Typical mitigation measures for the removal of ringtail possum habitat are:

Replanting of 2 or more peppermint trees for every tree to be cleared or rehabilitation of vegetation equivalent to the vegetation to be cleared

Even though planting of peppermint trees is always appreciated, no matter what number of small trees are planted, they cannot mitigate the loss of mature, high food value trees for the ringtails. If they are planted off-site they also would benefit another possum colony, not the one harmed. However, as those trees will only be adequate food and habitat in a couple of decades, they will not benefit any ringtails in the short term anyway.

A ‘qualified fauna spotter’ has to be present or at least on call during clearing works. His or her job is to ensure the safety of the animals during those works and to handle any injured, abandoned or distressed fauna.
As most  management plans also include provisions for injured or abandoned animals in the absence of a fauna spotter, it is quite obvious that the animals are at times at the  mercy of tree removal personnel. Those would then be referred to the DBCA Wildcare Helpline for advice. This Helpline  is a volunteer service run by DBCA and situated in Perth. They will usually pass on contact details for registered wildlife rehabilitators  - those maligned people who are included in the list of threatening processes as ‘they may contravene the regulations of the Wildlife Conservation Act and the WA Animal Welfare Act 2002.’

If a fauna spotter is present, it is due to a condition specified by DWER/DBCA in the approved clearing permit. He or she would have done a pre-clearing ‘preliminary wrp assessment’ and know roughly how many animals they can expect on the day. They however play no role in the approvals process. When they are called in, the destruction is fully approved and basically unstoppable.
Fauna spotters are licensed by and liaise with DBCA.

The department’s development and planning guidelines for wrp in Busselton and Dunsborough, which however do not seem to be a legal, publicly available let alone enforceable document, state that ringtails should be encouraged to disperse to adjoining areas but only if this will not cause significant disturbance to existing populations or their habitat and the carrying capacity in adjoining areas will allow further animals.
Clearing permits that affect wrp usually simply say that any ringtail individuals removed must be relocated by a fauna specialist to suitable habitat.

Is an isolated tree left standing on a car park suitable habitat? Is a busy roadside with a struggling resident ringtail population suitable habitat?
Current examples where inner-City trees were cleared and ringtails relocated by the fauna spotter in collaboration with DBCA suggest that it is.
Surprisingly, people including the local wildlife carer community protesting against those current incidents (see ‘Habitat discussion’) seemed only opposed to the way the animals were caught, not to a relocation as above.
A tree lopper and cherry picker had to be called in to catch a female with offspring, however that they were later (after a night in care) released in a tree next to the carpark and without any linkages to other habitat trees, seems incomprehensible.
The fauna spotters I know personally (and I also worked as a spotter myself on various occasions) are caring and capable people who usually manage to catch ringtails and keep them out of harm’s way. Offsprings,  however, sometimes get separated from their mothers as abandoning their young is a reasonable and rational response by  a female to being under attack by a perceived predator (in this case the tree lopper or fauna spotter). It has happened to me and I have received youngsters from several fauna spotters as safeguarding their  future care is the ethical thing to do.
As in the above incidence 2 animals had already been caught, I would assume that it had been planned to also hand-catch the female with offspring and that the cherry picker was only ordered in to appease the protesters. The question should however be asked whether not generally using cherry pickers particularly when catching animals next to busy roads is a mere money-saving short cut. I assume that every situation is different and would demand differing approaches. However, if the public gets involved measures are taken to ‘save face’-  cherry pickers called in, unnecessary vet checks which only add to the animals’ trauma or comments that the City would think about tree transplantation in the future. As arborists tell me that several decades old trees cannot be transplanted and it is not the tree as such protesting people are worried about but the possums in that tree, this would not even make sense. 

It is ironic that the wrath of the carer community aimed at the only person  on-site to guarantee the animals’ welfare.  
In principle fauna spotters are paid for a similar job volunteer wildlife carers take on for free – save ringtails from being harmed or killed.
However, it is similarly ironic that wildlife carers are mainly criticised for ‘not relocating to suitable and registered relocation sites’ and for ‘not monitoring for post-release survival’. Fauna spotters are ordered to do exactly the same. The rule is to encourage dispersal to a tree nearby or to relocate to a tree in close proximity. I would argue that in the majority of cases when vegetation in inner Busselton or Dunsborough is cleared, the trees nearby are either taken  by resident animals or unsuitable due to their isolation, low habitat/food quality or close proximity to busy roads.
Our government approves and pays for fauna spotters to do this, while it regards wildlife carers who do the very same as a threat to the survival of the species.

As there is hardly any suitable habitat left in the prime habitat areas in Busselton/Dunsborough and those few spots remaining are already strongly populated, the loss of a mature habitat trees cannot be mitigated by saving an animal for a few days before it turns into roadkill.

The only mitigation for habitat tree removal would be protection of enough remnants with good quality habitat to safeguard viable ringtail numbers for the future. This should be an integral part of the conservation strategy – which unfortunately has not been formulated yet.

Wildlife SignC)
The installation of road signs to warn motorists is also often tooted as mitigation even though there is little evidence that they are effective. (Bond and Jones, 2013) We habituate very quickly to seeing a sign and stop paying attention.
Illuminated  and flashing signs that are used around schools seem more effective as cars usually slow down quickly in response to the signal. Speed activated signage make drivers feel monitored, which might also lead to paying attention. (Jones, 2016)
However, what we get in Busselton are signs like this which only seem to invite ‘artists’.

No matter which of the above mitigating measures are taken, the possums are  always the losers. The conditions imposed pretend that there is some protection in place while habitat is destroyed. This might help appease the public but will not save the ringtails in the longer term. There is nothing a fauna spotter or a wildlife carer can legally do about this.

Read next: Threats discussion