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1 Nov 11 @ 06:55am by Gilbert Gardiner

A LEADING conservation authority has stepped up its campaign to protect endangered species across Casey and Cardinia.

Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority has started distributing $65,000 in grants to help landowners build fences to control pest plants and animals and revegetate private properties.

The grants form part of a $1.9 million program to protect 390 hectares of habitat for southern brown bandicoots, Leadbeater’s possums and helmeted honeyeaters – of which there are less than 60 in the world – by June 2013.

Project co-ordinator Adam Shalekoff said the distribution of grants in Cardinia was about to begin, with Casey to follow.

The project is run alongside the Department of Sustainability and Environment’s fox-baiting scheme.

“The biggest threat to the southern brown bandicoot are foxes. Therefore supporting landowners to control foxes is our priority,” he said.

Healesville Sanctuary director Glen Holland urged landowners do their bit to help species that were fighting extinction.

“Australia has the highest rate of extinction of mammals in the world, and these species continue to be under serious threat,” he said.

“We are committed to helping save these unique and ecologically important species.”

Landowners who have received a letter inviting them to submit an expression of interest are invited to apply for grants. For details, phone Adam Shalekoff on 8781 7962.