The North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) has repeated its call to the state government to stop illegal logging of Rufous Scrub-bird habitat in Styx River State Forest, east of Armidale.
NEFA has also called for an independent inquiry following revelations that Forests NSW have fraudulently ignored their own records of the Rufous Scrub-bird and falsely claimed that suitable habitat does not exist.
The Rufous Scrub-bird is a small secretive understorey bird of highland wet forests in north-east NSW. It is a living fossil with a lineage dating back to the age of the dinosaurs that is now threatened with extinction due to burning and logging of its habitat.
North East Forest Alliance spokesperson Dailan Pugh said that conservation groups have now organised two site inspections by independent experts and written to the ministers for the environment and primary industries three times presenting evidence and asking for them to urgently stop the illegal logging of the habitat of this threatened species.
‘Despite this illegal logging being reported to the new Crown Forestry division of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on March 9 it wasn’t until last Friday, 4 May, almost two months later, that the EPA organised their own expert assessment that confirmed our claims that habitat of the threatened Rufous Scrub-bird is indeed being burnt and logged,’ Mr Pugh said.
‘We first wrote to the ministers on the 17 April asking them to urgently intervene to stop the illegal logging, while we still have had no reply, the logging has continued unabated.
‘Forests NSW’s Threatened Species Licence requires that all suitable habitat within 320 metres of records of the Rufous Scrub-bird must be protected from logging and burning.
‘There is now evidence that Forests NSW deliberately omitted 10 of their own records of the Rufous Scrub-bird from their planning documents and certified that the records did not exist. They then falsely claimed that suitable habitat did not exist in the area, before targeting the habitat in a pre-logging burn and commencing logging it.
‘The EPA’s belated site inspection on Friday confirmed what the experts we engaged have been telling the government for the past month, that is that suitable habitat for the Rufous Scrub-bird remains despite much of it being destroyed. Unfortunately, aside from being asleep at the wheel, the EPA is a toothless tiger that is unable to place Stop Work Orders on Forests NSW.
‘We have also identified to the ministers other threatened species which have not been appropriately protected and numerous other breaches of Forests NSW’s Threatened Species Licence in this area which are yet to be investigated by EPA.
‘The ministers must now uphold our threatened species laws and stop this rogue government agency from openly flouting the law and continuing to illegally log the habitat of the Rufous Scrub-bird. They must immediately stop the logging while the matter is fully investigated and legal action taken against Forests NSW.
‘We know that Forests NSW are desperate for timber to try to satisfy gross over-commitments, but NSW government ministers must stop condoning illegal logging to get it,’ Mr Pugh said.