The North East Forest Alliance was formed in 1989 as an alliance of groups and individuals from throughout north-east NSW, with the principal aims of protecting rainforest, oldgrowth, wilderness and threatened species. NEFA has pursued these goals through forest blockades, rallies, court cases, submissions, lobbying, and protracted negotiations. Read the history of our first blockade at North Washpool in 1989.
After our second blockade of North Washpool and a court case we stopped logging of mapped rainforest on public lands in 1990. We managed to get rainforest more fully mapped and protected during forest negotiations from 1995-98. (see A Short History of Reserves in North East NSW)
After a blockade and court case over Chaelundi in 1990, and promises of more to come, we forced the NSW Government to establish moratoria over some 180,000 ha of oldgrowth forest until EISs were prepared. We managed to get oldgrowth mapped during forest negotiations from 1995-98, with mapped “high conservation value” oldgrowth protected. In 2003 we had protection extended to cover all mapped oldgrowth stands over 10ha on public land. Wilderness on public land was also protected as part of that process. (see A Short History of Reserves in North East NSW)
After our second and biggest blockade at Chaelundi in 1991, and another court case, we were successful in getting NSW’s first threatened species legislation, the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Act. It took many more blockades, submissions and negotiations to get requirements for fauna and flora surveys and a comprehensive set of prescriptions for public land in 1996-9. Unfortunately they remain inadequate and poorly applied. (see The Battle to Protect Threatened Species)
It took NEFA’s 1992 blockade of a logging operation at Killekrankie in the New England Wilderness to halt horrendous logging and roadworks that were causing massive erosion, and a threatened court case, to force the Government to agree to adopt Pollution Control Licences for State Forests’ operations. Though a comprehensive suite of prescriptions to reduce erosion and protect streams wasn’t finally applied on public lands until 1996-9. Inadequate as they are, the Forestry Corporation was successful in having over 90% of their operations exempted in 2004. (see The Battle to Protect Soils and Streams)
For north east NSW, NEFA were also instrumental in getting the area of national parks and other conservation reserves increased from 968,335ha in 1989 to 2,033,227ha in 2011, an increase of 1,064,892 ha or 110%, with most of this being protected over the period 1995 to 2004. In addition to this, 311,615 ha of State Forest was incorporated into Forest Management Zones (FMZ 1, 2, and 3A) and Special Management Zones which are counted as contributing to the reserve system and protected from logging, bringing the total protected from logging to 1,376,507ha. The proportion of north-east NSW’s land area in reserves has increased from 10% in 1989 to 21% in 2011, with an additional 3% protected from logging in management zones. (see A Short History of Reserves in North East NSW)
There is still a lot to do, north east NSW still does not have an adequate reserve system, attempts to implement ecologically sustainable forestry have failed, forests are being over-logged, weeds and dieback are being spread through our forests, and their carbon stocks depleted.
AFTER 30 YEARS NEFA NEEDED MORE THAN EVER
MEDIA RELEASE 6/6/2019
On 5th June the North East Forest Alliance celebrated 30 years since its inaugural meeting at the Big Scrub Environment Centre in Lismore on World Environment Day in 1989.
"Over 30 years NEFA has made significant progress in its aims to protect oldgrowth, rainforest, wilderness and threatened species, unfortunately these wins are beginning to be wound back at a time when the necessity of protecting forests to avoid climate heating is more important than ever" NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said.Read more
Following the finding of yet more widespread and ongoing breaches of logging laws, the North East Forest Alliance is calling on the Baird Government to restore the rights of the public to take the Forestry Corporation to court to enforce environmental laws,
"If the Baird Government refuses to enforce the logging rules, then let us do it" said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.
"For years we have been finding the same sorts of logging offences, time after time after time. The Forestry Corporation are being allowed to flout environmental laws with impunity. The Environmental Protection Authority's (EPAs) lax regulation is clearly not working".
It took a freedom of information request, by the North Coast Environment Council, but the Environment Protection Authority have finally released the membership of the Threatened Species Expert Panel advising on the re-writing of the logging rules for public forests.
The documents show that far from being independent experts they are Government employees, dominated by current and former employees of Forestry Corp.Read more
The North East Forest Alliance has condemned commitments by the Liberal-National Coalition today to repeal the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 and the Native Vegetation Act 2003.
“The proposed changes would be an environmental disaster and setback conservation in NSW 25 years,” said NEFA spokesperson, Dailan Pugh.
NEFA makes submissions to the NSW Government on a wide range of issues affecting our forests. These detailed submissions can be found using the hyperlinks to the relevant topics below.
North East Forest Alliance Submission to NSW Bushfire Inquiry
Prepared by Dailan Pugh, April 2020
Due to climate heating bushfires are becoming more frequent and intense. As evidenced in 2019-20, droughts and heatwaves are drying forests out and making them more flammable. The fires were of unprecedented extent burning through 2.4 million hectares of north-east NSW with unprecedented intensity, as evidenced by the burning of 35% of rainforests. The fires likely killed in the order of 350 million vertebrates, leaving many species teetering on the brink of extinction. The situation is dire and urgent action is needed to stop further climatic deterioration and increase the resilience of forests.
To redress the unfolding calamity we need to move towards net zero emissions of CO2 as soon as possible, though we cannot limit climate heating to less than 1.5o or 2o C unless our forests remove excess carbon from the atmosphere and store it in their wood and soils. Clearing of native vegetation must cease, right now. Stoping logging of public native forests is a logical next step as the regenerating forests will store ever increasing volumes of carbon as they age and fulfil the essential role of immediately reducing atmospheric carbon - stoping logging of north-east NSW's State Forests will sequester 6.5% of NSW's annual emissions. By 2050 we need to have undertaken extensive regeneration and reforestation to draw down more atmospheric carbon. Huge gains can be made by rewarding landholders for the volumes of carbon they store in soils and trees.
We need our forests more than ever, not just because of their intrinsic worth and beauty, but for the ecosystem services they provide us, such as generating rainfall, cooling the land, calming winds, regulating streamflows, and capturing and storing the carbon we emit. With forests increasingly stressed by droughts and fires they are losing their ability to mop up our excess carbon - there is no time to waste if we want to avoid the worst of the climate catastrophe.
North East Forest Alliance Submission to Private Native Forestry Review
Prepared by Dailan Pugh, January 2019
It is evident that Private Native Forestry has never been undertaken on an Ecologically Sustainable basis because of political interventions, lack of political will, opposition from some landholders, failure to adopt best practices, refusal to adopt science-based prescriptions and consider relevant environmental research, refusal to require pre-logging surveys and apply mitigation measures for threatened species, inadequate retention and recruitment of old trees, failure to undertake assessments to identify ecosystems and features requiring protection, inadequate protection of streams and riparian buffers, failure to take into account forest degradation and require rehabilitation, failure to monitor the effectiveness of prescriptions and apply adaptive management, failure to undertake effective regulation, secrecy surrounding PNF operations, and contempt for genuine community concerns.
You can visit the LLS Government site here: https://www.lls.nsw.gov.au/sustainable-land-management/pnforestry/private-native-forestry-review-2018
See also the report immediately below which formed the basis of a submission to a Commonwealth Senate Inquiry into Threatened Species.
Compliance of Forestry Operations in North East New South Wales with Commonwealth Requirements for Threatened Species and Ecosystems September 2018
This report reviews the protection applied both in theory and practice to nationally threatened species and ecological communities in forestry operations in the North East NSW Regional Forest Agreement (NE RFA) area.
North East Forest Alliance submission to:
Photo: Dailan Pugh giving evidence to the Inquiry into the EPA's regulation of forestry practices at Royal Camp State Forest
North East Forest Alliance Submission to the Federal Inquiry into: The effectiveness of threatened species and ecological communities' protection in Australia, Prepared by Dailan Pugh for NEFA, December 2012
Sandy Creek National Park Proposal
Allocations of Public Resources for Logging
There are 918,145 ha of State forests in north east NSW (Lower and Upper North East RFA regions). A total of 306.472ha (33%) of these forests are zoned for protection in Forest Management Zones (1, 2, 3A) which prohibit logging. Some 40,338ha is claimed to be hardwood plantations and 37,048ha is pine plantations.
These forests belong to the people of NSW and are managed by the Forestry Corporation of NSW (AKA Forestry Commission, State Forests and Forests NSW). In the 1970’s the intent was to cut over the forests of the coastal plain and dramatically reduce logging until the regrowth matured in 2020-2040, keeping up sawlog supplies by one-off unsustainable logging of oldgrowth forest in steeper country and on the tablelands until pine plantations matured in 2010.
In the 1980’s the coastal forests began to be over-logged to maintain revenue and pacify sawmillers, while community alarm at the depletion of oldgrowth forests initiated campaigns to stop the liquidation logging of oldgrowth. The 1990’s saw a greater emphasis on reducing logging to a sustainable level while creating an adequate reserve system encompassing most oldgrowth forest and wilderness. The reserve system was doubled and most oldgrowth and wilderness protected on public lands.
In the 2000’s the State and Commonwealth Governments ignored evidence that yields were over-estimated and issued Wood Supply Agreements to millers for free at intentionally unsustainable levels. Since then NSW taxpayers have spent tens of millions of dollars helping mills modernise, paying compensation to millers for inability to supply, buying back commitments from millers for timber that never existed, buying timber from private land to meet commitments, and establishing plantations. Despite this sawlogs from public native forests continued to decline and the predictions were that the 2020’s will see massive reductions. (see The Battle for Sustainable Yields is Lost).
In 2014 the yield predictions for the next 100 years were inexplicably doubled. Previously predicted dramatic declines in yields in 2023 and again in 2065 were converted into increasing yields over time. How the parameters underlying the modelling were changed to achieve this have not been identified, though it is partially attributable to increasing logging intensity and treating native forests like plantations. Despite this dramatic turn-around the NSW Government separated the yields from native forests and hardwood plantations to change a modelled resource surplus into a deficit to justify major wind-backs of environmental constraints, and the opening up of oldgrowth and rainforest protected in the reserve system for logging. (see 2018 Timber Review).
Export woodchipping began from north-east NSW in the 1980s and because of the massive volumes, low manufacturing coasts and quick returns proved to be very profitable for millers. It was stopped in 2013 due to competition from overseas eucalypt plantations and an inability to get independent environmental certification for north east NSWs logging. Now there is the even bigger threat of burning native forests in furnaces for electricity (see A History of Export Woodchipping from North East NSW). In 2018 the Government offered new commitments of low quality logs to overseas buyers in 10 year agreements, including reassigning all hardwood plantation resources as low quality for export. (see 2018 Timber Review).
Forestry operations have a profound impact on native plants and animals. Natural forests are normally multiaged, with large numbers of big old trees providing hollows for nesting and denning, along with abundant nectar and seed resources. They also contain mature and young trees providing for succession as trees senesce and die. The understorey may naturally be open and grassy or more often is comprised of a wide diversity of understorey plants providing nesting sites, foraging habitat, and essential food resources for a suite of species. Even the dead trees and logs are critical habitat for numerous species.
In general, forestry aims to remove the mature trees for timber and get rid of the big old trees and unsuitable species that suppress regrowth of commercial species. Understorey and logs are just impediments. The outcomes are often a mess due to loss of critical habitat trees, early removal of potential sawlogs, excessive damage to retrained trees, poor regeneration, escaped burn-offs, significant soil erosion, stream pollution and massive weed invasion.
Plants are killed by logging, trampling with machinery, burning and being smothered by weeds. Animals are directly killed in falling trees and by being crushed in logs and burrows, and slowly by loss of dens, nest sites, territories and essential food resources.
Of those 175 animal species identified as being of particular conservation concern in north-east NSW, a total of 7 mammals (excluding bats), 27 bats, 31 birds, 16 frogs, 5 turtles, 15 lizards and 8 snakes were identified as being specifically vulnerable to logging, with many of these species, and a number of others, also vulnerable to the associated fire regimes, hydrological changes, stream pollution and weed invasions. For 41 of these 109 species logging is identified as a primary (number 1) threat. (see Threatened Species).
In a natural forest rainfall is mostly intercepted by the canopy or absorbed by the ground cover. Subsurface flows of excess waters then generate streamflows. In logging operations the reduced canopy and widespread soil compaction and baring result in overland flows that transport large volumes of sediments and nutrients directly into streams where they have significant long-term impacts on stream biota (see Logging impacts on streams). Impacts on stream flows are also long lived as the regrowth forest has high water demands and there is less surplus for streams (see How Forests Regulate Streamflows).
It is obvious that if we want to limit the impacts of logging on native species, soils and streams then we need to restrict the scale and location of activities we allow to occur. Regulation of forestry activities was found to be necessary because of the Forestry Corporation’s repeated failures to voluntarily minimise their impacts (see The Battle to Protect Threatened Species, The Battle to Protect Soils and Streams).
Forestry operations on public lands in north east NSW are governed by the Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (IFOA) for Upper North East Region and Lower North East Region, and the licences they contain. These are referred to as Environmental Protection Licence (EPL), Threatened Species Licence (TSL) and Fisheries Licence (FL). Together with various clauses of the IFOA these constitute the regulatory regime applied to forestry operations on the public’s state forest lands in north-east NSW
The Integrated Forestry Operations Approval is one of the means by which NSW implements obligations and undertakings given in the joint NSW and Commonwealth North East NSW Regional Forest Agreement (Cl 36,48) and is the principal vehicle by which Environment and Heritage Values that are impracticable to include in reserves can be considered. The IFOA, along with the CAR reserve system, is required to provide for the protection of rare or threatened flora and fauna species and ecological communities (Cl 60). A key requirement is to monitor and review the sustainability of forest management practices (ie Cl 53), which includes the IFOA (Cl 52).
While we now have a comprehensive regulatory process for the management of State forests, the prescriptions are inadequate because they are the result of numerous political compromises with expert opinions and evidence often ignored. Neither have they been subject to monitoring and expert review. Even the minimalist prescriptions now applied are routinely flouted by the Forestry Corporation. (see Protecting Exclusion Areas, Doing Surveys, Protecting Threatened Fish, Protecting Habitat Trees).
There are a number of species that are threatened at a Federal level and should be taken into account before the Commonwealth Government signs off on Regional Forest Agreements. This is another aspect of government process that is a dismal failure.
This report reviews the protection applied both in theory and practice to nationally threatened species and ecological communities in forestry operations in the North East NSW Regional Forest Agreement (NE RFA) area.
For more information on other aspects of logging prescriptions see the following links:
NOTE: The Forestry Corporation has undergone many name and structural changes since the Forestry Commission of NSW was first formed in November 1916. In August 1993 the Forestry Commission adopted State Forests of NSW as its trading name and was overseen by a board of Governance. Nothing much changed on the ground. In November 2005 the Forestry Commission again tried to change its image by adopting the new brand name of Forests NSW. On 1 January 2013 Forests NSW was corporatized and became the Forestry Corporation. These names are used interchangeably throughout this site, though to avoid confusion attempts have been made to use the name Forestry Corporation to apply to all incarnations.
ACT TO SAVE KOALAS FROM THE NATIONAL PARTY's KOALA KILLING BILL
North East Forest Alliance, November 2020
We recently asked you to URGENTLY send an email to Liberal parliamentarians to congratulate them for standing up to National Party bullying to strip Koalas of protection on private lands. While the Liberals heard our call, they totally capitulated to the National Party and the demands of the loggers and land developers.
The Liberals altered the 2019 Koala State Environment Planning Policy (SEPP) to make it a lot harder for Councils to identify core Koala habitat. This was not enough for the Nationals, they are now in the process of altering the Local Land Services Act to remove protections for core Koala habitat from logging and broadscale clearing, prohibit Council's from requiring consent for logging and clearing in Environmental Zones, and double the length of logging approvals. This sets Koala protections back 25 years, it is a total capitulation to the loggers.
If this isn't bad enough, Premier Berejiklian is claiming this as a victory and congratulating the National Party on the outcome. It is a war, and the Koalas are losing.
KOALAS URGENTLY NEED YOU TO SPEAK UP FOR THEIR SURVIVAL
The Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020 has passed the NSW Lower House and is likely to be voted on in the Upper House on 11 November. Parliament's servers have already crashed once due to the outcry. Every letter and phone call helps.
Can you contact parliamentarians in an effort to stop their draconian changes to the Local Land Services Act and hold them to account for their actions? They need to know we don't accept them extincting Koalas!
There will also be a variety of direct actions targeting parliamentarians on 6th November, so watch our Facebook, or come up with your own local actions.
The numbers in the NSW Upper House are currently 20 progressives to 22 potential koala killers. We have little chance of influencing their politics, but we are not without hope, here's 3 targets:
The Liberal's Ballina based Catherine Cusack was on the Koala Inquiry and urged her colleagues to stand up to National Party bullying, now she needs to be encouraged to do what she knows is right.
- Catherine Cusack (02) 9230 2915 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The National's Byron Bay based Ben Franklin was on the Koala inquiry, but will likely ignore his own findings to tow the party line, he does know better.
- Ben Franklin (02) 9230 3793 < email@example.com>
While Fred Nile is committed to supporting the government, we are talking about one of god's creatures likely to become extinct in the wild by 2050.
- Fred Nile (02) 9230 2478 < F.Nile@parliament.nsw.gov.au>
Priority asks are:
- Retain the requirement that core Koala habitat identified in Koala PoMs be identified as State Sensitive Regulated Land under the Local Land Services Act, with current protections from logging and broadscale clearing maintained.
- Retain the ability of Councils to prohibit, or require consent for, logging and clearing in environmental zones.
- Do not extend logging approvals from 15 to 30 years, or at the very least ensure that they are required to comply with updated and contemporary Codes of Practice that take into account new knowledge (not just those given at the time of approval).
Some others you may want to mention:
- Maintain the existing prohibition on logging in Koala habitat identified in Koala PoMs for Ballina, Coffs Harbour, Kempsey, Lismore, Bellingen and Port Stephens LGAs.
- Maintain existing classification as State Sensitive Regulated Land for core Koala habitat identified in Bellingen Shire's KPoM.
- Ensure core Koala habitat identified in Campbellown's KPoM is classed as State Sensitive Regulated Land where appropriate.
- Ensure core Koala habitat already identified in draft Koala PoMs in Port Macquarie-Hastings (Coastal, 2018), Clarence Valley (Ashby, Woombah & Iluka localities, 2015), Byron (Coastal, 2016) and Tweed (Coastal, 2015) Local Government Areas is included as State Sensitive Regulated Land, and that Councils are allowed and encouraged to include it in environmental zones (E2).
Please contact other members as time allows.
While the legislation has already passed the Lower House it is still important to let the Government know how disgusted we are, particularly:
The Hon. Gladys Berejiklian, (02) 8574 5000, Contact the Premier,
The Hon. Rob Stokes, (02) 8574 6707, Contact the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces
The Hon. Matt Kean, (02) 8574 6150, Contact the Minister for Energy and Environment
The Hon. Geoff Provest, (07) 5523 4816, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hon. Leslie Williams, (02) 6584 0977, email@example.com
The Hon. James Griffin, (02) 9976 2773, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Koala SEPP has already been changed:
- The Koala Development Application Map has been removed. This is the pink map the Nationals focused on and misrepresented, despite the Government deciding to remove it months ago –as the Nationals knew.
The 28 May 2020 Koala Strategy Board Meeting was informed the maps would be removed, on 21 August Stokes wrote to Barilaro that the 'Pink DA map’ would be removed and they would 'revert to a survey process which existed under SEPP 44'.
- The definition of Core Koala Habitat has been altered to only apply to “highly suitable koala habitat” where Koalas have been recorded within the past 18 years, removing the broader criteria “an area of land where koalas are present”.
- Councils are now required to consult with the Chief Executive Officer of Local Land Services when developing a Koala PoM
The Koala Habitat Protection Guideline has been changed:
- Landholders can ‘stop the clock’ to request an additional 60 days to object to proposed core koala habitat on their land, which has to be reassessed at Council’s expense.
If passed the Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020 will:
- Stop core Koala habitat identified in draft and future council Koala Plans of Management from being included as Sensitive Regulated Land, and thereby require approval for broadscale clearing,
- Remove the prohibition on logging of identified core Koala habitat.
- Allow up to 6,000 ha of core Koala habitat identified as Sensitive Regulated Land in the Ballina, Coffs Harbour, Kempsey, Lismore and Port Stephens LGAs to remain, though remove 900 ha of core Koala habitat identified in the Bellingen LGA
- Stop Councils being able to include core Koala habitat in environmental protection zones.
Ben Franklin stated in parliament ”e-zones will not be created in relation to any koala plans of management”
- Create the concept of ‘allowable activity land’, which is land that at some time has been rezoned from rural zoning to environmental zoning, and permits clearing for ‘allowable activities’ (including buffers) without approval in these E zones
allowable activities include construction timber, farm forestry, gravel pits, grazing, powerlines, water and gas pipelines, fire breaks, fences, roads, tracks, sheds, tanks, dams, stockyards, bores, pumps, water points or windmills. The Government is now intending to allow clearing within 25m of property boundaries.
- Prevent local environment plans from requiring development consent for Private Native Forestry (PNF)
- Double the duration allowed for PNF plans from 15 years to 30 years.
Feel free to reply to this email with questions or news on how you went.
Thank you for speaking up for koalas survival!
Koala State Environment Planning Policy (SEPP) Changes
If the Powerpoint doesn't load below: you can download it here.
Proposed Sandy Creek Koala Park
Dailan Pugh, North East Forest Alliance, August 2020
NEFA are proposing that 6,988ha of public land south-west of Casino in north-east NSW be created as the Sandy Creek Koala Park, comprised of Royal Camp, Braemar, Carwong and Ellangowan State Forests, and remnant native vegetation on land purchased for plantations. The Bandjalang clan are the recognised native title holders and so the future management of this reserve needs to be determined in consultation with them.
The genesis of this proposal was the finding of exceptional densities of Koalas at a number of localities and widespread Koala usage. The Koalas appeared to be increasing as the forests recovered from past logging, with good future prospects if the forest was allowed to age and provide increasing resources over time.
The Koalas suffered a mortal blow when the Busby's Flat fire swept through the proposal on the night of 8 October 2019, with the apparent loss of 78-89% of Koalas, which suggests the loss of 270-310 Koalas due to the fires and a surviving population that could be as low as 40-80 Koalas.
As most Koala feed trees survived the fires, Koala populations can recover over time and increase if survivors and their habitat are protected. Given the prognosis that Koalas are likely to become extinct in the wild by 2050 if we continue 'business as usual' , and the devastating impact of the 2019 fires on the Banyabba Koalas, protecting an area where Koala populations can recover is more important than ever.
Saving Banyabba Koalas
On 3 March 2020 the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) approved the Forestry Corporation to undertake logging of burnt Koala habitat in three State Forests on the Richmond River lowlands. Given the failure to account for the landscape scale impacts of the fires on this Koala population, this approval was irresponsible and jeopardises the Koala's recovery, and possibly the survival of this population.
The EPA are requested to immediately withdraw their approvals for logging of Koala habitat in Bungawalbin, Doubleduke and Myrtle State Forests and do due-diligence by assessing the landscape impacts of the fires on Koalas. As shown by this example, a moratorium is needed on further logging of populations of all species significantly affected by the fires until surveys are undertaken to assess their vulnerability.
The approved logging is in parts of the 142,000 ha Banyabba Area of Regional Koala Significance (ARKS) that had 83% of its modelled 71,000 ha of 'likely' Koala habitat burnt in the 2019 wildfires, with the apparent loss of 90% of Koalas from burnt areas.
NEFA have been particularly focussed our efforts on the conservation of Koalas since we caught the Forestry Corporation illegally logging Koala High Use Areas in Royal Camp State Forest in 2012.
We are gravely concerned that Koala populations on the north coast have crashed by 50% over the past 20 years, and that the increase in land clearing and reduction in logging rules will likely see them made extinct in the wild within the next 20 years.
Within a given area Koalas will firstly select feed trees based on species, and secondarily on size, preferring trees over 30cm diameter, with use increasing in line with tree size. They also utilise understory trees for shelter on hot or windy days. In good habitat they have stable home ranges, with a male overlapping a number of females. Logging is targeting the mature trees preferred by Koalas for feeding, with less feed trees there are less Koalas and social systems can break down.
For the past 20 years the Forestry Corporation were meant to thoroughly search for Koala scats (faecal pellets) ahead of logging. Where small numbers of scats are found token feed trees (5 of any size per ha) were required to be retained. Where there were abundant scats they were required to protect small areas around the scats as Koala High Use Areas. Because the Forestry Corporation normally refused to do thorough searches, and because of the minimal protection when found, only some 13 hectares of Koala habitat were protected in any year, and they are allowed to log these next time around. On private land there are few records of Koalas and no need to look before they log, so most Koala habitat is indiscriminately logged.
The Government has decided to remove the need for the Forestry Corporation to look before they log and are instead protect 10 Koala feed trees per ha over 20cm diameter in modelled high quality habitat and 5 per ha is medium quality habitat. The EPA recommended that it should be 25 feed trees per ha over 25cm diameter in high quality habitat and 15 trees per hectare in moderate quality habitat. The NRC over-rode the EPA to support the Forestry Corporation.
The 2018 OEH submission to the IFOA laments that there will "be a reduction in protections offered to koalas", with Koala feed tree retention rates "less than half those originally proposed by the Expert Fauna Panel", noting:
"The increased logging intensity proposed under the draft Coastal IFOA is expected to impact Koalas through diminished feed and shelter tree resources. Animals will need to spend more time traversing the ground as they move between suitable trees that remain, which is likely to increase koala mortality".
It is outrageous that 43% of the high quality Koala habitat on State Forests identified by DPI-Forestry is in the North Coast Intensive Logging Zone where clearfelling will be the norm.
On the north coast Koala populations have crashed by 50% over the past 20 years because they generally prefer the more productive forests left on the coastal floodplains and foothills, the forests that have been most targeted for clearing, logging and urbanisation. If Koalas are to be given a chance it is essential that all remaining colonies be identified and fully protected.
It is evident that the Forestry Corporation can not be trusted to provide the required protection for core Koala habitat and have instead been routinely logging it. In order to provide Koalas with the protection they need the National Parks Association have recently proposed the Great Koala National Park and a series of smaller Koala Parks throughout north east NSW. (see A Blueprint for a Comprehensive Reserve System for Koalas on the North Coast of NSW).
The North East Forest Alliance has proposed that the 2,100 ha Sandy Creek National Park be created over an important Koala population in Royal Camp and Carwong State Forests, south-west of Casino.
We are seeking the protection from clearing and logging of all resident Koala populations across the north coast of NSW.
Dailan Pugh, March 2019.
This review focuses on assessing recent logging by the Forestry Corporation of Koala Hubs as identified by the Office of Environment and Heritage.
The Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) have analysed Koala records "to delineate highly significant local scale areas of koala occupancy currently known for protection", which they term Koala Hubs. Based on the data then available these are the known highest priority areas for Koala protection in NSW to increase their survival prospects.
Koala populations in NSW are in precipitous decline. The threats are immense in coastal areas (where most hubs are), making the protection of the 19,785 ha of Koala Hubs on State Forests in hinterland areas the highest priority for the basis of a Koala reserve system to safeguard core Koala populations and begin to stabilise Koala numbers.
Further work has been undertaken by WWF which identifies Koala Reserves based on a broader analysis of Koala Hubs, though this assessment is limited to Koala Hubs as identified by OEH.
This review found that of the OEH Koala Hubs on State forests in north-east NSW, 2,546 ha has been logged over the 4 year assessment period 2015-2018, which is an average of 636 ha logged per annum within Koala Hubs. It is assumed that some 430 ha of Koala hubs have so far been logged since they were identified. Many more are proposed for logging in current harvesting plans,
Outside exclusion zones and plantations there are 12,253 ha of Koala Hubs identified on State Forests, which means that over the past 4 years 21% of the loggable area of Koala Hubs within native forests on State Forests have been logged. Many of these have been logged well in excess of allowable logging intensities, with significant areas subjected to the unlawful logging practices of heavy and regeneration Single Tree Retention.
Of the 2,546 ha logged from 2015-2018, 1,283 ha (50%) has been modelled by DPI Forestry (Law et. al. 2017) as high quality Koala habitat and 574 ha (23%) as medium quality habitat. There are also 590 Koala records within the logged areas of the Koala Hubs. These confirm the importance of these areas for Koalas, and emphasise that this should have been well known to the Forestry Corporation before they logged them.
Over the period 2015 to March 2017 in the Lower North East forestry region, of these logged Koala hubs 22 ha is identified as being subject to the unlawful logging regimes of Regeneration Single Tree Retention (STS), 116 ha to heavy STS, and 348 ha to medium STS. It is evident from Harvesting Plans that intensive logging of Koala Hubs is more widespread than indicated by these figures, which is also shown by satellite images. This shows that many of these Koala Hubs, and surrounding areas, were subject to more intensive logging than the logging rules allowed.
It is essential for the future of Koalas that a moratorium be immediately placed on all remaining OEH Koala Hubs on State Forests, along with potential habitat within one kilometre, while further ground based assessments are undertaken to delineate the full extent these "highly significant" resident populations which, based on current records, are the highest priority for protection on public lands.
You can read the full review document here: Forestry_Logging_of_OEH_Koala_Hubs.pdf
Illegal logging of Koala habitat at Gibberagee State Forest prompted peaceful action as shown in the NEFA video below.
Dailan Pugh, North East Forest Alliance, March 2019.
The one survey relied upon by the timber industry to justify the ongoing logging of Koala habitat was undertaken by the forestry unit of the Department of Primary Industries, who are not independent and whose data do not justify their subjective conclusions.
There are far more robust studies that shows that Koalas are declining on State Forests and that this will be exasperated by the increased logging intensity, reduced retention of mature trees and reduced exclusions allowed by the new logging rules.
The DPI-Forestry1 survey used acoustic recorders to record male Koala calls for a week during the breeding season at 171 sites in modelled medium-high quality Koala habitat throughout northern NSW, recording one or more calls at 106 sites.
The biggest failing of the DPI-Forestry assessment is that it is based on extrapolation from just the calls of male Koalas somewhere within 300m (or more2) of the recorder, with no indication of whether other Koalas were present or whether it was just a transient male searching for a mate.
Forestry's current rules for identifying a high use Koala tree is that it has to have more than 20 Koala scats (faecal pellet) under it, and a Koala High Use Area has to have an additional 3 out of 10 trees searched with scats under them.
The only ground-truthing reported3 for Koala occupancy in the DPI-Forestry study were searches of 40 trees at each of 65 sites for Koala scats, with no scats found at 54 sites and just 1-2 scats found at 11 sites.
Koalas were recorded calling at 19 of the 65 ground-truthed sites, with no scats found at 16 sites and only single scats found at 3 sites. This indicates either a very low usage by Koalas or that the calling Koalas were outside the sampled area.
Half the sites recorded only1-3 calls over 7 nights in the breeding season, which does not indicate the presence of a breeding colony anywhere nearby.
It is particularly significant that any Koalas calling could have been hundreds of metres away or transient. Given that measurements of habitat variables were made within 50m of the recorders it means the variables measured (i.e. tree species, tree cover, stand structure, logging intensity) and used in analyses are not necessarily indicative of where Koalas live.
Both DPI-Forestry and the industry conveniently ignore other more robust research that has found Koalas prefer the larger trees targeted by loggers and that their populations are declining on State Forests.
A 2016 EPA study4 found that higher Koala activity was positively correlated with trees and forest structure of a more mature size class, and areas of least disturbance, concluding that once high quality Koala habitat in Clouds Creek and Maria River State Forests had been degraded and now have declining Koala populations.
A 2004 study5 by Dr. Andrew Smith of Pine Creek State Forest found that Koalas preferred structurally complex, uneven-aged forests with some mature and oldgrowth elements and a large basal area, concluding that modern high intensity harvesting practices that remove a high proportion of stand basal area and leave only small diameter stems (<50 cm diameter) are incompatible with koala conservation.
A 2013 Biolink6 study for Port Macquarie-Hastings Council found that State Forests had less than half the number of active Koala sites than nearby National Parks and concluded that logging had decimated the once substantive local Koala populations.
Whatever its shortcomings, the DPI-Forestry survey7 is based on past logging regimes where they attribute the persistence of Koalas near their sites to half the surrounding area being excluded from logging, including in riparian buffers, old growth and rainforest exclusion areas and Koala High Use Areas, as well as the retention of mature trees, habitat trees, recruitment trees and feed trees for other species in logged areas.
The NSW Government's new logging rules have doubled logging intensity, zoned 140,000 ha of coastal forests for clearfelling, removed the need to retain mature trees (including recruitment and most eucalypt feed trees), reduced the buffers on headwater streams and is intending to open up protected oldgrowth forest for logging. This will significantly increase impacts on Koalas.
Specifically for Koalas they are removing the need to look before they log and protect Koala High Use Areas, despite DPI-Forestry finding that Koala High Use Areas have 3 times the Koala call rate of recently logged forests.
In their submission to the new logging rules, the Office of Environment and Heritage8 complained in 2018 that the new Koala feed tree retention rates are less than half the number and of a smaller size than proposed by the Expert Fauna Panel, concluding that the increased logging intensity proposed under the new rules is expected to impact Koalas through diminished feed and shelter tree resources.
It is ironic that DPI-Forestry refer to a Forestry Corporation radio-tracking study2 in the early 1990s near Eden NSW to justify their claim that koala home ranges can comprise a mosaic of regrowth and unlogged habitat, as that population was extinct a few years later9.
Now history is repeating itself as the Forestry Corporation use dodgy science to deny impacts while introducing an Eden-style alternate coupe clearfelling regime into 140,000 ha of what they identify as the best Koala habitat on the north coast.
To download a copy of the document or to see the references click here.
NEFA President Dailan Pugh, OAM presentation at the Nature Conservation Council (NCC) Koala Forum in Lismore December 12th, 2018
You can find NCC's Koala campaign here: https://www.nature.org.au/koalas
Koalas and Logging of Public Lands
Koalas and Loggers prefer larger trees. Koalas preferentially select individual trees of preferred species for feeding. They prefer larger and older trees because they: provide more forage have less toxins are more stable and comfortable. You can read Dailan's powerpoint presentation here:
Koalas and Logging of Public Lands.
As a result of documents obtained under Freedom of Information it's now clear that the NSW Government ignored it's own scientist's advice when deciding on the koala reserves. Not only did it choose areas that were already protected and where there were few or no koala records...it DIDN'T choose the areas that have been identified as Koala 'Hubs'.
You can read an analysis of the information obtained in this new report by Dailan Pugh for NEFA. September 2018
Dailan Pugh, NEFA. June 2018
The NSW Government announced there would be 12 "new" Koala Reserves as a keystone of its Koala Strategy:Creating new reserves for koalas and protecting habitat corridors is a key pillar of the Strategy. More than 20,000 hectares of state forest on the Central Coast, Southern Highlands, North Coast, Hawkesbury and Hunter with koala habitat will be set aside as new koala reserves. Over 4000 hectares of native forest with koala habitat will be transferred to the national parks estate.
It is fraudulent for the NSW Government to pretend that these are new Koala Reserves. Ten of the 12 Koala Reserves are already protected as part of the informal reserve system (as FMZs 2 and 3). Four have no records of Koalas, and only 2 have "contemporary" records. Only 3 of the north-east reserves have high quality Koala habitat identified within them, and 2 of these have no "contemporary" records to substantiate the models... (View full PDF document)
If there is a genuine desire to stop the slide of NSWs Koalas into extinction then the primary requirement is for the current NSW Premier to direct her Ministers and their agencies to implement the intent of current legislation. We don't need to reinvent the wheel, we just need to make what we have work better.
She needs to direct that the agencies immediately identify and protect remaining core Koala habitat and habitat linkages across all tenures. This will require the allocation of significant resources to undertake the required mapping of core Koala habitat and to provide financial incentives to private landowners to conserve core Koala habitat in perpetuity. There is also a need to rehabilitate degraded habitat and to replant essential habitat linkages.
North East Forest Alliance, Revised March 2017
It is proposed to create the 2,100 ha Sandy Creek National Park in the headwaters of the Richmond River south-west of Casino. The proposal is comprised of two parts, including part of Royal Camp State Forest (compartments 13-16, 1,500ha) and the whole of Carwong State Forest (600ha). These forests are primarily proposed for protection for their exceptional importance for Koala conservation in an area where populations are in decline and in danger of extinction. The proposal is comprised of inadequately reserved ecosystems, includes 2 Endangered Ecological Communities, and incorporates the known habitat for the Critically Endangered Regent Honeyeater, 3 Endangered plants, one Vulnerable plant, and 17 Vulnerable animals. There is the potential to improve its long term integrity by voluntarily acquiring intervening freehold land which has also been assessed as being of high value for Koalas... (View full PDF document)
Clearing our Koalas Away is a damning new report by Dailan Pugh that puts together intensive logging maps recently obtained via Freedom of Information, and the EPAs new koala habitat model.
The principal findings of this review are that:
Within the 103 State Forest compartments currently being actively logged on public land in north east NSW there are 4,663 ha of modelled high quality Koala habitat and 357 Koala records.
The identified protection for Koalas in current logging entails 2 Koala High Use Areas totalling 1.2ha from which logging is excluded and the identification of 15% of the high quality habitat as "Intermediate Use Habitat" where 5 feed trees of any size are required to be retained per hectare. This is mere tokenism.
Thirteen of the 20 current logging areas with >17% high quality Koala habitat are being targeted for logging intensities (regeneration and heavy Single Tree Selection) involving up to 60-86% basal area removal in blatant contravention of the Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (IFOA's) limit of 40% basal area removal.
During the period when it was practiced from 2000-2010 over 10,000ha of forests in the Lower North East region were allocated to Australian Group Selection patch clearfelling, incorporating 6,460ha of high quality Koala habitat, despite a prohibition on the use of AGS in "intermediate" Koala habitat.
Since 2006 in the Lower North East region. the Forestry Corporation have subjected 74,906 ha to the unlawful logging practices of 'medium', 'heavy' and 'regeneration' Single Tree Selection involving 41-100% basal area removal. This is comprised of 23,742 ha (32%) of high quality Koala habitat and 717 Koala records.
Of the unlawfully logged area, 23,340 ha has been subjected to 'heavy' and 'regeneration' STS, comprised of 39% high quality Koala habitat, in what amounts to clearing and conversion to quasi plantations.
Over the past 10 years the Forestry Corporation have progressively and unlawfuly converted half of the logging area of the proposed North Coast Intensive Zone in the Lower North East Region to "quasi plantations", with the proposed zoning to give retrospective approval.
There have been no records of Koalas from 41% of the current logging areas encompassing high quality Koala habitat, and no records for at least the past 9 years in 12% of the areas. Records over the past 20 years indicate that Koalas are in decline across State Forests.
There needs to be an urgent intervention to stop the accelerating degradation of Koala habitat in north-east NSW. Surveys need to be urgently undertaken to identify all areas containing remnant Koala populations. Identified areas, along with sufficient additional areas of potential Koala high quality habitat and habitat linkages, need to be fully protected to establish viable populations across the landscape.
Authorised by Daniel Peterson for the North East Forest Alliance at 115 Molesworth Street, Lismore, 2480
It is already apparent that global warming is affecting our climate and will go on doing so into the foreseeable future. Aside from the environmental costs, there are significant social and economic consequences. The sooner we start reducing our emissions the better.
Irrespective of what we now do, we have already locked in ongoing warming for decades to come. Anticipating and adapting to inevitable climatic changes is essential to minimise future costs
The climate changes already initiated by global warming are having significant impacts on our forests and their inhabitants. As climate change accelerates it will have profound and dramatic consequences (see North East NSW expected climate changes).
Across Australia droughts and rising temperatures are putting forests and woodlands under increasing stress. Stressed trees are more vulnerable to insect and fungal attack, and many are dying. In extensive areas the remnant the big old trees, so vital for animal’s food and homes, are dying out.
In north-east NSW large swathes of forest are being affected by dieback apparently being aggravated by climate change (see: Logging Dieback), while in rural landscapes on the northern rivers Forest Red Gums are rapidly deteriorating. Undoubtedly there are numerous other changes occurring that are not being documented.
As heat waves become more intense animals too become stressed, in extreme events animals may just drop out of the trees dead. Hundreds of thousands of flying foxes died in heatwaves in 2014 across eastern Australian, with 5,000 being killed at just one site at Casino.
Many plants and animals have climatic tolerances beyond which they can not survive. As the climate changes they are being forced to track the changes. If they are unable to move due to inhospitable barriers, or if they run out of suitable habitat, they die.
Increases in extreme weather events are causing more frequent extreme fire weather and thus fires. As fires become more frequent and intense they are causing a change in forest structure and species. These impacts are being accentuated by burning-off and clearing for fire breaks. As fire intensity increase so too does the risk of tree dwelling animals being burnt alive.
Many plants can only regenerate from seeds and take more than a decade to mature, flower and seed. Often a single fire can result in the death of all mature individuals. If the regrowth is burnt before it matures there is no seed left for regeneration. Too frequent fires are causing the loss of some species from large areas. Vast swathes of Alpine Ash forests in the Snowy Mountains have already been eliminated by too frequent wildfires.
Rainforests are particularly vulnerable to fire. In north east New South Wales the increasing frequency of extreme fires will eat into rainforest margins and eliminate many smaller stands. Impacts are being exasperated by logging of buffer areas promoting weeds and making them more fire prone.
Disturbances, such as logging, destabilise and degrade ecosystems, increasing their vulnerability to climate change. We need to build resilience back into our forests by restoring natural processes and ecosystem functions to better enable them to resist the consequences of climate change.
Allowing forests to regrow and recover allows them to sequester and store significant volumes of carbon. What is good for the forests is also good for us. (see Carbon Storage)
North East NSW expected climate changes
Sequestering and Storing Carbon in Forests