Endangered cockatoo's Wimmera habitat burnt

LARGE parts of the endangered red-tailed black cockatoo's Wimmera habitat have been burnt as part of planned burning programs.

The Department of Environment and Primary Industries has started igniting burns in the Little Desert National Park, Rennick State Forest and Lower Glenelg National Park all known habitats of the cockatoo.

BirdLife Australia conservation head Samantha Vine said the bird relied on stringybark trees for their food and the forests being burnt were mostly stringybark.

Under the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, any action that has the potential to significantly impact must be referred to the Federal Department of Environment for assessment.

"The failure of the department to refer the 2014 autumn burning program under the act is a clear breach of federal law," Ms Vine said.

Red-tailed black cockatoo recovery team member Martine Maron said there was an agreement from the State Government that no more than 15 per cent of the stringybark habitat would be burnt within a 10-year period.

She said the autumn burning program would mean up to 27 per cent of the cockatoo's habitat has been scorched in the past 10 years almost double the agreed limit.

However, a Department of Environment and Primary Industries spokesman denied any breach of the act because the department was 'not required to submit burns to the EPBC for approval'.

"The department implements the planned burning program to avoid significant impact to the cockatoo's habitat," the spokesman said.

"We are confident we can continue to do the planned burn program and meet legislative requirements.

"Planned burning is done to reduce the threat of damaging bushfires on communities and the environment. The intensity, timing, size and amount of vegetation burnt in planned burns is controlled."

The spokesman said a bushfire would have far greater effects on the cockatoo's habitat.

"Planned burns in the cockatoo's habitat are low intensity and occur in a patch pattern to protect trees," the spokesman said.

"The department has undertaken research to further reduce tree scorch during planned burning in the cockatoo's habitat.

"We will continue to work with BirdLife Australia and include them in the planned burning program to protect the cockatoo and reduce bushfire risk to communities."

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