The discovery by VicForests contracted surveyors of the endangered Long-footed Potoroo (LFP) only kilometers from its known range is not at all surprising. Bemm River and its ‘epicentre’ Bellbird Creek are very close by.
What is surprising is VicForests’ claim to be looking after these rare animals, after the Minister in charge of logging, Peter Walsh, recently set about changing the laws so that it can continue to clearfell the forest habitat of these animals even where detected.
VicForests was forced to carry out pre-logging wildlife surveys when they lost the 2010 Supreme Court battle that cost them in the order of $2 million to argue against. Up until this time, government approved clearfelling of prime threatened wildlife habitat had gone on relentlessly and in ignorance of what was being destroyed.
Environment East Gippsland has been trying to obtain VicForests survey data under Freedom of Information for almost a year now.
The home range of the LFP is still very small in relation to the range of most of our wildlife. They occupy the same type of rich wet forests that the logging industry has been targeting for over 50 years. The Potoroo seems to survive in the small areas that remain unlogged, but where found the government only protects a nearby gully or stream buffer - NOT the forest proper where it was found.
The LFP eats exclusively fungi. This is provided by a healthy mature forest with diverse understory and plant/fungi associations. It needs slopes, ridges and gullies through the year.
If a Potoroo is found passing through logged regrowth adjoining a mature forest it doesn’t mean they can survive and flourish in thin regrowth after a healthy mature forest is clearfelled. Yet this is implied by VicForests.
In the past, where we have found LFPs, VicForests has refused to protect the detection site, but rather protects an area off to the side where it won't prevent logging occurring. But this isn't the 'best habitat', just convenient for the logging industry and VicForests.