A review of buffer zones around possum colonies in the Central Highlands forest, which are contributing to a shortage of timber resource availability, is underway and due for completion next month, the State Government has said.
Buffer zones were due to be reviewed once 200 colonies of the critically endangered species were observed, but with survey work and third-party reporting putting the number of sightings at more than 400, calls for action grew.
With ASH facing potential closure, timber industry veteran of more than three decades and Member for Narracan Gary Blackwood joined the choir last week.
Given the number of sightings, he said it was time for the government to consider changes to save timber industry jobs under threat.
"People in Heyfield in particular, and people employed more broadly in the forestry
He called for the remaining 94
"If the number of sightings is such that the possum is not endangered, then we can go on as normal and ASH can survive long into the future and the industry can go on without having this hanging over their head,"
"There's a lot of areas that have been taken out of production forest and into reserve on the back of protecting native species of flora and fauna; each time that happens there's been a reduction in availability to industry.
"The science now is stacking up in our
Minister for Environment Lily D'Ambrosio last week said the review of the exclusion zone was underway.
"The objectives of the review are to document the extent of improved protection for Leadbeater's Possum colonies from the 200 metre exclusion zone rule, to assess the effectiveness of this additional protection in supporting the species' recovery, and to assess the impact on the timber industry of these additional timber harvesting exclusion zones," Ms D'Ambrosio said.
"The decision to focus targeted surveys on state forests was recommended by the Leadbeater's Possum Advisory Group (which included VicForests) because of the impact of the Black Saturday bushfires on the habitat of the Leadbeater's Possum.
"It was considered critical to
The review will be limited to exploring alternative ways of protecting
Broader approaches to Leadbeater's possum management will be led by the Forest Industry Taskforce process.