Damning internal Forestry Corporation documents reveal
10 years of illegal clearing across 75,000 hectares
of north coast public native forests –
much of it would have been prime koala habitat
Damning internal Forestry Corporation documents obtained through a freedom of information request reveal that the State run Forestry Corporation NSW (FC) has conducted “unauthorised” clearing and intensive logging across 74,906 hectares of public native forests between Coffs Harbour and Taree since 2006. For full analysis see Clearing our Koalas Away .
“For over 10 years they have blatantly contravened the logging rules which were designed to maintain a natural multi-age forest structure. The Forestry Corporation have been clearing public native forest and converting it to quasi-plantation. What is meant to be multi aged forests, with diverse understories, providing habitat for a plethora of native animals, is being converted into younger and younger regrowth where the understory is bulldozed bare. Many animals, including the Koala, need the resources provided by older trees to survive”, said Ms Susie Russell of the North Coast Environment Council.
“The type of logging they are allowed to do is called “Single Tree Selection” where no more than 4 out of every 10 trees are allowed to be selected for logging. Instead they are taking 8 or 9 trees out of every 10 and claiming it's not clearfelling because a few scattered trees remain in a bulldozed landscape.
“We knew the intensive logging was out of control, but when we saw the maps and the extent to which ithad been carried out we were shocked.
“This is vandalism of a public asset on a scale that is breath-taking. These forests will take centuries to recover their natural structure and function.
“What is even more scandalous, is that about 1 in every 3 hectares of forest that has been cleared was high quality koala habitat, according to the mapping recently released by the Environment Protection Authority, Ms Russell said.
“Forestry Corporation are required to search all areas for koalas before logging but you know something is wrong when out of the 4,700 hectares of mapped high quality Koala habitat currently being logged in north east NSW public forests only 2 Koala High Use Areas, totalling 1.2 ha are protected. And that’s only temporary protection until the next logging operation”, said Lyn Orrego of the North East Forest Alliance.
“Now we can see why koala numbers have declined by 50% on the north coast in the last 15-20 years (1). Koalas have evolved with eucalypt forests and if they’re cleared the koalas, being territorial, are also cleared away. The likelihood of the north coast's wild koala populations surviving into the future is much diminished as the forests they depend on are being destroyed daily. And this with government support,” Ms Orrego said.
Cabinet documents obtained by the NCEC, show that the NSW Government is planning to enshrine and legalise this forest clearing in new rules and logging contracts.
“Neither the EPA nor Forestry Corporation have done any rigorous scientific assessment of the impacts of the last 20 years of logging on NSW public native forests and the animals and plants that depend on them. Yet the evidence from pre-logging surveys is that Koala populations have dramatically declined as logging has intensified over the past 20 years. Zoning most of the highest quality koala habitat that’s left, for conversion to 'quasi plantations'* is outrageous,” NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said.
“Scientists are warning that clearing of this nature is likely to be having a devastating effect and is pushing more plants and animals towards extinction.(2) Our plummeting Koala populations are testimony to the folly of this forest degradation.
“We have made 3 successive NSW State Environment Ministers aware that Forestry Corporation’s activities have been unlawful. Ministers Stokes, Speakman and now Minister Upton cannot claim ignorance.
“It's time for the Premier Berejiklian to step inand stop this illegal logging immediately. We have to urgently save all remaining coastal Koala habitat from conversion to quasi-plantations.
“We are also calling on the Premier tohold an Inquiry into this latest, and most blatant, example of the Forestry Corporation’s continuing disobedience in respect of environmental laws and the Environment Protection Authority's unwillingness to make the Forestry Corporation comply with the logging rules. The EPA have turned a blind eye to forest destruction theyhave admitted to us is 'unauthorised', and “outside” the logging rules.(3)
“Now the Ministers for Environment and Forestry are firming up plans, behind closed doors, to reward the Forestry Corporation for 10 years of illegal logging by changing the law to make this destructive clearing legal. They must be stopped and it's only the Premier who can stop them" Mr. Pugh said.
Also released by Forestry Corporation : a photo of Broken Bago State Forest after intensive logging.
* 'quasi-plantations' is how EPA chief Barry Buffier described this silvicultural outcome during his visit to the north coast earlier this year
Also released by Forestry Corporation: photo of Broken Bago State forest after intensive logging
(2) Brief report on a field inspection to demonstrate proposed changes to IFOA prescriptions designed to protect threatened species and their habitats during forestry operations, Compartment 10, Queens Lake State Forest, 30 June 2015 David Milledge July 2015
(3) Letter from Gary Whytcross Director South and Forestry Environmental Protection Authority on behalf of Minister for the Environment, the Hon Mark Speakman SC MP to Ms Orrego of Nambucca Valley Conservation Association May 5 2016