South Sister St. Marys, Tasmania

South Sister Letters

letter to minister for primary industries

Dr Andrew Lohrey
5 October 2006

The Hon. David Llewellyn,
Minister for Primary Industries and Water
First Floor
Franklin Square Offices
Hobart. TAS. 7000.

Dear David,

Thank you for your reply letter of the 2nd October 2006.

We noted that your reply simply refers to lodging this new information about endangered species so that it can be used by other stakeholders. This 'hand-ball' response was somewhat disappointing to local members of the Save Our Sister group. Your home community expected a willingness to engage with the problems of protecting the endangered species on the Nicholas Range.

We note that you administer the Threatened Species Protection Act 1995 and that the objectives of the threatened species protection system established by this Act are:

  1. to ensure that all native flora and fauna in Tasmania can survive, flourish and retain their potential for evolutionary development in the wild; and
  2. to ensure that the genetic diversity of native flora and fauna is maintained; and
  3. to educate the community in the conservation of native flora and fauna

The words, 'to ensure that all native flora and fauna in Tasmania can survive' appears to place the responsibility for their survival squarely with you. The objectives say nothing about making information available to other stakeholders. While this is no doubt useful and necessary administrative action it is of a secondary nature to the prime policy purpose of the Threatened Species Protection Act 1995 which is to ensure that threatened species survive.

In light of the unfortunate history of the Tasmanian Tiger we continue to expect that you will act to ensure the current survival of threatened species. In that regard we have gathered further information about threatened species on and around the South Sister/Mount Nicholas Range.

As the staff of your Department may know, for the past two weeks Shelly Lachish, a PhD student from the School of Integrative Biology at the University of Queensland, has been catching and recording information on Tasmanian Devils. The area covered in this survey is from the West of Upper Scamander through to the Mount Nicholas Ranges and including Dublin town and the North and South Sisters.

As of writing this letter, Shelly and her assistants have caught 25 Tasmanian Devils and 7 Spotted-tailed Quolls. Approximately one third of the Devils had devil facial tumour disease. This information together with the earlier evidence of dens and scats on the South Sister provides verification of a significant habitat for both Devils and Spotted-tailed quolls.

Shelly noted that in her year and a half of trapping devils she has never caught so many quolls. As you would know, the old growth habitat along the Mt Nicholas Range is clearly very important for the continued survival of this large number of spotted-tailed quolls. In regard to the evidence of dens on the South Sister, this area is also an important habitat for devils. To ensure the survival of these endangered species the connecting habitat along this whole range of mountains needs to be protected from logging.

This is also the case for the wedge-tailed eagle. Further to the information I sent you in my email about the discovery of a new wedge-tailed eagle's nest in Struggle Gully, I have also been informed by your threatened species unit that there are two more eagle's nests just south of Cheeseberry Hill. This is a location just south of the South Sister coupe.

You would know from the literature that this great Tasmanian bird is in danger of not surviving because of logging operations. You would also know that during forestry operations the 10 ha. reserve around wedge-tailed eagle's nests is a totally inadequate response to its conservation. It is inadequate because Forestry Tasmania has a policy focus on species and not on habitat. However, habitat is the policy focus of the Threatened Species Protection Act 1995 which you administer.

In the next three years Forestry Tasmania intends to log two coupes along the Mount Nicholas Range; one at South Sister (NI114A) and one directly north of the township of Cornwall (NI140C). Logging these coupes will have a devastating effect on the habitat of the following endangered and vulnerable fauna species:

In addition, there are 15 threatened species of flora which have been identified in the area and which are also under threat from logging. (detailed information on these species)

In regard to the Government's response to threatened species we applaud the work of your department in setting up the Devil Facial Tumour Disease Program and the appointment of Steven Smith as its full time manager. This is a necessary program for the development of a recovery plan for the devil.

Next year, 2007 will be the celebration of one hundred and fifty year of the settlement of St Marys. These celebrations will no doubt be marked by a range of activities. One way for the community to celebrate this significant period would be for the local member and Minister to act, as the objective of the Threatened Species Protection Act 1995 says to act, and that is to ensure the survival of the species listed above by declaring the habitat of the Mount Nicholas Range, including the North and South Sisters, to be a protected reserve. This would be an important and historic way to commemorate this period and it would give substance to these celebrations.

Finally, we ask in relation to the following species, what are the current management prescriptions offered to any Forest Practices Planning Officer in the preparation of a Forest Practices Plan?

Yours sincerely,

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