More funds needed to protect ringtails

Sarah Ison and Chloe FraserBusselton Dunsborough Times

Environmental groups are calling for a more proactive approach in managing threats to the western ringtail possum in the Capes region after the City of Albany last week received more than $96,000 of Federal funding for revegetation.

The western ringtail possum was declared critically endangered about a year ago, and while the Federal Government has projected about $4 million and 19 projects to curb the possum’s decline, Busselton environmental groups say more is needed on a local level.

The City of Busselton’s Western Ringtail Possum Working Group found habitat loss in the city and other urban areas had a critical impact on the species’ long-term survival but missed out on funding for a similar tree-planting project in Meelup.

Environmentalist Uta Wicke said while a network of tree corridors would be beneficial to Busselton and Dunsborough, protection and enhancement of mature vegetation was the main issue.

“Mature stands of peppermint are the most valuable food source for ringtails, and if we keep chopping them down, we will lose the species no matter how much saplings we put in the earth,” she said.

City planning and development services director Paul Needham said while the WRPWG had identified the need for planting peppermints along sites like Layman Road, tighter controls on small-scale clearing were also prioritised.

Dunsborough Coast and LandCare president Helena Nicholson welcomed the idea of stricter land controls and said private land in the City of Busselton provided valuable habitat for the possums. “Landowners need to demonstrate environmental responsibility by preserving this and other native species, therefore maintaining biodiver-sity for future generations,” she said.

Environmentalist Jeff Falconer agreed tighter controls were needed.

He said the City needed to “show leadership and be consistent and proactive”, given many private landowners were unaware of the likely extinction of the species.

Mr Needham said he recognised the need for incentives to encourage the retention and enhancement of habitat on private land, but further support was needed from higher levels of government.

Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said regulations were being prepared to allow the threatened species greater levels of protection as part of the Biodiversity Conservation Act.

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