Rainforest vandals must be brought to justice

MEDIA RELEASE 8 March 2021

The North East Forest Alliance has described the Forestry Corporation’s widening of a track through rainforest around a Hoop Pine plantation west of Urbenville (in the upper Clarence River valley) that resulted in the clearing and damage to 5-6 hectares of world heritage quality rainforest, mostly in the Tooloom National Park, as a callous and indiscriminate act of vandalism.

The Forestry Corporation’s bulldozing of whole trees out of the ground into the rainforest was reckless and indiscriminate vandalism, it caused immense damage to rainforest assessed as being of world heritage value in a national park, those responsible must be held to account and the rainforest rehabilitated, said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.

“The track widening involved the indiscriminate bulldozing of hundreds of whole trees (up to 70 cm diameter) out of the ground, with crowns being pushed over 33m into the surrounding rainforest, in the process pushing loose soil into the rainforest and damaging standing trees up to 2.5 metres diameter, killing many of them. 

“Given that over 4 ha of this damage occurred in the Tooloom National Park, it is astounding that the Forestry Corporation could be so reckless with such priceless rainforest on land they don’t manage.

“It appears the works were undertaken during fires in the area in late 2019, raising questions as to whether the Incident Controller approved the Forestry Corporation to clear rainforests in a National Park or whether the Forestry Corporation was taking advantage of the confusion to undertake works they would never otherwise get away with doing. Either way it was an outrageous act.

“Opening up the canopy and creating masses of debris actually increased the fire risk.

“NEFA has asked the Environment Minister, Matt Kean, to ensure the incident is fully investigated, with appropriate and effective regulatory action taken to match the seriousness of this crime and stop it happening again, and for the Forestry Corporation to be made to rehabilitate the area”, Mr. Pugh said.

NEFA’s audit is available at https://www.nefa.org.au/audits

The assessment was undertaken by Dailan Pugh and botanist Andrew Murray as a result of complaints raised by Dr Robert Kooyman.

Dr Robert Kooyman stated:

“The clearing of high conservation value complex subtropical rainforest in a misdirected effort to protect plantation Hoop Pine from the 2019 fires in the Tooloom area highlights a remarkable level of ecological ignorance, and sadly, has led to an act of environmental vandalism. These rainforests protect essential ecological processes, a rich biological diversity of plants and animals, and include ancient lineages and threatened species. These forests have global conservation and natural heritage significance, and directly adjoin rainforest areas that are defined and listed as World Heritage (UNESCO). We need to do better and do more to protect these spectacular forest areas”.

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