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Saving Leadbeater's Possum or logging?

By Steve Meacher - posted Friday, 16 May 2014

Let me not mince my words. The Leadbeater's Possum Advisory Group's recommendations, as accepted by the Victorian Government, are, in Prime Ministerial terms, 'crap'.

It's not that LPAG's work was worthless. It gathered information, considered a range of proposals and generated powerful conclusions.

However, a mediocre outcome was always inevitable given the government's Terms of Reference, imposed to ensure a result consistent with its declared policy of allowing continued logging of Leadbeater's shrinking habitat.


Of the many individual proposals assessed by the group, a Great Forest National Park finished a 'country mile' ahead of all the others, improving the species' prospects by a full 10%. Most of the short-listed actions scored 1% or less and the runner-up a dismal 4%.

When 'packages' were compiled and compared, new prescriptions developed by the Australian National University, including a new park, increased the probability of a 'good' outcome by a score of 19. In stark contrast, the accepted recommendations scored a paltry 7!

The state government's Terms of Reference (ToR) demanded that recommendations be "focused on supporting the recovery of the Leadbeater's Possum while maintaining a sustainable timber industry".

Packages of proposals fell into two groups: those that would do little either to support the possum or to threaten the industry, and those, like the new park and ANU prescriptions, that had a real chance of effectively addressing the possum's extinction risk by significantly reducing the scale and intensity of logging in its habitat.

Because they challenged the industry, the latter had to be rejected as 'not within the ToR'. In this way, the government (and industry group members, the Victorian Association of Forest Industries and VicForests) ensured that only recommendations consistent with supporting logging could survive analysis.

Friends of Leadbeater's Possum group reviewed and assessed the recommendations.


Several appear well-intentioned but on close inspection are inadequate.In some cases, such as placing a buffer around colonies and reducing (by 2) the number of potential nest trees needed before habitat is protected, the proposed change is far too modest. Imposing a two-year delay on logging areas where modelling shows possums are most likely to be and placing buffers around "old-growth" will have little or no effect as they will apply only to limited areas and most such areas are already protected.

There is little confidence that 'Retention Harvesting' will be fully implemented (even in half of coupes as recommended) as this would be inconsistent with an industry-imposed 5% cap on yield reduction.

So much for the 'good' recommendations. From here on it's all downhill.

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Extended versions of this article will appear in the June edition of Park Watch (VNPA) and on the Friends of Leadbeater's Possum's website.

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About the Author

Steve Meacher (M.Ed) is a forest educator and a committee member of Friends of Leadbeater's Possum, a not-for-profit community group established ten years ago to advocate for protection of the species. He is the group's representative on the official Recovery Team. He chairs the Murrindindi Shire Council's Environment Advisory Committee and was the council's Citizen of the Year, 2013. He lives on the edge of Toolangi State Forest.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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