Recommendations to support recovery
An Advisory Group was established by the State Government in June 2013 to develop a set of recommendations which would support the recovery of the Leadbeater’s Possum while maintaining a sustainable timber industry.
The Advisory Group was co-convened by Zoos Victoria and the Victorian Association for Forest Industries, and included representatives from VicForests, Parks Victoria and the Leadbeater’s Possum Recovery Team.
Following consultation with a range of experts, scientists, targeted stakeholders and the wider community, 13 recommendations were developed to assist the recovery of Leadbeater’s Possum and endorsed by the Victorian Government.
Click on each of the 13 recommendations to expand
Recommendation 1: Protect Leadbeater’s Possum colonies - Status: Ongoing
Recommendation 1: Protect Leadbeater’s Possum colonies
- Establish timber harvest exclusion zones of a 200 metre radius centred on the detection site to protect each identified colony
- Review the effectiveness of this action in supporting the recovery of the Leadbeater’s Possum while maintaining a sustainable timber industry after two years of surveying, or once 200 new colonies are located whose exclusion zones impact the General Management Zone or Special Management Zone, whichever comes first.
Two-hundred metre radius harvest exclusion zones centred around Leadbeater’s Possum colonies have now been introduced into regulation. The exclusion zone applies to all existing records for Leadbeater’s Possums from the last 15 years (except in areas that were severely burnt in the 2009 fires).
The exclusion zone will be applied to new colonies identified through targeted surveys undertaken by DELWP and records from the community once they are verified.
Following release of the Victorian Government’s response to the Advisory Group recommendations, VicForests took immediate action to incorporate all known Leadbeater’s Possum colonies in the VicForests Reserve Layer and apply the exclusion zone in operational planning.
The VicForests Reserve Layer is progressively updated as information about new colonies is made available
Recommendation 2: Delay harvesting in areas of anticipated high probability of occupancy - Status: Complete
Recommendation 2: Delay harvesting in areas of anticipated high probability of occupancy
- Delay harvesting for two years in areas that the Arthur Rylah Institute (ARI) 2013 occupancy model predicts has a greater than 0.65 probability of being occupied by Leadbeater’s Possum, to allow surveys to be undertaken
Progress: Information drawn from the ARI occupancy model highlighted areas of a high probability (0.65) of potential occupancy by Leadbeater’s Possum.
These areas have been identified and excluded from timber harvesting or roading activities, completing this action.
Recommendation 3: Transition to retention harvesting - Status: In progress
Recommendation 3: Transition to retention harvesting
- From July 2014, undertake retention harvesting in at least 50 per cent of the area of ash harvested within the Leadbeater’s Possum range
- Begin planning for retention harvesting immediately
- Raise the target for retention harvesting towards 100 per cent if the system proves to be operationally achievable
- Undertake research, planning and implementation of retention harvesting
Progress: In April 2013 VicForests Regrowth Retention Instruction was finalised and rolled out to VicForests field staff. Training for the application of this system was then undertaken and regrowth retention harvesting planning and operations have now begun.
VicForests Regrowth Retention Harvesting goals are based primarily on enhancement and protection of ecological values. However, these objectives must be considered within the operational reality associated with safe timber harvesting practices, while also considering social acceptability.
VicForests Regrowth Retention Harvesting Goals:
- Regrowth retention coupes have forest influence over more than 50% of the coupe, to facilitate rapid re-colonisation of the harvested area.
- To apply Regrowth Retention Harvesting silviculture to at least 50% of Ash coupes within the range of the Leadbeater’s Possum, in order to support the recovery and persistence of this species across these areas.
- To protect and enhance old-growth forest structures such as future habitat suitable for a range of forest dwelling species, especially those mature forest dependant species. Specific mature forest features that will be targeted for retention include large diameter coarse woody debris and stags with hollows, as well as large living trees.
- To support the dispersal and movement of forest faunal communities by enhancing connectivity across the landscape.
- To support the re-colonisation of areas harvested overtime by providing a life boating function.
- To support habitat heterogeneity across the landscape, and ensure that areas retained have the lowest likelihood of being impacted by disturbance such as wildlife and wind throw.
A monitoring program to gauge the success of this silviculture system is currently being developed to ensure that the success of both operational and ecological goals are measured.
Recommendation 4: Revised regeneration practices - Status: In progress
Recommendation 4: Revised regeneration practices
- Investigate alternatives to high intensity regeneration burns linked to post-burn retention harvest criteria
Progress: VicForests has commenced monitoring the impacts of revised regeneration practices on areas harvested. This monitoring will assess how a modification of regeneration burning practices can improve retained tree survival and ultimately the protection of other values following the site preparation process after timber harvesting.
The achievement of both seedbed preparation objectives and protection of retained trees, requires a combination of coupe design, retained tree location, pre-burn preparation and careful burn implementation.
VicForests has begun substituting high intensity burns for low intensity burns in important areas where Leadbeater’s are present or concerns about bush fires are still high.
Recommendation 5: Buffer old growth - Status: Complete
Recommendation 5: Buffer old growth
- Exclude harvesting from within 100 metres of modelled old growth ash forests (from the DEPI spatial layer) within the Leadbeater’s Possum range
Progress: Exclusion of timber harvesting from within 100 metres of modelled old growth ash forest in the Leadbeater’s Possum range is now regulated following the publication of the revised Leadbeater’s Possum Action Statement and incorporation of the prescriptions in the Management Standards and Procedures for timber production harvesting operations in Victoria’s State forests 2014 under the Code of Practice for Timber Production 2014.
This recommendation has now been fully delivered.
Recommendation 6: Amend the definition of Leadbeater’s Possum Habitat Zone 1A - Status: Complete
Recommendation 6: Amend the definition of Leadbeater’s Possum Habitat Zone 1A
- Amend the definition of Zone 1A to 10 live mature or senescent hollow-bearing ash trees per three hectare patch. (The definitions of mature, senescent, hollow-bearing, patch and all other definitions included in the survey methodology are to remain as described within the current DEPI Survey Standard: Leadbeater’s Possum Habitat Zones)
Progress: The definition of the Leadbeater’s Possum habitat Zone 1A has been amended and reflected in the revised Leadbeater’s Possum Action Statement and incorporated the Management Standards and Procedures for timber production harvesting operations in Victoria’s State forests 2014 under the Code of Practice for Timber Production 2014.
The amended definition for Zone 1A habitat is more than 10 live mature or senescent hollow-bearing ash trees per three hectare in patches greater than three hectares. In Zone 1A habitat hollow-bearing trees are defined as live mature or senescent trees of Mountain Ash, Alpine Ash or Shining Gum containing hollows.
This recommendation has now been fully delivered.
Recommendation 7: Target future old growth ash forests for protection - Being implemented by DELWP and VicForests
Recommendation 7: Target future old growth ash forests for protection
- Introduce a target specifying that at least 30 per cent of the ash forest within each Leadbeater’s Possum Management Unit be protected so that it can mature into old growth forest in the future.
Introduced a target for protecting 30 percent of Ash forest from timber harvesting operations within each Leadbeater’s Possum Management Unit (LMU) to allow these areas to mature into future old growth forest.
VicForests has been working closely with the Department of Environment Land Water and Planning to devise a method for identifying and protecting 30 per cent of each LMU to support the protection of future old growth protection across the range of the species. Areas protected to reach this target will be assessed annually.
There is a particular emphasis on areas that are less likely to be burnt if a wildfire occurs in these forests. Areas such as wetter gully systems and southerly facing forests have been prioritised as well as areas that have been identified as having a high probably of the Leadbeater’s Possum occupancy (other than those areas identified and already excluded in action 2).
Recommendation 8: Fire management of known colonies and high quality habitat - Being implemented by DELWP and Parks Victoria
Recommendation 8: Fire management of known colonies and high quality habitat
- Identify known colonies and high quality habitat as critical assets on the Natural Values database (part of DEPI’s fire system) to inform fire operations and risk landscapes planning
- Investigate and implement, where possible and appropriate, active fire management activities to protect identified colonies and high-quality habitat from bushfire, taking into consideration other threatened species requirements. This includes suppression activities and fuel management in adjacent drier forest types
- Develop approved fire recovery protocols that can be enacted without delay following fire or other disturbance events that affect known colonies.
Recommendation 9: Install nest boxes - Being implemented by DELWP, Parks Victoria and Zoos Victoria
Recommendation 9: Install nest boxes
- Provide artificial nest boxes in a targeted manner at key locations to support existing populations by extending Project Possum
- Maintain and monitor existing nest boxes in Snow Gum and selected ash forest sites through the Project Possum programs in five areas throughout the Central Highlands. Project Possum sites are predominantly in national parks, catchment areas and other reserve areas
- Install nest boxes to investigate the extent of other populations occurring in sub-alpine woodlands and ash forest, including the Baw Baw plateau and Mt Matlock
Recommendation 10: Accelerate hollow development - Status: In Progress
Recommendation 10: Accelerate hollow development
- Investigate accelerated hollow development through silvicultural or other forest management processes
- Investigate accelerated hollow development through mechanical or other approaches that may provide hollows in the near future
Progress: An Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Grant application for a project investigating ways of accelerating the development of key features of the Leadbeater’s Possum habitat through various silvicultural activities was developed in late 2013.
In mid 2014, this project proposal was successful in gaining funding from the ARC. The project is in collaboration with the University of Melbourne, DELWP and VicForests.
The project will look to develop a range of potential ways in which we can accelerate the development of the key features of Leadbeater's possum habitat: Trees with suitably sized hollows to nest in. Information drawn from this research will then inform landscape-scale management planning scenarios to identify strategies for modifying forest management practices in key areas of Leadbeater's possum habitat, in order to maximise the long-term survival of the species.
VicForests has also been working closely with ARI on this action to investigate potential mechanical approaches to providing nesting sites for Leadbeater’s Possum. To date, 72 artificially created hollows have been created across areas known to be occupied by the possum. Alongside ARI we commenced a remote camera survey of a sub-sample of these hollows (50%) to investigate whether Leadbeater’s possum would inspect and potentially nest in these mechanically created hollows. This work began in April 2015, and review of remote camera images have found that Leadbeater’s Possum have been occupying and building nests inside some of these artificially created hollows.
Recommendation 11: Translocation - Being implemented by DELWP, Park Victoria and Zoos Victoria
Recommendation 11: Translocation
Examine the feasibility of translocating Leadbeater’s Possums from wild to wild.
Recommendation 12: Community engagement - Being implemented by DELWP, Leadbeater’s Possum Recovery Team, Parks Victoria, VAFI, VicForests and Zoos Victoria
Recommendation 12: Community engagement
- Implement ongoing community engagement, including with environment and industry groups
- Involve community stakeholders in monitoring activities
- Continue to implement and enhance education programs to improve understanding of Leadbeater’s Possums and their management
Recommendation 13: Monitoring and Review - First progress report published
Recommendation 13: Monitoring and Review
- Review the implementation of the recommended package of actions in four years, with a view to assessing progress, capturing learnings and maximising benefits
- With respect to Recommendation 1 (establishing a timber harvest exclusion zone around colonies), review its effectiveness after two years of surveying or once 200 new colonies are located (whichever comes first) in order to assess the effectiveness of this action in supporting the recovery of Leadbeater’s Possum while maintaining a sustainable timber industry
- Report on implementation progress periodically (e.g. every six months)
First progress report published: Supporting the recovery of the Leadbeater's Possum Report on progress
Leadbeater's Possum Recovery Progress Report
The latest Supporting the Recovery of the Leadbeater's Possum Progress Report has highlighted a number of the key outcomes as a result of work to protect the possum and its habitat.
The Report was released by the Minister for Agriculture, Jaala Pulford, and the Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Water, Lisa Neville to provide the community with an update on the implementation of recommendations made the independent Leadbeater's Possum Advisory Group. Click on link to download a copy of the full report - Supporting the Recovery of the Leadbeater's Possum Progress Report (October 2015)
Some of the key achievements outlined in the Report which are helping to support the possum include:
- the confirmation of 71 new Leadbeater’s Possum colonies (as part of a target to identify 200 new colonies in State forest)
- an additional 45 new Leadbeater’s Possum colonies found in national parks
- the creation of 200 metre Special Protection Zone (SPZ) buffers in State forest on 124 areas (protecting 283 existing colonies) and 64 areas for new colonies
- delaying timber harvesting for two years in 14,800 hectares which have greater than 65 percent probability of occupancy by the species
- the installation of 66 nest boxes and the inspection of a total of 243 next box inspections with an occupancy rate of approximately 25%
- using Regrowth Retention Harvesting in place of clearfell harvesting in 42% of the operations which reached completion during 2014/15 in ash forest within the Leadbeater's Possum range
Leadbeater's Possum Advisory Group Reports
Leadbeater's Possum Advisory Group Reports
Click on the links below to read the Reports developed by the Leadbeater's Possum Advisory Group: