MEDIA RELEASE 20 March 2023 |

VNPA lodges an historic application to protect the habitat of a critically endangered stonefly, in a move which could set a major precedent for the protection of threatened wildlife.

The Victorian National Parks Association has made the first formal nomination for a Critical Habitat Determination (CHD) under provisions to environmental laws passed in 2019.

The Mount Donna Buang Wingless Stonefly is critically endangered and only known to occur within a few square kilometres of the Yarra Ranges National Park.

VNPA’s submission for a CHD for the Mount Donna Buang Wingless Stonefly was made to Department of Energy Environment and Climate Action Secretary John Bradley and the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (FFG Act).

The SAC is expected to review the nomination on Monday 20 March.

The flightless stonefly’s habitat is restricted to forested mountain streams and springs high on Mount Donna Buang.

This extraordinary creature is at serious risk of extinction if a proposal for a mountain biking trail is given the green light.

While some of the major tracks for the Warburton Destination Bike Track proposal have been ruled out by the planning minister’s response to an Environmental Effect Statement, a number of smaller tracks remain on the table.

They could impact the Mount Donna Buang Wingless Stonefly’s habitat.

The stonefly is one of just two wingless species found in Australia. It has a long life span of around three years and survives streams drying out over summer by burrowing into the substrate where moisture is retained, giving it high scientific interest.

The Mount Donna Buang Stonefly is a truly remarkable creature staring down the barrel of extinction,” VNPA spokesperson Matt Ruchel said.

“We simply can’t wait any longer to ensure every measure is taken to protect this incredible stonefly which exists nowhere else in the world.

“That’s why we’re lodging the first ever application for a critical habitat determination to give this rare alpine insect protection from proposed mountain bike tracks and future development applications and the need for enhanced management of this special creature”

“It’s extraordinary this part of our state environmental laws have never been used to protect critically endangered species given we’re in the grips of an extinction crisis.

“But we are hopeful the department and scientific advisory committee will exercise their power to save the precious stonefly. The capacity to undertake a critical habitat determination has been in place since 2019, and we are sick of waiting for government guidelines”

“This has the potential to be a hugely significant decision affecting far more than just the stonefly.

“If we can secure a critical habitat determination for stoneflies, that would set a strong precedent for other creatures on the long list of almost 2000 threatened species .”

“The Andrews Government modernised our state threatened species laws in 2019 including strengthening the capacity for critical habitat determinations. Three years on we need to start using these tools, not leave them again sitting on the shelf, while our threatened species lists grow”.