7 September 2017, Threatened Species Day
The Victorian Government’s main policy to prevent the extinction of the state’s faunal emblem, the critically endangered Leadbeater’s Possum, relies on the implausible scenario of 200 years with no bushfires in the possum’s habitat in Victoria’s central highlands.
Under the government’s Timber Harvesting Exclusion Zones (THEZ) policy, when a colony of Leadbeater’s Possums is discovered, logging is prohibited within 200 metres of the colony.
But an assessment of the conservation benefits of the policy by Professor John Woinarski of Charles Darwin University has found the government’s estimate that exclusion zones reduce the extinction risk to Leadbeater’s Possum by 34% rests on ‘an implausible future scenario of 200 years without bushfire’.
‘When a single bushfire is factored into the analysis, the population within the conservation reserve system, including THEZs, is far more likely than not to become quasi-extinct.’
Environmental Justice Australia, which wrote to Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio in April on behalf of Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum, asking her to issue an Interim Conservation Order to protect the possum’s habitat, has urged the Minister to use the powers available to government to save Leadbeater’s Possum from extinction.
“Gambling the future of Victoria’s faunal emblem on the fallacy that the central highlands might go 200 years without a bushfire is totally reckless,” said EJA lawyer Danya Jacobs.
“Leadbeater’s Possum was hit very hard by the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009.
“Preventing the species’ extinction is directly linked to protecting its remaining habitat.
“While the government cannot guarantee 200 years without bushfire, it can easily improve the survival chances of Leadbeater’s Possum by prohibiting logging in the possum’s home forests.”
In a letter to EJA, Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the government would consider Professor Woinarski’s review and a recent report by the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC) when deciding on any further actions required to protect Leadbeater’s Possum.
The government is required to table in state parliament next month its response to the VEAC assessment.