PLANS to expand native forest logging areas have concerned those attempting to protect the state’s faunal emblem, the Leadbeater’s possum.
Above: George, a taxidermied Leadbeater's Possum used by Friends of Leadbeater's Possum for educational work. George was found dead on the side of a road. The group assumes he lived in mountain ash forests that were logged and he fell from the logging truck as the trees were transported. Image: Tirin
First published in the 26 June 2015 edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen. Get your copy from retailers across Baw Baw for free today.
The critically endangered possum is found in mountain ash, shining gum and alpine ash forests in sub-alpine areas of Mount Baw Baw, Lake Mountain and Mount Bullfight.
Steve Meacher of the Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum group told the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen logging activities around Erica and Noojee were damaging potential possum habitats, and expansion would put the species under extra stress.
“VicForests advertised a proposed amendment to the Timber Release Plan in local papers [in June],” he said.
“The TRP lasts for five years but can be amended at any time. In recent years this has been annually, around March-April.
“But the current proposal is the second this year, though the first was very small.
“Under new legislation put in place by the [former] Napthine government, the proposal only needs approval from the board of VicForests – the fox in charge of the hen house!
“The current proposal adds around 300 new logging coupes across eastern Victoria.
“It is important to understand that these new coupes are additional to those already on the approved TRP.”
VicForests has been quoted saying forests are surveyed before logging begins and a 12-hectare buffer zone was left around sightings.
“Wherever this habitat is located, it is protected regardless of whether the possum is present on the site or not,” a spokesperson told The Saturday Paper.
Above: an interactive map of leadbeaters possum distribution in Victoria. Source: Zoos Victoria
“A sighting is not required for an area to be excluded. If an area meets the criteria as potential habitat then this is enough to ensure it is protected.”
Beyond possum protection, Mr Meacher has concerns about other environmental effects of native forest logging.
“Our forests are also the most carbon-dense in the world, so it is important to protect their carbon storage potential and not release carbon by logging them,” he said.
“Forests also have an effect on moderating local climate, so without them it will become even warmer.
“Research has shown that wet forests like Mountain Ash burn with increased severity from seven to 40 years after being logged, so logging could even increase the hazard of bushfire to communities.
“Finally eco-tourists are more inclined to visit pristine old-growth forests than logged coupes.
“Protecting forests could therefore support tourism and economic activity, supporting local communities.”
The Leadbeater’s possum was made the state’s faunal emblem in 1971.
They are also known by the name of fairy possum and are thought to have evolved around 20 million years ago.
Above: the current TRP map. Supplied.
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