29 August, 2013

Push for national park to save possum

Tom Arup, Environment editor
The Age, 29 August 2013

A Leadbeater's possum. Photo: Justin McManus

The Greens and Professor Tim Flannery will back the creation of a new national park in Victoria's highland forests as part of efforts to save the endangered Leadbeater's Possum at a public forum on Thursday.
At an event in Melbourne the Greens will launch a campaign to establish the Great Forest National Park to protect Leadbeater's and other species in the bushfire ravaged highland forests, also a major logging area.

The new national park was first proposed by ANU ecologist Professor David Lindenmayer – who will also speak at the event alongside former Greens leader Bob Brown and Professor Flannery.

Fairfax Media reported this month that cabinet–in–confidence scientific advice to the state government had found the current habitat set aside for the Leadbeater's possum was not large enough to ensure its survival.

The possums lost 42 per cent of their habitat in the Black Saturday bushfires. Conservationists say continued logging in the region has exacerbated the species' decline. Estimates of the remaining populations of the Leadbeater's possum range from 1500 to 3000.

The Greens say they will push for the new national park at both the state and federal level. National parks are largely the domain of state governments.

The Napthine Government has formed a committee headed by loggers and the zoo to make recommendations on how to save the species.

Professor Flannery told Fairfax Media current Victorian government policy was dooming the species to extinction and he backed the national park proposal as a way to change that trajectory.

''We have a legislative and a moral obligation to preserve [the Leadbeater's possum],'' he said.
''To let it go extinct would be a national tragedy. It is the state emblem of Victoria for god's sake.''
Victorian Greens Senator Richard DiNatale said Australia had one of the poorest records in the world when it came to loss of biodiversity and species extinction.

''The government-owned company that logs Victoria's forests gets free land and free trees but it still manages to make a loss. It's economic and environmental lunacy. Creating a national park would create sustainable jobs and give our precious state animal emblem a chance of survival,'' he said.

As part of its environment election platform the Coalition has vowed to establish a threatened species commissioner. The Coaliition's environment spokesman Greg Hunt said the commissioner would prepare, implement and monitor recovery plans for threatened species.

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