Thursday, July 31, 2014

leadbeaters possum still threatened

Despite much focus on Victoria’s state faunal emblem, the Leadbeater’s Possum, it’s still under threat, listed as endangered and nominated for consideration as critically endangered.

The two key threats to its ongoing existence are logging and fire. Sadly it’s habitat continues to be logged in Victoria. Most recently a coupe (Rusty in Toolangi) containing 101 hollow bearing trees, habitat critical for the ongoing survival of Leadbeater’s Possum, is being logged to supply woodchip (80%), pallet wood (17%) and a tiny 3% highgrade timber.

There’s been a long history of efforts to protect this species. In 2012, the much respected Professor David Lindenmayer, Australia’s foremost expert on the Leadbeater’s Possum (LBP) and their habitat with 30 years’ experience and research, quit the LBP Recovery Team stating that the Victorian government was “managing the Leadbeater’s Possum into extinction.”
Toolangi locals and those concerned further afield
are campaigning to highlight logging and its
contribution to extinction, this banner will be
adjusted every week to reflect how many people
have been following the issue online, last Sunday
the number of people exceeded 1.1million.
Prof David Lindenmayer remains one of the critical voices in the fight for the Leadbeater’s Possum and the Central Highlands of Victoria. Despite the ongoing work and focus of many the Leadbeater’s Possum remains under threat.

In the lead up to the Victorian State Election there has been an enormous advocacy campaign to see the creation of a Great Forest National Park, Prof David Lindenmayer said of the park “The Great Forests National Park is an investment for the long-term because it will secure Melbourne's domestic water supply catchments, a suite of new economic opportunities for the region will roll-out, and the state's faunal emblem, the Leadbeater's Possum, among others, will be brought back from the brink of extinction.”
Greens Senator Janet rice visited Toolangi late last year.

In September, 2013, The Greens announced their support for the Great Forest National Park and called on broader support for the creation of the park. They said “The Victorian state government is logging some of the Leadbeater's Possum's last remaining habitat, in Victoria's Central Highlands. This logging is driving this endangered animal to extinction. With fewer than 1000 remaining, we need a National Park to ensure they are protected.

In the recent submissions, as part of the Leadbeater’s Possum Advisory Group (LPAG) consultations, 70% of submissions recommended the creation of a Great Forest National Park as a course of action. Other issues raised as part of the LPAG submissions included:
· The need to secure habitat for Leadbeater’s Possum now and into the future, and to ensure this habitat has connectivity and a distribution of age classes.
· A call for the end of clearfall timber harvesting. There is an opinion that timber harvesting should be migrated to plantations.
· Protection of Leadbeater’s Possum colonies was a strong theme throughout the submissions. In line with the position adopted by the leading scientist on the species,
Professor David Lindenmayer, many submissions adopted either all his recommendations or variations on those recommendations.
· Address forestry prescriptions to secure environmental benefits – particularly the protection of old growth forest and the need to ensure the recruitment of the next generation of old growth.
· Lack of information and transparency – a call for an end to the (perceived) subsidisation of VicForests, clarity on the sustainability of native timber harvest and the economic impacts/benefits of native timber harvest.

The recommendations from the LPAG are disappointing, but given the terms of reference were framed 'supporting the recovery of the Leadbeater's Possum while maintaining a sustainable timber industry', it’s not surprising.
Recommendations contained will still impact on the long term survival of the species, with Prof Lindenmayer statingI think it’ll buy the Leadbeater’s Possum maybe five, at most ten years. The possum might survive 25, 30 years from now, instead of 15 to 20 years, (but) this is about 10 per cent of what is needed.” Prof Lindenmayer said the report had ignored the 31 years of science he had contributed on the possum and the ecology of the Central Highlands forests.

The Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum labelled the LPAG recommendations as mediocre and have detailed their response to the 13 LPAG recommendations here.
 I’ve got a long history of the issues around logging and leadbeater’s on my blog, click here if you’d like to read some past stories.

Meanwhile the community continues to protest the logging in Toolangi and #saverusty is getting a lot of exposure on social media platforms as a way to highlight the plight of our forests and the wildlife that lives in them.  You can find out more about that campaign by searching #saverusty and don’t forget to sign up to support the GreatForest National Park too.

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