PARK WATCH Article June 2022 |
As VicForests log the Wombat Forest, we release new monitoring results showing these areas are habitat to already threatened Greater Gliders, writes Executive Director Matt Ruchel.
New survey work by VNPA citizen scientists has revealed high densities of Australia’s largest gliding marsupial in scheduled logging areas in the Wombat Forest.
In total, 40 Greater Gliders, one Powerful Owl, four Koalas, one Southern Boobook Owl, one Feathertail Glider and seven Ringtail Possums were recorded during our recent spotlighting surveys.
Wombat Forest Species Detections:
The results meet the thresholds for protection under the Victorian Government’s Action Statement for the Greater Glider 2019 – that is, a Greater Glider density equal to or greater than five individuals per spotlight kilometre.
While the rules for Greater Glider protection are relatively weak, the Action Statement requires that VicForests must retain at least 40 per cent of the basal area (number and size of tree stems/trunks) of eucalypts across each logging coupe, prioritising live, hollow-bearing trees.
The results again highlight the value of the Wombat Forest and why it should be a national park.
Of the 40 Greater Gliders recorded across three survey nights, 37 were located within VicForests’ existing logging coupes in the proposed Wombat-Lerderderg National Park. The Victorian Government is allowing this logging to continue until 2024.
And now Greater Glider habitat is also being logged under VicForests’ “Forest Recovery Timber Utilisation Plan”, as written about in the previous article ‘Promises smashed’.
Even though they made it through the destructive winds, these threatened animals now have to survive the logging machinery in their remaining habitat.
VNPA is calling for no further logging to take place in these coupes.
To add insult to injury, the Wombat Forest and any other forests west of the Hume Highway are currently not able to be independently surveyed by the Office of the Conservation Regulator, as the state government’s Forest Survey Program undertaking pre-logging surveys is only funded in the east of the state.
This is one of the reasons why VNPA conducted our own citizen science surveys in the Wombat Forest.
Greater Gliders have seen significant declines in key areas across Victoria over the last 20 years. Much of their suitable habitat within our state was impacted by the 2019-2020 fires. Wombat Forest is the only population of Greater Gliders west of Melbourne. The nearest population is in the Central Highlands, approximately 80 kilometres away.
A joint VNPA and Wombat Forestcare report released in 2020 Wombat Forest, A Greater Refuge for Gliders showed that Greater Glider population in Wombat Forest is large and regionally significant. Estimated densities are similar to those in East Gippsland and the Strathbogie Ranges, where the significance of Greater Glider populations has been acknowledged, and protections have been implemented through Immediate Protection Areas (more on this topic in ‘“Immediate” Protection Areas creep along’ article)
We have lodged our Threatened Species Detection Report on the Greater Glider survey with the Minister for Environment and the Office of the Conservation Regulator. But the only real way the Andrews Government can put an end to logging is to deliver on their promise for a new national park by passing the legislation as soon as possible.
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