The diminutive Leadbeater’s possum is one of Australia’s most controversial animals, because conserving it will require restructuring the native forest logging industry in the state of Victoria. The battle over the possum’s future highlights the necessity of making the transition from an old economy based on an outdated loss-making industry to a new economy based on a fuller valuation of key environmental assets. Industry restructure will not only be good for the possum, it will be good for the Victorian economy.
|What’s good for Leadbeater’s possum may |
also be good for the economy.
Leadbeater’s possum is one of the faunal emblems of Victoria. For 50 years the species was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1961, but it is now in danger of “re-extinction” due primarily to recurrent wildfires and widespread clearfell logging. The species is formally listed as Critically Endangered and is at risk of joining the 10% of Australian native mammals that have gone extinct since European settlement – by far the highest loss rate of any continent. (North America, which is of comparable size to Australia, has only lost a single mammal species.)
Most of the distribution of Leadbeater’s possum occurs in the wet forests of the Central Highlands of Victoria. These spectacular forests support some of the tallest trees on Earth and are located about 90 minutes drive from Melbourne, Victoria’s capital city. These forests are also in demand for paper and timber manufacturing. The underlying problem is that logging is not compatible with many of the other forest values.
Read David Lindenmayer’s story on Cosmos - “A tiny endangered marsupial points the way to a sustainable future.”