Media Releases - 18 July 2017

Leadbeater’s Possum Not Out Of The Woods

  • Uncertainty continues for Leadbeater’s Possum 
  • Great Forest National Park would deliver security for wildlife 
  • Plantations the future for logging industry

Late yesterday, the Victorian Government environment department (DELWP) released its review* into the effectiveness of 200 metre logging exclusion zones around identified sites of the critically endangered Leadbeater’s Possum. The review recommends that the logging exclusion zones remain in place, and that they continue to be implemented where Leadbeater’s Possum colonies are detected—including in Mountain Ash forests.

“This review shows that, if these logging exclusion zones were discontinued, Victoria’s animal emblem, the Leadbeater’s Possum, would be destroyed by the state government logging for wood to supply their Heyfield sawmill. Heyfield mills Mountain Ash wood, and for pulp to supply Australian Paper—manufacturers of Reflex office products,” said Amelia Young, Campaigns Manager with The Wilderness Society.

“What the Leadbeater’s Possum—and other threatened native wildlife—need is certainty, which would be delivered through the Great Forest National Park, and would protect current and future forest habitat for the species.”

Independent reviewer of the DELWP review, Prof. John Woinarski, found that the logging exclusion zone (or buffer) process is a limited and short-term approach, that has entrenched a fragmented reserve system.1

Amelia Young said: “The buffers have been a helpful, short-term measure. What’s needed now is a comprehensive protected area that is consistent with previous scientific findings; these show that for the Leadbeater’s Possum to escape extinction, forests in Victoria’s Central Highlands must be protected from logging.

“The best outcome to assist this species’ recovery, and to reduce uncertainty for the species, is to protect all current and future habitat—especially the forest that will form hollows for the Leadbeater’s Possum to raise its young in, into the future.”

The area of Leadbeater’s Possum forest habitat in logging exclusion zones is only 2-4% of the Possum’s potential habitat—all of which needs protecting if the species is to avoid extinction, as consistently found by studies undertaken by specialists at universities, and at the state governments' Arthur Rylah Institute.

“Only a small proportion of the area expected to contain Leadbeater’s Possum colonies has been surveyed through the recent survey effort arising from the previous Coalition Government’s Leadbeater's Possum Advisory Group (LPAG) process.

“Logging destroys Leadbeater’s Possum habitat and, in all likelihood, kills possums—either through being crushed during the logging, starved or predated in the clearfells, or burnt in the post-logging coupe burns.

“Due to the scope of the survey effort thus far, there are undoubtedly still Leadbeater’s Possum colonies still undiscovered, and therefore unprotected, and thus vulnerable to the impacts of logging.

“The Leadbeater’s Possum is not out of the woods. This review shows that logging industry and National Party calls for the animal to be removed from the endangered species list are reckless at worst, and misinformed and premature at best, with the review finding that Leadbeater’s Possum is at risk of extinction until at least 2050-2070.”

Recommendation 2 of the DELWP review suggests that application of the logging exclusion zones ought to be reviewed, including updating processes for constructing roads through forest set aside for threatened and endangered plants and animals.

“Building roads through logging exclusion zones set aside for the possum will degrade the conservation benefit provided by these buffers. It would be highly inconsistent for the environment department to set aside a 200m buffer of forest for the species, then have the environment minister allow VicForests to smash a logging road through it.”

Recommendation 5 of the DELWP review suggests that the Central Highlands forest zoning scheme be reviewed, including to ‘optimise timber availability’.

“The best way to ‘optimise timber availability’ is to reform the industry and complete its transition out of native forests and threatened species habitat, and into plantations—which are a crop planted for the purpose of harvesting for wood and fibre.

“Any forest zoning review must deliver stronger and more effective protections for the Leadbeater’s Possum and other threatened wildlife, maximise water supply and carbon storage values, enhance recreational opportunities, and create jobs.”

More information

For further comment, please contact Amelia Young on 0404 074 577.

*DELWP review  | 1Independent review