By Kath Gannaway
Timber harvesting was stopped last week in the controversial ‘Blue Vein’ logging coupe adjacent to the Ada Tall Trees Reserve out of Warburton.
Warburton Environment staged a demonstration outside the logging area on Thursday, 9 February in an attempt to halt logging in what they describe as ‘prime habitat of the critically endangered Leadbeater’s Possum”.
Warburton Environment president, Katrina Doughty, said there had been eight Leadbeater’s Possum detections recorded by citizen science group Wildlife of the Central Highlands (WOTCH) within one kilometre of the logging coupe, making it a major stronghold for the survival of the possum.
Ms Doughty said requests had been made to VicForests for their pre-logging surveys of the area, but that they had not received them.
“We need to know that they have done their surveys comprehensively,” she told the Mail.
Mr Doughty said logging also damaged the nature-based tourism potential of the region.
“Hundreds of Victorians and tourists visit the Ada tree every year,” she said.
“It is adjacent to a small cool temperate rainforest reserve which is rare, ancient and unique and which requires adequate protection from disturbances such as logging.”
VicForests’ General manager Stakeholders and Planning, Lachlan Spencer, said VicForests had engaged external ecologists to survey for Leadbeater’s Possum and did not find any in the area planned for harvesting.
He said a ‘third party’ had detected a Leadbeater’s Possum in the coupe before harvesting commenced and that a 12-hectare buffer had been put around the sighting.
“VicForests have also protected a number of leadbeater’s Possums detected in areas surrounding the coupe with the required 12-hectare buffers,” he said.
Mr Spencer said Zone 1A habitat had also been excluded from timber harvesting.
He said VicForests had followed all the guidelines and did not believe they were in breach of the relevant Act.
A spokesperson for the State Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio, confirmed that timber harvesting had stopped in most of the Blue Vein Coupe while the Department of Environment, Land and Water Protection (DELWP) were doing further surveys.
He said DELWP had issued a direction to VicForests on 9 February to protect potential habitat for Leadbeater’s Possum, but that it did not preclude operations.
“It only identifies the values that need to be protected,” he said, adding that timber already felled could be removed.
The Blue Vein coupe is around 20 hectares of which the area of potential habitat under the direction covers 65 per cent of the coupe.
The results of the verification survey are expected at the end of this week.
“A decision will then be made about the continuation of timber harvesting in the areas being assessed,” he said.