A realistic method for identifying occupied Koala habitat

NEFA engaged Biolink to undertake rapid assessments for Koalas in seven areas of State forests proposed for logging. The ‘Rapid-SAT’ methodology involves searching for Koala scats around the bases of patches of 5–7 Preferred Koala Food Trees (PKFTs - certain species ≥ 30 cm Diameter at Breast Height) to determine whether Koalas are using them. This is repeated for the next patch found >500m along the road.

This resulted in the identification of patches of occupied habitat in all areas, with the extent of occupancy estimated to vary from less than 10% to 67% of the otherwise available habitat. High occupancy was identified for Braemar, Myrtle and part of Bulga State Forests.

Biolink make recommendations for supplementary surveys, considering “The next step in effective management is to identify areas of habitat that are supporting resident koala population cells in those areas where koala ‘presence’ has been established”.

Biolink recommended that in the absence of more systematic survey effort that the occupied habitat patches identified “become the centre of a 2 km x 2 km (400-ha) grid cell, within which the harvesting of PKFTs > 300 mm DBH should not be permitted, accompanied by no more than a 30% reduction in the Compartment level basal stem area of PKFTs < 30 cm DBH > 20 cm DBH”.

Biolink report for NEFA

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Stop Work Requested for Styx River State Forest

On 2 December NEFA wrote to the EPA requesting a Stop Work Order on Styx River State Forest along with a report that identified 24 sight records of Greater Glider, including 3 den trees, and 3 of Yellow-bellied Glider. Styx River is known to be a stronghold of Greater Gliders, though the records of Yellow-bellied Glider are new and indicate this may be an isolated population. The Forestry Corporation have been actively logging there for months, and the EPA regularly visiting since September, yet there is not a single record of either species made by them in Bionet because in contravention of the logging rules they are not bothering to look for these species or their den trees. Within the current logging area the report identifies a “1 km transect along Simmos fire Road yielded 11 Greater Gliders, one Yellow-bellied Glider and one Greater Glider den tree in approximately 45 minutes”. 

See Styx River SF  - assessment of threatened glider species - interim report for NEFA

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Stop Work requested for Moonpar State Forest

With logging started in compartment 13 of Moonpar State Forest (within the proposed Great Koala National Park), on 20 November 2023 NEFA wrote to the EPA CEO Tony Chappel complaining that the Forestry Corporation have made no attempt to identify the den, roost and nest trees of Yellow-bellied Glider, Southern Greater Glider and Powerful Owl, and implement 50m logging exclusions around them, as required by the CIFOA logging Rules. These can only be identified by nocturnal searches and Forestry Corporation only undertake their broad area habitat searches during the day and thus have no chance of detecting these.

Bionet shows no records of these species made by the Forestry Corporation in cmpt. 13 since 2018, meaning they haven't bothered to look. NEFA commissioned Ms Townley to undertake a brief assessment, she made eight observational records of Southern Greater Glider and heard three calls of Yellow-bellied Glider and a Powerful Owl. One pair and one single Southern Greater Glider were recorded in what were assumed to be their den trees.The EPA recently stopped logging in Flat Rock and Tallaganda State Forests on the South Coast because the Forestry Corporation had failed to search for and protect glider den trees, we expect the same here.

The EPA refused to stop work, instead replying that the "NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) officers closely monitor forestry operations within the Moonpar State Forest to ensure compliance with the forestry laws", while refusing to tell us what they are doing or whether they found any den trees. This was our response.

See Moonpar State Forest Assessment

Southern Greater Glider

Southern Greater Gliders

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New Survey in Newry State Forest reveals threatened species

NEFA commissioned surveys for threatened species in Newry State Forest, before it was closed and logging began. The report by Bower Bush Works ‘Nature Conservation Values Compartments 21, 22, 26, 27 & 28 Newry State Forest’ provides the results from their brief survey. Within the logging area Bower Bush Works identified five threatened plant species from 40 locations, a Southern Greater Glider den tree, Koala scratches on numerous trees, and significant patches of high quality habitat for the nationally threatened Glossy Black Cockatoo, Koala and Greater Glider. Some of their records require immediate protection, so we have written to the Forestry Corporation asking they do so.

A complementary survey by Biolink of Koalas in a number of forests (which is not yet finalised), recorded an active Koala site in Newry, commenting “the single independently active site we recorded is most significant when considered in the context of recent records from the same localised area over the last 3 – 4 years. Collectively, these data point to the presence of what is likely to be a small and quite localised resident population of koalas surviving in this area”. This site is within a Koala Hub identified by the Government for protection in 2017 as a Koala Hub. We have been writing the NSW Environment Minister since the 3 April asking for her to protect it - but it is intended to shortly log it.

Measuring a giant tree in Newry

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Braemar State Forest Assessment_2023

With logging imminent, NEFA undertook a brief assessment of proposed logging in compartments 6 and 7 of Braemar State Forest. This is an area that we found exceptional densities of Koalas in before the 2019 wildfires, and managed to hold the loggers off. We found that koalas are slowly recovering from the devastation of the 2019 wildfires, while they are again widespread their numbers are still low. With the Forestry Corporation intending to log over 77-87% of potential Koala feed trees (>30 cm diameter) this could be their death blow. We also found that numerous nationally Vulnerable Slaty Red Gum had been killed in the fires, with good regeneration. While the Forestry Corporation found just 6 Slaty Red Gum in over 13 km of transects we found 125 in a brief assessment - again bringing into question their expertise. We also recorded a Barking Owl and Masked Owl. The report outlines the results of our previous assessments, reviews aspects of their logging plan, and presents our findings.

Nearby heavily burnt stand of Slaty Red Gum used as an 'Offset Exclusion Zone' to compensate for the logging in compartments 6 and 7.

See our report Results of Braemar State Forest Assessment

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Protecting Fire and Climate Refuges in Doubleduke

In February 2023 NEFA reviewed the current logging in Doubleduke State Forest, west of Evans Head, and was alarmed that a patch of unburnt and lightly burnt mature and oldgrowth forest identified for protection by the EPA in 2020 as a fire refuge had its protection removed, had been roaded and was about to be logged. NEFA sent a report to the EPA Chief Executive Officer Tony Chappel and asked him to immediately reinstate protection for this vital fire and climate refugia in the Lower Slopes Road valley in Doubleduke State Forest.

See Protecting Fire and Climate Refuges in Doubleduke

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The plantation debacle

NEFA is calling on the NSW Government to stop the Forestry Corporation clearfelling 68 ha of some of the best known koala habitat in NSW and converting it into a plantation in compartments 61, 62 and 63 of Wild Cattle Creek State Forest.

They are in the process of clearfelling 68ha of identified high quality Koala habitat, of which 16ha is part of a Koala Hub identified by the Office of Environment and Heritage in 2017 as "highly significant local scale areas of koala occupancy currently known for protection".

Up until 2020 this was classed as native forest, but three years after the Koala Hub was identified, two years after being busted for logging protected Koala habitat in an adjacent operation, and a few months after the 2019 wildfires devastated Koala populations in the area, the Forestry Corporation had this Koala habitat reclassed as a plantation based on a spurious claim that in the 1960s someone scattered some seed around.

Scattering seed around after logging was a common practice 50 years ago, but scattered Blackbutt seed in a natural Blackbutt forest doesn’t make it a plantation.

Now they can legally clearfell it, and sell the timber as plantation timber.

See The Plantation Debacle

Conversion of native forest to plantation in WCC

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Brief Inspection of Compartment 44 Wild Cattle Creek SF

In just 3 hours in July 2022, in compartment 44 of Wild Cattle Creek State Forest, NEFA found 7 trees marked for retention as Koala Feed Trees and 13 old trees marked for protection as Hollow-bearing Trees that had been bashed by machinery or had trees dropped upon them, many of which won’t survive. This is indicative of the widespread breaches that occurred.

The trees that were recklessly damaged are some of the few trees that legally required protection in what has been identified as one of 567 priority areas across the whole of NSW for protection as a highly significant area of koala occupancy.

This is not an isolated case, the Forestry Corporation were fined $285,600 in June for logging into a Koala High Use Area, rainforest and a rainforest buffer 4 km to the west, and last month the EPA announced they are prosecuting the Forestry Corporation for logging six Giant Trees and seven Hollow-bearing Trees 5 km to the south.

All this illegal logging is occurring in what is some of the best Koala habitat in Australia, proposed as part of the Great Koala National Park.

The audit is a available here.

Trees retained as Hollow-bearing Trees, and also as Koala feed trees, recklessly damaged during logging.

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Cherry Tree SF Core Koala Habitat

Cherry Tree State Forest is Core Koala Habitat

There is no doubt that Koalas are widespread in compartments 3 and 4 of Cherry Tree
State Forest, and have been for at least the past 23 years, and it appears they are
using most suitable feed trees. The forest in the logging area is dominated by Koala
use tree species, and thus is highly suitable Koala habitat.

Read the full NEFA Report into the Koalas at Cherry Tree State Forest.

These fresh little koala scats (poos) are proof there are koalas currently using the forest. (Photo Dailan Pugh)

koala scats

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Join the community forest protectors taking action for our public native forests in Cherry Tree State Forest

Forest protectors standing up for Cherry Tree State Forest

(adjoining Mallanganee National Park on the Richmond Range, west of Casino)

Stand Up 4 Cherry Tree LOGO


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