South Sister St. Marys, Tasmania

South Sister Letters

letter to federal minister for environment

Dr Andrew Lohrey
15th September 2006

Senator, The Honourable Ian Campbell
Minister for Environment
Parliament House
CANBERRA
ACT. 2600

Dear Senator,

South Sister, Tasmania: the habitat of endangered species

On behalf of the local community group, Save Our Sisters, I write to ask for your intervention to protect the habitat of many endangered and vulnerable species on and around the South and North Sisters. These mountains form part of a natural range of mountains, shaped like a horseshoe, around the township of St Marys on the East coast of Tasmania.

This habitat is now under threat from Forestry Tasmania which plans to log the South Sister (coupe NI114A) in the next three years. If this should come to pass the habitat of the following endangered and vulnerable fauna species will be at risk:

An additional 15 threatened species of flora have been identified in the area.

The evidence of the fauna species on the coupe to be logged has been verified through Forestry Tasmania's Forest Practices Plan (FPP). The exception to this verification is the Tasmanian devil which has only been listed in the past few months. As a consequence of these new listings, new information on the Tasmanian devil has been recently revealed by locals who have discovered fresh devil dens and scats within the coupe.

In addition, there has been new information about the habitat of the Wedge-tailed eagle. Again, locals have found, photographed and gps-ed the site of a recently built eagle's nest. This site is outside the coupe but close to its boundary. Since 1946 I have witnessed the common sight of wedge-tailed eagles flying around these mountains so discovery of this nest is no surprise.

In regard to the Tasmanian devil, I understand that under Federal legislation a recovery plan is required to be written and implemented. Will you please ensure that no logging is conducted until this occurs?

In regards to the Wedge-tailed eagle, we are concerned with the response by Forestry Tasmania as laid out in their FPP. According to this plan a site search was carried out on 28th December 2004 and no evidence of nests was found. The FPP recommends that if a nest is found no logging should take place within 500 metres of the nest. This is unacceptable for the protection of Australia's largest living bird of prey and one of the largest eagles in the world. In Tasmania the eagle is threatened by large amounts of habitat loss through forestry logging operations. The number of breeding pairs in the state is quite low and breeding success rate is also recorded as low. Given these facts Forestry Tasmanias response is unacceptable.

In regard to the Blind Velvet worm and the Giant Velvet worm, again Forestry Tasmania's response is deplorable. The FPP suggest there will be little impact on these worms and that low intensity burns rather than high intensity burns would be okay.

These worms are found in moist areas where there are rotting logs. They feed on insects and other litter-dwelling invertebrates. Any logging and subsequent burning of cleared vegetation will reduce the habitat for both of these worms. The Blind Velvet worm is restricted to about 160 square kilometres in the north east of Tasmania around St Marys. The Giant Velvet worm has a slightly larger area of about 600 square kilometres which centres around Scamander, extending as far south as the South Sister. Numerous worms have been recorded in this area in the past.

A line of parapatry is found just north of the coupe. This is a geographical line which demarcates the two species. There is no crossing of this line and zoologists consider that it (only 4 known about in Australia and a few dozen in the world) is of special conservation significance in its own right.

Forestry Tasmania's response to the habitat of other endangered fauna species is equally unacceptable. Without boring you with a series of quoted references from the FPP it is clear that the concept of 'habitat' is hardly addressed by Forestry Tasmania. Rather, their approach is to focus on species and forget habitat. Because of this developmental attitude we are most concerned that the habitat of many species is in direct and imminent danger of destruction.

The South Sister and surrounding forests is a unique location of enormous biodiversity. It is not too much to say that it is a biodiversity 'hot spot'.

Could you inform us of any action you intend to take in regards to the matters I have raised?

Yours sincerely,

Dr Andrew Lohrey

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