Critically endangered plants found in planned logging area

Two critically endangered plants have been found in a controversial area that was left out of the new East Gippsland reserved areas before last year’s state election. The State Herbarium has verified their identity

The exciting discovery of the small stand of about 100 plants was made during our Forests Forever Easter camp in 2007. These understorey shrubs were found in an unusual forest of River Peppermint and Silvertop Ash.

They are Pomaderris virgata (Upright Pomaderris) and Pomaderris costata (Veined Pomaderris). P. virgata is listed by DSE as vulnerable whilst P. costata is listed as rare in Victoria. Both are restricted to remote locations in NSW and Victoria. However, if we use the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) criteria, both plants could be worthy of listing as Critically Endangered in Victoria.

Recognised as a species as recently as 1988, Pomaderris virgata was then thought to only live in several remote NSW locations. In 1989, it was unexpectedly discovered at two ridgeline locations in East Gippsland’s Goongerah district, during a pre-logging biological survey. The survey results have been withheld for the last 15 years but we are currently trying to obtain them.

Pomaderris normally grow in wetter fire resistant areas, but these two species have adapted to extremely harsh dry conditions. Strangely, they are still very fire sensitive and only survive by growing in dry areas that don’t have much understorey so still generally escape fire.

The Bracks Government clearly has no idea what natural values are lost by clearfelling. These plants show up yet more failings of our government’s environmental claims: firstly, the areas marked for protection don’t always correlate with rare and valuable species, and secondly, their claim of sustainable “world’s best” management is a farce.

The dry spur where the plants were discovered is north west of Goongerah in the Stony Creek catchment. Part of this catchment now makes up the strip of old growth forest that links the Errinundra with the Snowy National Park. When Premier Bracks agreed to link the parks (as an election promise in November), he allowed only half of the catchment to be used as the link. The plants are in the half that was not protected.

Before this area is clearfelled, detailed assessments need to be made if the Department of Sustainability and Environment wants to live up to its name. Mr Thwaites has not given any assurances that decent sub-catchment protection will be given, but has said the new discovery will be used to determine any final boundary changes.

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