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Adam Carey  July 23, 2011
The Leadbeater’s possum will probably only last for another 30 to 40 years. Photo: Steven Siewert

LOGGING has begun in native forest north-east of Melbourne that environmentalists claim is home to the endangered Leadbeater’s possum.

VicForests, the Victorian government’s commercial forestry arm, began logging 19 hectares of forest at Sylvia Creek Road in the Toolangi State Forest yesterday.

The Department of Sustainability and Environment has been ”rechecking” the logging coupe this week, following protests by anti-logging groups, to see that it is not home to the Leadbeater’s possum. The small marsupial is endemic to Victoria’s central highlands and is believed to number fewer than 1000.

Leadbeater possum.A Leadbeater’s possum.

Surveys of the coupe by the department and VicForests found no Leadbeater’s possum habitat or old-growth mountain ash forest, but VicForests will leave alone an extra three hectares as a ”habitat island” in answer to ”concerns raised by conservationists”.

Conservationists argue that continued logging in Victoria’s central highlands threatens to wipe out the remaining Leadbeater’s possum population, which lost as much as half its habitat in the Black Saturday bushfires.

VicForests spokesman David Walsh rejected claims by the Wilderness Society that part of the Sylvia Creek coupe is old-growth forest, saying it was ”regrowth” forest that had recovered from bushfire.

But Leadbeater’s expert, Australian National University ecologist David Lindenmayer, said: ”This animal’s in a lot of trouble. Leadbeater’s possum will probably only last for another 30 to 40 years.”