Critically endangered species habitat will be bulldozed to make way for a road, following a Federal Court ruling on Tuesday.
Wildlife advocates had appealed Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek’s decision to allow Western Australia Main Roads to clear 71 hectares of the Gelorup Corridor.
The court has now paved the way for construction of the $1.25 billion Bunbury Outer Ring Road to continue.
The road will link the Forrest Highway to Bussell Highway and allow those heading south to bypass 13 sets of traffic lights and save 15 minutes on their journey.
Critically-endangered western ringtail possums, rare Carnaby's black cockatoos, and the native black striped minnow are known to utilise the area.
Minister Plibersek did not respond to repeated requests from Yahoo News Australia for comment.
Possums may not survive road construction
No more than 8000 western ringtail possums live in the wild, and their numbers are believed to be decreasing.
Their demise is primarily due to habitat loss, with only 10 per cent of their original range now surviving, according to GeoCatch.
Possums are known to be highly territorial, and the department of conservation and WA environment minister Reece Whitby have acknowledged the 72 living within the project zone may not survive.
Three have already been lost to predation since construction began, according to ABC News.
Rather than translocate the possums into new habitat, authorities will shepherd the animals into neighbouring properties.
The plan has been criticised by wildlife advocates, including Suzanne Strapp, president of rescue group FAWNA.
"There's been no translocation to help the possums find new homes," she told Yahoo News Australia.
"They've literally got to walk into people's backyards and just run the gauntlet of other possums, cats, dogs and everything else to find a new home. It's really distressing to see."
Nowhere for endangered species to be released
Ms Strapp said the future of most endemic species in the southwest of the state is uncertain due to habitat fragmentation and loss.
“One of the sad things about raising western ringtail possums that have been orphaned or abandoned is when we come to the point where it's time for them to be released,” she said.
“We go to the local authority and they say: There is nowhere for them to be released.”
“How can they take an area of old-growth forests that is perfect for the ringtail possum, that has been shown to thrive there, and destroy it?”
Government welcomes Federal Court decision
WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti told Yahoo News Australia in a statement she “welcome(s) the decision made in the Federal Court”.
She added the project has been through “two rigorous independent environmental assessment processes”.
“A significant package of measures to offset and minimise the impact of this critical project has been put in place, including acquiring and revegetating significant portions of land which will be set aside for permanent protection as future wildlife habitat,” she said.
Conservationist Bob Brown visited the site, slamming plans by the state government to offset the "ecological destruction" as "a scam".
“They will not work," he said. "The species are now a giant step closer to extinction.”
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