When the Forestry Corporation identified they intended to start logging Bungabbee State Forest near Lismore in north east NSW in November, NEFA decided to organise a group of flora and fauna experts to undertake a brief survey with the primary aims of identify localities of threatened species and priority habitat areas for protection.. Our brief visit revealed the additional presence of the Vulnerable Long-nosed Potoroo and Marbled Frogmouth, as well as the Critically Endangered Native Guava. We identified records for 173 threatened plants.
The finding of a large unknown outlying population of the regionally endemic Marbled Frogmouth is exciting. This is one of only a handful of species that the Forestry Corporation is still required to look for ahead of logging and protect additional habitat for, in this case wider stream buffers. Though as their model did not predict its occurrence in Bungabbee, they didn't have to look there. Luckily we did.
It was particularly disturbing to find significant populations of the Critically Endangered Scrub Turpentine and Native Guava. The very survival of these species is in doubt because of the introduced fungus Myrtle Rust. There is something fundamentally wrong when we allow logging amongst species teetering on the brink of extinction, with low prospects of regeneration, rather than doing all we can to save them.
Our results clearly demonstrate the need for pre-logging assessments to identify those parts of forests most in need of permanent protection, rather than allowing the Forestry Corporation to pick those areas with the lowest timber values. Most importantly they prove that Bungabee State Forest is of exceptional importance and should be added to the reserve system.
On 15 September NEFA undertook a supplementary survey to better assess the extent of an important Koala fire refugia previously identified in an area of Myrtle State Forest proposed for imminent logging. The area was burnt in the 2019 fires, killing most Koalas, though some survived.
Citizen scientists identified a further 564 Koala scats under 21 trees, with distinctive Koala scratches on an additional tree. Increasing the identified area where Koalas survived the devastating fires to 14 ha, and making it obvious that this refugia is more extensive.
This survey reinforces the need for a comprehensive survey with scat detection dogs to identify the full extent of this and other Koala refuges in the forest before logging commences.
The Banyabba Koala population has been decimated by the Busbys Flat and Myall Creek fires. All remaining areas of Koala occupancy must be protected, along with suitable habitat to allow them to expand back into as they recover from the fires and can repopulate previously occupied habitat.
Read the full supplementary survey report by clicking this link or copy url: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/ncec/pages/1371/attachments/original/1600224472/Myrtle_Koala_High_Use_Area_Supp1..pdf?1600224472
The identification of Koala refugia in Myrtle State Forest
NEFA undertook a brief and quick survey on 3 September over some 7 hectares of burnt forest in Myrtle State Forest, adjacent to where we had previously identified 2 trees with Koala scats. This identified 1,118 Koala scats under an additional 18 trees, with 517 scats under one tree, in an area where the Forestry Corporation have never identified Koalas.
This constitutes part of an important Koala refugia where Koalas have survived the fires.
Logging is imminent. These findings demonstrate the need for a comprehensive survey to identify all remaining Koala refugia for protection before logging starts.
Photo: Dailan Pugh, OAM
517 Koala scats were counted under a Grey Box, displaying frequent use of this single tree.
Or copy this url: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/ncec/pages/1367/attachments/original/1599207152/Koala_refugia_in_Myrtle_State_Forest.pdf?1599207152
Brief Audit of Wild Cattle Creek
Dailan Pugh, North East Forest Alliance, July 2020
On the afternoon of 28 July 2020 NEFA undertook a brief audit of Compartments 32, 33 and 34 of Wild Cattle Creek State Forest near Cascade on the Dorrigo plateau to assess compliance with the new Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (CIFOA) logging prescriptions.
The EPA had found significant logging breaches on 9 July and imposed a Stop Work Order on 18 July, allowing illegal logging to continue for 9 days.
The legal breaches we found from a brief inspection of a small part of the logging area were:
2 'giant trees' felled
4 giant 'hollow-bearing trees' damaged by machinery and tree felling
6 marked small tallowwood Koala Feed Trees significantly damaged
These show that breaches are more widespread and significant than identified by the EPA.
These forests contain significant numbers of massive Sydney Blue Gums and Tallowwoods hundreds of years old, making them of exceptional importance for the many fauna species dependent upon large hollows for denning and nesting. These species are also key Koala feed trees, with the logging areas identified as high quality Koala habitat, partially within and adjacent to the largest Koala Hub (resident population) identified on the Dorrigo Plateau.
The 2019-2020 wildfires burn out 2.4 million hectares of north-east NSW (north from the Hunter River), burning through around half the remnant native vegetation. These fires were unusually extensive and intensive because of record low rainfalls and extreme temperatures. The Spotted Gum forests of the Richmond River Lowlands, and the Koalas that inhabit them, were amongst the worst affected in north-east NSW.
NEFA have focussed our post-fire monitoring on 7,000 hectares of State forests south of Casino we had identified as core Koala habitat before the fires and are proposing as the Sandy Creek Koala Park. It has been devastating to watch as 90%of Koalas have been lost from these firegrounds while the Government did nothing to help the survivors.
This is part of the Banyabba Koala population, covering lowland forests from the Richmond Range through to Iluka on the coast, and from Lawrence on the Clarence River north to Mongogarie, south of Casino. Across this area 70,000 hectares has been identified as 'highly suitable koala habitat ... likely to be occupied by koalas' by the Government.
These forests have been burning since August, culminating in the Busbys Flat fire and then the Myall Creek fire, burning through 60,000 ha (84%) of this 'highly suitable koala habitat'.
Within this area there are core source areas, with breeding colonies of Koalas that are vital for maintaining the viability of the population. NEFA have identified these in parts of Royal Camp, Carwong and Braemar State Forests, another has been identified near Ashby.
You can read the very sad outcomes of this work in the report: The Demise of Banyabba Koalas
The latest Koala survey revealed a Koala! and more high use koala trees, bringing the total now to 67. This assessment both confirms the outstanding significance of Braemar and the likelihood that over 100ha (>54%) of the 185ha 'Potential Net Harvesting Area' are likely to qualify as Koala High Use Areas under the previous IFOA rules and thus would have had logging excluded.
You can read the full report here- Braemar Supplementary Audit 3
Ongoing citizen science works at Braemar shows that the Koala population there is one of the most significant identified in a State Forest.
Our surveys have so far identified 134 trees with Koala scats beneath them, including 53 high use trees. Until recently the requirement was to undertake intensive surveys within 100m of high use
trees to delineate high use areas to exclude from logging. We have identified 56ha of potential Koala High Use Areas and expect over 100ha to be present. This is the most extensive area found on State Forests.
Braemar encompasses core breeding habitat that is part of the nationally significant Koala population previously identified across the nearby Carwong and Royal Camp State Forests. The logging area is likely to support 60-90 Koalas, which represents an important source area for this population.
You can read the latest report on the surveys here.
Trees formerly marked for retention have been re-marked as available for logging. Under this one a large number of koala scats were found. Another tree that had been re-marked had scats from a mother and baby koala.
To read the Supplementary Audit report click here.
On 28 July NEFA located part of a nationally significant Koala population in part of Braemar State Forest scheduled for logging this month. It is part of a larger population that NEFA had previously identified in Royal Camp and Carwong State Forests in 2012 and 2013, which, at the then Environment Minister's request, had been verified by the EPA as being of national significance.
NEFA identified part of an extensive Koala High Use Area (HUA) marked-up for logging. The harvesting plan, and marking-up, showed it was going to be logged under the old IFOA logging rules which required the identification and protection of Koala HUAs. Our appeal to Premier Gladys Berejiklian to intervene to protect Braemar's Koalas was in vain.
Far from identifying and protecting Koala HUAs the Government now intends to log it under Premier Berejiklian's new Coastal IFOA logging rules, which remove the protection for Koala HUAs and require that nothing specifically be done to mitigate impacts on Koalas in this area.
NEFA returned on 8 August to further assess the distribution of Koalas in the proposed logging area, identifying that the Koala HUA likely extends over 24 hectares, that other Koala HUAs are likely to be present, and that outside Koala HUAs Koalas are widespread but limited by the low numbers and diversity of feed trees due to previous logging.
It is not acceptable for the Forestry Corporation to be allowed to rampage through a nationally significant Koala population. As his predecessor did, the Environment Minister Matt Kean must intervene to ensure Braemar's Koalas are fully assessed and adequately protected.
To read the Supplementary Audit report click here.