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Potoroo presence 'will save forest'

THE state government's timber agency says it has newly protected 850 hectares of native forest after finding evidence of an endangered species in logging areas.

VicForests captured images of the endangered long-footed potoroo outside its known habitat, in forest east of the Bemm River in East Gippsland.

The agency's conservation biologist, Chela Powell, said its camera surveys had detected more than 50 potoroos in East Gippsland over the past 18 months.

She said as a result more than 850 hectares of forest earmarked for logging had been protected.

''The findings are particularly important as it has long been suspected the long-footed potoroo lives in these forests, but there has previously been no clear evidence to confirm this,'' she said in a statement.

The surveys began after a landmark Supreme Court judgment banned VicForests from logging old-growth forest at Brown Mountain in East Gippsland after conservationists produced video footage of a long-footed potoroo in an area to be felled.

Conservation groups questioned whether the survey results would lead to currently protected areas being opened up for logging, given the government's pledge to maintain timber yields.

Environment East Gippsland co-ordinator Jill Redwood said it was surprising given the state government planned to give the head of the Department of Sustainability and Environment the power to exempt logging from laws protecting endangered species.