Despite comments by forestry officials last week, an audit of Forests NSW’s koala assessment in Royal Camp State Forest undertaken by the North Eastern Forest Alliance (NEFA) shows that they are still failing to thoroughly search for evidence of koalas, identify high-use koala-feed trees and delineate koala high-use areas.
NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said that further work by NEFA on a koala high-use area in Royal Camp State Forest last Thursday 9 August has identified at least 23 koala high-use trees, with evidence of use by mothers and their young, over an area of about four hectares.
‘When we undertook our first inspection, Forests NSW had not identified a single high-use tree, and even after two days of auditing they had only managed to identify seven koala high-use trees, less than a third of what we found in a few hours. It is clear that they are still not bothering to thoroughly search for koala faecal scats.
‘NEFA is also demanding that Forests NSW apologise to the public for falsely claiming last Tuesday that they hadn’t actually moved into the koala high-use areas identified to them by NEFA.
‘We also found that since our complaint Forests NSW has burnt off substantial parts of the logged area of Compartment 15, thereby destroying the evidence of any remaining koala scats in those areas and any further evidence of licence breaches. Surely it is wrong to destroy evidence while an investigation is underway,’ Mr Pugh said.
‘The specific high-use trees we had clearly identified to Forests NSW the day before had tracks and logging debris pushed amongst them. Our further assessment has proven that at the time we made our complaint Forests NSW had intruded into this high-use area in three places and cut down at least one koala-feed tree.
‘They had done all the assessments they intended and the whole area would have been logged by now if NEFA had not intervened.
‘Identification and protection of koala high-use areas is essential for the survival of koalas in this region.
‘We have no faith that Forests NSW or the Environment Protection Authority have the expertise or the will to accurately delineate koala high-use areas in Royal Camp State Forest and we repeat our request for an independent assessment by a koala expert.
‘We are particularly concerned that the EPA allowed Forests NSW to resume logging in one compartment without bothering to first check the high-use koala trees we found or ensuring a thorough search was made before logging to identify koala high-use areas.