NEFA makes submissions to the NSW Government on a wide range of issues affecting our forests. These detailed submissions can be found using the hyperlinks to the relevant topics below.
North East Forest Alliance submission to:
Photo: Dailan Pugh giving evidence to the Inquiry into the EPA's regulation of forestry practices at Royal Camp State Forest
North East Forest Alliance Submission to the Federal Inquiry into:
The effectiveness of threatened species and ecological communities' protection in Australia
Prepared by Dailan Pugh for NEFA, December 2012
Sandy Creek National Park Proposal
It is proposed to create the 2,100 ha Sandy Creek National Park in the headwaters of the Richmond River south-west of Casino. The proposal is comprised of two parts, including part of Royal Camp State Forest (compartments 13-16, 1,500ha) and the whole of Carwong State Forest (600ha). These forests are primarily proposed for protection for their exceptional importance for Koala conservation in an area where populations are in decline and in danger of extinction.
Forests are key components of the earth's water cycle. Forests do not just respond to rainfall, they actively generate their own. They recycle water from the soil back into the atmosphere by transpiration, create the updrafts that facilitate condensation as the warm air rises and cools, create pressure gradients that draw moist air in from afar, and, just to be sure, release the atmospheric particles which are the nuclei around which raindrops form.
Forests have been described as 'biotic pumps' driving regional rainfall because their high rates of transpiration return large volumes of moisture to the atmosphere and suck in moisture laden air from afar.
While most of our rain originates from evaporation of the oceans, it is estimated that 40% of the rain that falls on land comes from evaporation from the land and, most importantly, from transpiration by vegetation. Recycled water vapour becomes increasingly important for inland rainfall.
Having created and attracted the water vapour, the plants then make it rain. Plants emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as plant scents and the blue haze characteristic of eucalypt forests. They play an important role in communication between plants, and messages from plants to animals, and also between plants and moisture-laden air. They oxidise in the air to form the cloud condensation nuclei around which waterdrops form.
The transpiration of vegetation also results in evaporative cooling whereby the surface heat is transferred to the atmosphere in water vapour. The resultant clouds also help shade and cool the surface.
Forests store water in their tissues, in the soil amongst their roots and in the protected microclimate beneath their canopies, releasing it over time to the atmosphere by evapotranspiration and to streams through the groundwater system. Forests are a vital component of our hydrological cycle and due to their roles in attracting and recycling rainfall, reducing temperatures and regulating runoff they provide immense economic benefits to human societies. Their importance will become increasingly significant as climate change results in more erratic rainfalls and intense dry periods.
There is abundant scientific evidence that deforestation and degradation of vegetation causes significant reductions in rainfall by:
reducing the recycling of rainfall to the atmosphere by transpiration
reducing the drawing in of moist coastal air
reducing updrafts of moist air
reducing rooting depth and the recycling of deep soil moisture
increasing loss of water from the land by runoff
reducing the organic aerosols necessary for the condensation of rain drops.
The overwhelming evidence from around the world is that land-clearing has directly caused a significant reduction in regional rainfalls and an increase in land temperatures (See: Clearing Our Rainfall Away). These impacts have been compounded through the release of stored CO2, with land clearing contributing around a third of our CO2 emissions in the past two centuries.
Across drier areas of Australia the removal of deep rooted forests and woodlands has caused water tables to rise, allowing long-buried saline ground-waters to rise towards the surface, with the resultant dryland salinity affecting millions of hectares.
Logging has the opposite effect, with increased transpiration by the regrowth lowering water tables. The generalised pattern following logging of an oldgrowth forest is for there to be an initial increase in runoff peaking after 1 or 2 years and persisting for a few years. Water yields then begin to decline below that of the oldgrowth as the regrowth can consume 50% more water than oldgrowth. Water yields are likely to reach a minimum after 20-30 years before slowly increasing towards pre-logging levels in line with forest maturity. It can take over 150 years to restore the original water yields. (See: How Forests Regulate Streamflows)
Reductions in water yields are dependent upon the rainfall and the amount of water used by the vegetation. When rainfall is low the regrowth can consume most of the water, leaving little surplus for streams. In areas experiencing high rainfalls regrowth has been found to depress annual water yields by some 50%, though with low rainfalls there may be little water left for streams surplus to the requirements of the regrowth.
With declining rainfalls due to clearing, the increased demand for water by the regrowth can dry catchments, cause water stress and kill trees.
Allowing regrowth forests to mature results in significantly increased water yields to surrounding streams and dams. Water yields will go on increasing for many decades. The increase in water yields from maturing forests represents a significant economic benefit to all downstream users, particularly during dry periods.
Fig. 1 from Speer et. al. (2011): Map of Australia highlighting the decline in annual rainfall (mm/10 years) around Australia from, 1950–2007.
It is the bigger and older trees that provide resources in the abundance required by numerous animals. It may take a tree one or two decades before they begin to flower and set seed, which they produce in increasing abundance as they mature. Numerous species of invertebrates, many birds, and a variety of mammals feed on these flowers and seeds. As they mature their trunks and leaves also exude a variety of sweet substances used by many species. Invertebrates harbour within their rough and shedding bark where they are eagerly sought out for food. Yellow-bellied and Squirrel Gliders chew channels through their bark to tap trees for sap. As the trunks and branches thicken the trees provide more stable nesting and roosting sites, while enabling Koalas to hug them on hot days to keep cool.
Once a eucalypt tree is over 120-180 years old they may start to develop hollows in their branches and trunks. In NSW at least 46 mammals, 81 birds, 31 reptiles and 16 frogs, are reliant on tree hollows for shelter and nests. As the trees get bigger so do their hollows, and it may not be until they are over 220 years old that they develop hollows big enough for the largest species. Most eucalypts may only live for 300-500 years, though some are reputed to live for over 1,000 years (see The Importance of Old Trees).
photo: Dailan Pugh OAM
Crown of a Sydney Blue Gum (Koreelah SF) hundreds of years old showing the numerous broken branches and large hollows necessary for large-hollow dependent fauna
Natural forests may support 13–27 hollow-bearing trees per hectare, with numbers varying between species, and increasing on more productive, moister and flatter sites. On agricultural lands the numbers of hollow-bearing trees have been drastically reduced. Similarly they have been significantly reduced throughout the remnant forests by logging, prescribed burning and by culling in Timber Stand Improvement operations.
In State forests in north-east NSW logging prescriptions now require the retention of an average of 5 hollow-bearing trees per hectare within logging areas, though numbers have already been reduced below this level in many forests. Where retained, hollow-bearing trees continue to decline with each logging due to token implementation of prescriptions, poor tree selection, inadequate protection, damage during logging and in post-logging burns, and lax enforcement. (see Protecting Habitat Trees)
Natural forests are generally multi-aged, so that as existing hollow-bearing trees die and collapse there are new trees with developing hollows to replace them (see The Importance of Old Trees). To account for this, logging prescriptions require the retention of an additional 5 sound and healthy mature trees per hectare as recruitment trees to be able to develop into the hollow-bearing trees of the future. Trees meeting this definition are also high-quality sawlogs so the Forestry Corporation go to extremes to avoid their obligations to protect them. This up and coming cohort of future hollow bearing trees is rapidly declining due to natural mortality and logging, along with token implementation of prescriptions, poor tree selection, inadequate protection, damage during logging and in post-logging burns, and lax enforcement . (see Protecting Habitat Trees)
If we are to minimise the hiatus in the availability of hollows for a plethora of native species we must act now to protect, as far as possible, all large old trees, along with sufficient recruitment habit trees to replace existing hollow-bearing trees as they die and to restore hollow-bearing trees throughout native forests.
The Minister for the Environment, Mark Speakman, has let us know that the steep land logging trial proposed to be held in the upper catchment of the Nambucca, Kalang, Bellinger and Orara Rivers is now “not anticipated to be in” the new logging rules when they come out for public comment in October. He did say he “couldn’t rule something out forever” but this is great news in the short term. The local community stood up and said NO to such an extreme proposal. Had they got away with it, Forestry Corporation planned to extend steep slope cable logging across thousands of hectares of the steep upper catchment areas. It would have ruined our beautiful mountain vistas that are backdrops to our coastal towns, dried up our water catchments that supply farms and towns, destroyed habitat of our forest dependent threatened species and destroyed the opportunity for mature trees to contribute to carbon storage to mitigate against climate change. So thanks to everyone who helped out with the campaign and spreading the word. It’s a victory for common sense.
However the bad news is that we now know Forestry Corporation are planning to introduce massive clearfells, 50 hectares in size, across many of the coastal forests between Grafton and Taree and increase the intensity of logging nearly everywhere else. See our page Forest Slaughter.
NB: NEFA's research into the proposed steep slope cable logging and the reason NEFA lobbied the government to not go ahead with this proposal can be read below.
Right now, the NSW State Government is planning to begin cable logging of steep forested slopes. Areas that are hard to get to and play a vital role in holding our catchments together are now under immediate threat.
The intensity of logging in the first area to be subject to the cable logging treatment can be seen here. Each orange line is a cable site.
This will then be done across the areas outlined in red (see image below). They form an important part of the Nambucca, Bellinger, Coffs Harbour, Taylor's Arm, Kalang, Never Never and Orara River catchments.
After this no forested part of the steep land of the north coast will be safe.
Together we can stop this madness. Sign-up to volunteer.
In 1992 NEFA stopped a relatively small logging operation on extremely steep slopes at Mount Killekrankie in Oakes SF that was causing horrendous erosion, with over 88,000 tonnes of soil being mobilised into the headwaters of the Bellinger River. It was this case that proved the need for legally enforceable prescriptions for forestry and resulted in logging being prohibited on the steepest and most erodible slopes. (see The Folly of Logging on Steep Erodible Slopes)
Now that the NSW Government is becoming desperate for sawlogs to satisfy its Wood Supply Agreements it wants to over-turn the prohibition of logging on extremely steep-lands and introduce cable logging into NSW (see The Battle for Sustainable Yields is Lost).
In 2014 a NSW Government Steering Committee tasked with identifying means of making up for declining yields, proposed logging blackbutt forest on excessively steep slopes in the headwaters of the Taylors Arm, Nambucca, Kalang, Bellinger, Never Never and Orara Rivers. It was considered that with the use of cable-logging around 50,000 m3 per year of sawlogs could be obtained for around 6-7 years from slopes over 30o.
As part of their remake of the logging rules the EPA subsequently announced “FCNSW will conduct a small scale trial to determine which techniques can be used to augment ground-based methods on steep country in coastal NSW”. As well as allowing the Forestry Corporation to “trial” cable logging, the EPA intend to “reduce the prescriptive nature” of Environment Protection Licence and allow clearfelling.
While this may buy a few years of continued over-logging, there is nothing sustainable about it. For a few years worth of logging they will leave behind degraded landscapes and the community will have to bear the costs of the ongoing landslips, massive erosion, increased flooding, reduced dry-season stream flows and the pollution and siltation of their creeks and rivers. If this goes ahead it will just be the start, no forested part of the steep land of the north coast will be safe.
The North East Forest Alliance was formed in 1989 as an alliance of groups and individuals from throughout north-east NSW, with the principal aims of protecting rainforest, oldgrowth, wilderness and threatened species. NEFA has pursued these goals through forest blockades, rallies, court cases, submissions, lobbying, and protracted negotiations.
After our second blockade of North Washpool and a court case we stopped logging of mapped rainforest on public lands in 1990. We managed to get rainforest more fully mapped and protected during forest negotiations from 1995-98. (see A Short History of Reserves in North East NSW)
After a blockade and court case over Chaelundi in 1990, and promises of more to come, we forced the NSW Government to establish moratorium over some 180,000 ha of oldgrowth forest until EISs were prepared. We managed to get oldgrowth mapped during forest negotiations from 1995-98, with mapped “high conservation value” oldgrowth protected. In 2003 we had protection extended to cover all mapped oldgrowth stands over 10ha on public land. Wilderness on public land was also protected as part of that process. (see A Short History of Reserves in North East NSW)
After our second and biggest blockade at Chaelundi in 1991, and another court case, we were successful in getting NSW’s first threatened species legislation, the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Act. It took many more blockades, submissions and negotiations to get requirements for fauna and flora surveys and a comprehensive set of prescriptions for public land in 1996-9. Unfortunately they remain inadequate and poorly applied. (see The Battle to Protect Threatened Species)
It took NEFA’s 1992 blockade of a logging operation at Killekrankie in the New England Wilderness to halt horrendous logging and roadworks that were causing massive erosion, and a threatened court case, to force the Government to agree to adopt Pollution Control Licences for State Forests’ operations. Though a comprehensive suite of prescriptions to reduce erosion and protect streams wasn’t finally applied on public lands until 1996-9. Inadequate as they are, the Forestry Corporation was successful in having over 90% of their operations exempted in 2004. (see The Battle to Protect Soils and Streams)
For north east NSW, NEFA were also instrumental in getting the area of national parks and other conservation reserves increased from 968,335ha in 1989 to 2,033,227ha in 2011, an increase of 1,064,892 ha or 110%, with most of this being protected over the period 1995 to 2004. In addition to this, 311,615 ha of State Forest was incorporated into Forest Management Zones (FMZ 1, 2, and 3A) and Special Management Zones which are counted as contributing to the reserve system and protected from logging, bringing the total protected from logging to 1,376,507ha. The proportion of north-east NSW’s land area in reserves has increased from 10% in 1989 to 21% in 2011, with an additional 3% protected from logging in management zones. . (see A Short History of Reserves in North East NSW)
There is still a lot to do, north east NSW still does not have an adequate reserve system, attempts to implement ecologically sustainable forestry have failed, forests are being over-logged, weeds and dieback are being spread through our forests, and their carbon stocks depleted.