Plans to log parts of Victoria's Wombat Forest will be scaled back, citizen scientists say, after they uncovered a population hotspot for greater gliders.
The group, backed by the Victorian National Parks Association, did a population survey of the forest in January.
They were surprised to find 40 greater gliders, four koalas, and a powerful owl - Australia's largest owl species - in an area of the forest that lies across seven planned VicForests logging coupes.
The density of the greater glider population meets the threshold for protection under the state government's action statement for the greater glider, the citizen scientists said.
The statement meant loggers had to retain at least 40 per cent of eucalypts' "basal area", which refers to the number and size of tree stems, when the threshold was met.
"The discovery of a greater glider population hotspot demands that all logging in the area must immediately stop and further investigation be urgently undertaken," Victorian National Parks Association executive Matt Ruchel said.
The seven planned logging coupes are surrounded by additional salvage logging coupes, at least one of which contains records of greater gliders, the association said.
VicForests said its work in the Wombat Forest was in direct response to last year's storms to remove debris and treat hazardous trees.
"No trees are being removed unless they present a hazard or for operational necessity. No clearfelling is occurring in these operations," a spokesman said.
"Trees that have fallen to the ground during storm damage are not suitable habitat for southern greater gliders, koalas or owls."
Ahead of VicForests' work, an environmental risk assessment and environmental survey has been completed for all storm-affected areas of the Wombat Forest.
The association takes issue with the Andrews government over what it says is the expansion of forestry and salvage logging in the Wombat Forest area.
They say the expansion is despite the forest's designation as a national park 12 months ago, a status the association wants legislated.
"Greater gliders are Australia's largest gliding marsupial but habitat destruction has seen their numbers dwindle," Mr Ruchel said.
"They won't be safe until Wombat Forest is a national park."
Victoria's greater glider population has significantly declined in the past two decades, and the 2019-2020 bushfires destroyed much of the animals' suitable habitat.
Wombat State Forest contains the only population of greater gliders west of Melbourne.
Australian Associated Press
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