In the early morning hours of January 25th, three citizen scientist surveyors conducted a survey for Greater Gliders in old growth forest on the Errinundra Plateau. Logging machinery had just moved in and logging was about to commence. We knew this area was high quality habitat for Greater Gliders and we conducted a survey to determine if the species was present in high enough densities to trigger legal protection. We found 15 Greater Gliders in about 800m, this is a huge population that should trigger legal protection and result in the creation of a 100 hectare protected area. If greater than 10 Greater Gliders are found within a 1km survey transect, a 100 hectare protected area must be created. We finished the survey at 3am, complied the data, wrote the report, mapped the results and submitted it the state government by 8:59am. By 10am VicForests were forced to stop logging! Click here to read the report.
The Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP) will need to verify the report by conducting their own survey. Once the verification is complete the logging coupe should be reserved and included in a 100 hectare Special Protection Zone, as required by law. To learn more go to page 43 of this document.
This area is an isolated stand of old growth trees, rich in hollows and high quality habitat. The surrounding area has been extensively logged, stands of hollow bearing trees that Greater Gliders need are hard to come by in the heavily logged landscape of the east Errinundra. Most of the available habitat for Greater Gliders within the immediate area where we surveyed is scheduled for logging. Unless protections are put in place Greater Gliders could be completely wiped out from the area, especially as they have very small home ranges of only about 3-4 hectares and most of the available habitat outside of the Errinundra National Park is scheduled for logging. The logging coupe we surveyed is 26 hectares, logging would completely wipe out this population who have probably spent their entire lives in just a small section of the coupe.
This was an amazing survey to be part of. It was very much 11th hour, the logging machines were already in the coupe and were about to begin smashing through the habitat. VicForests had not met their legal obligations to conduct a pre-logging survey to see if threatened species are present in the forest. If we did not act, this highly significant population of Greater Gliders would have been wiped out in just a couple of weeks. It shows the great value of GECO's citizen science program. If we were not out there looking around, documenting habitat and monitoring threatened species, VicForests would destroy this area without anyone ever knowing.
We are encouraging the Department of Environment to conduct their own surveys in areas of threatened species habitat so they can better protect important areas and ensure VicForests logging operations are complying with the logging rules. Despite being required to conduct surveys, VicForests do not survey enough in areas that are likely to support threatened species. It's not in their interest to survey, because if they find threatened species they can't do as much logging. We need independent oversight. Independent surveys must be done in all areas planned for logging where threatened species are likely to be present. After surveys are completed the government should then tell VicForests where they can and can't log.
It should not be left up to community groups and volunteers like us to monitor threatened species habitat and make sure the required protection measures are implemented.