One of the region’s key environmental groups has warned that the precious habitat in the Richmond and Clarence river valleys could be ruined and endangered species lost if Environment Protection Authority (EPA) plans to loosen logging rules are allowed to proceed.
The North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) has called on NSW environment minister Mark Speakman to prevent the EPA changing the rules for logging on public land, which the group says would ‘open up over 15,000 hectares of protected stream buffers and exclusion areas for threatened animals in the Clarence and Richmond River valleys for logging’.
According to the group minister Speakman promised NEFA last July that ‘he was determined to pursue’ the commitment that ‘any changes will not erode environmental values’.
But NEFA says the changes would do just that, threatening koalas in some areas and critically impacting species dwelling in riparian zones, such as Fleays barred frog.
The group today released its report on the proposals: New IFOA Changes in Forest Protection, in the Clarence and Richmond River Valleys.
NEFA spokesperson, Dailan Pugh, said that the group is calling on minister Speakman to ‘honour his promise that there will be no erosion of environmental values with the new logging rules.’
‘It is shocking that the EPA and Forestry Corporation are proposing to cut already inadequate buffers around over 7,000 kilometres of vital headwater streams in the Clarence and Richmond valleys from 10 metres down to five metres,’ Mr Pugh said.
‘Our rivers are already very sick; we need to restore their health, not make them worse,’ he added.
Mr Pugh described the Clarence and Richmond as ‘the lifeblood of the northern rivers.
‘We store their waters for drinking, eat fish, prawns and shellfish obtained from them, recreate within them, and water our livestock and crops with their waters.
Mr Pugh said the protection and rehabilitation of stream buffers was ‘the single most important thing we can do to restore the health of our rivers. The EPA’s intent to slash buffers for our river’s vital headwaters is sheer environmental lunacy. They should be tripling them, not halving them.’
‘The EPA and Forestry Corporation are also intending to remove the need to look for, and establish exclusion zones around, our most vulnerable threatened fauna, including our precious koalas. This will mean that the most important habitat, such as for koalas at Royal Camp State Forest, will be opened up for logging.
‘What are being lost are the most important buffers around our stream heads, where our rivers are most vulnerable, and core habitat around locations of our most vulnerable animals.
‘These are desperate measures for a Forestry Corporation fast running out of large trees to log.
Mr Pugh said that the report put proved that the EPA’s new rules did not meet Mr Speakman’s promise.
‘Now we have provided him with the proof, he must intervene to stop the so-called Environment Protection Authority from proceeding with their anti-environment agenda,’ he said.