Minister must stop illegal clearfelling

Conservationists are calling on the Minster for the Environment, Mr Mark Speakman, to enforce the state’s logging rules and direct the NSW Forestry Corporation (FCNSW) to cease their unacceptable and illegal practice of clearfelling in the public native forests across the NSW north coast.

“The FCNSW is clearfelling huge swathes across north coast public native forests and has been doing so since 2009, in a clear breach of the conditions of the logging approval called the Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (IFOA). FCNSW misleadingly call these large clearfelled areas – some over 100 hectares in size – “Single Tree Selection” (STS).” said North East Forest Alliance spokesperson Lyn Orrego.

“The Minister has now acknowledged, through a letter written by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) on his behalf, that this type of harvesting “practiced by the FCNSW, is not consistent with the definition and intent of STS (Single Tree Selection) in the Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (IFOA) as well as FCNSW’s own silvicultural guidelines.” (1) So we have an acknowledgement from the regulator that FCNSW is operating outside their approval conditions yet the Minister will do nothing about it,” she said.

“The so-called solution put forward in the EPA letter is to wait for the new IFOA the State Government is planning to put on public display at some time in the future. We know the government’s intent is to authorise the clearfelling (with just a few trees to be retained) across 140,000 hectares of public forests between Grafton and Taree and to increase logging intensity elsewhere. This just rewards FCNSW for their illegal logging practice and is an unacceptable “solution””, she said.

“This is yet another appalling example of the Baird government’s failure to regulate logging operations, but on a scale that dwarfs all other examples,” said North Coast Environment Council’s Ms Susie Russell.

“NEFA has been complaining to a succession of  Environment Ministers for the past 7 years about the intensification of logging and asking them to intervene because they have the legal responsibility to enforce the requirements of the IFOA. It is shameful that they have done nothing to stop this,” she said.

“The impact of clearfelling on our forest dependent threatened species such as the koala is disastrous. The number of koalas on the east coast of Australia declined by more than 40 per cent in the 20 years between 1990 and 2010. (2) The Greater Glider, considered common when the Approvals were issued has now been listed as threatened with extinction. Logging is the main threat it faces. Other impacts of clearfelling include soil losses, water pollution and the lost opportunity to store carbon by not keeping the public forest estate in a more mature growth stage as it used to be,” said Ms Russell.

Ecologist, David Milledge of Landmark Ecological Services, agrees saying, “Clearfelling has a substantial adverse effect on biodiversity, reducing forest structure and floristics and severely disadvantaging forest-dependent vertebrate species requiring tree hollows for nesting and denning, and nectar, pollen and exudates for food.  This is evidenced by the high proportion of such species listed as threatened under the Threatened Species Conservation (TSC) Act 1995.  It is diametrically opposed to Ecological Sustainable Development.”(3a)

He states the practice “is likely to lead to breakdowns in ecosystem functioning and an attendant exacerbation of Key Threatening Processes (TSC Act 1995) including the Invasion, Establishment and Spread of Lantana and Bell Miner Associated Dieback.”(3b)

“As the current intensive practice of broadscale clearfelling continues to destroy our public native forests the NSW public is footing the bill by subsidising the logging to the tune of $79m over the last 7 years.” said Ms Russell.

“People only have to look on Google Earth and click on the history button to see that the State Forests across the north coast of NSW are being hammered as they never have been before. It's vandalism pure and simple,” she said.

“This is why the North East Forest Alliance is campaigning for a transition out of logging of our public native forests. They need to be left to grow old and managed for public benefit, which includes increasing water supply and supporting the unique animals and plants that depend on them,” said Ms Russell.

“Now that the EPA, writing on the Minister’s behalf, has admitted that the clearfelling is "not consistent with” the IFOA the Minister has no excuse to allow such intensive logging to continue. He must order this illegal logging to stop now as it contravenes the law and the promise of Ecologically Sustainable Forest Management (ESFM) which the IFOA was written to deliver,” Ms Russell said.

Broadscale clearfell in Kerewong State Forest, near Kendall, carried out under label of “Single Tree Selection” by NSW Forestry Corporation in contravention of the logging rules (IFOA) and their own silvicultural guidelines. (Can you see the person?)Photo: Lyn Orrego March 6, 2016


(1) 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

(2) Koala populations in NSW and Queensland fell 42% from 326,400 to 188,000 (a loss of 138,400 individuals) in the 20 years from 1990 to 2010. On current trends, koalas will be extinct in the wild in NSW by 2030. Habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation, predation (dogs and vehicle strike), disease, drought, climate change, and inbreeding are keys threats.

(3a) Personal Communication David Milledge May 2016

(3b)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


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