindenmayer's research assistants earlier this year.

Prof Lindenmayer also reports that "in Victoria, less than 1.15% of the Mountain Ash forest is now old growth – a situation far worse than in Tasmania." He goes on to say, "Yet, extraordinarily, in the past few months, the Victorian Government has taken deliberate and calculated retrograde steps to water down the protection of Leadbeater’s Possum (see Department of Sustainability and Environment 2013).

There is no other way to interpret these recent actions than a deliberate attempt to drive an endangered species to extinction. Indeed, this would be the first time a government in a first-world (developed) nation has taken deliberate steps to drive a species to extinction. This is an issue about which we have widely researched and will soon publish a peer-reviewed scientific article."

"Given the parlous state of Leadbeater’s Possum, the tragically limited size of the old growth estate in Mountain Ash forests, and the current unwillingness of the Victorian Government to take appropriate measures to address these problems, my research team and I have taken the extraordinary step of publishing a new set of management prescriptions. These are specifically designed to minimize the risk of extinction of Leadbeater’s Possum. Unlike recent documents produced by the Victorian Government (e.g. the Survey Standards for Leadbeater’s Possum, approved in January 2013 – see Department of Sustainability and Environment 2013), the set of new prescriptions we have produced is based on the best and most up-to date peer-reviewed science. This is because my research team and I recognise the need for evidence-based management and evidence-based policy."

"It is critical that the new prescriptions are adopted as soon as possible. Indeed, the persistence of Leadbeater’s Possum has long been regarded as a true test case of ecologically sustainable forest management (dating back to the early 1990s; see Lindenmayer et al. 1990; Lindenmayer 1996). If the species continues to decline and goes extinct then there is no way that forestry operations in Victorian ash forests could be construed as being ecologically sustainable (read more at the Conversation here). This would, in turn, have massive negative implications for the certification of the native forest industry in Victoria – thereby locking in low prices for paper and timber products from publically-owned forests. I suggest it is time for significant reform of the Victorian forest industry..."

I thank Professor Lindenmayer for his ongoing efforts to save the Leadbeater's Possum, the development of "New Restoration Forest Management Prescriptions to Conserve Leadbeater’s Possum and Rebuild the Cover of Ecologically Mature Forest in the Central Highlands of Victoria" highlights that the available scientific information clearly indicates that new strategies based on the best available and most up-to-date science are urgently required. This prescription provides guidelines for a new approach to restoration forest management to better conserve Leadbeater’s Possum and rebuild the (ecologically) mature forest estate in the Central Highlands of Victoria.  

I look forward to Prof Lindenmayer's briefing, we are very privileged in Yarra Ranges to be home to the endangered Leadbeater's Possum, I'd like to think we'd do all we can to fight their extinction. 

Quotes reproduced with the permission of Prof David Lindenmayer.
Organisations fighting to protect Leadbeaters Possum
Please support the court case to save the home of the Leadbeater's Possum, donate what you can to My Environment.

Friends of Leadbeater's Possum was established in 2004 to give a voice to these elusive forest animals. They hope to be able to help Leadbeater’s survive in the wild by encouraging conservation efforts, research programs and effective conservation strategies and policies.



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At 11:02 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

That is a good step Samantha - however what influence do council have on state government policy? It would be great if Cindy McLeish and other liberal members of government could be present at the presentation too.


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