Koala habitat near Woodenbong is being illegally logged, environmentalists claim, and the federal government is being called on to stop it.
Less than a year after the group found numerous koala scats in logged parts of Royal Camp State Forest near Grafton, the same thing has happened again, this time at Koreelah State Forest near Woodenbong.
The latest discovery has provoked the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) to call on federal environment minister, Tony Burke to intervene to force the NSW government to stop logging core koala habitat.
And NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh says even a cursory inspection before logging took place would have revealed there was a problem.
Mr Pugh said a weekend audit of Koreelah State Forest found the koala high use area had been logged in direct contravention of the North East NSW Regional Forest Agreement, which was signed by both state and federal governments in 2000.
He added that the federal government had a responsibility for the koala’s future, having declared it vulnerable in north-eastern NSW.
‘The commonwealth relies upon the Regional Forest Agreements to satisfy their obligations to protect the nationally vulnerable koala. Given that NSW refuses to implement the prescriptions intended to protect core koala habitat Tony Burke must now intervene to provide the urgently needed protection the koala deserves’, Mr Pugh said.
‘On Sunday we randomly selected one hectare that had already been logged and thoroughly searched around the 36 Tallowwood and Grey Gum trees and stumps within it for koala scats. Despite our searching being hampered by logging debris, in one area we located one tree with 30 koala scats from a mother and baby under it and three other sequential trees with koala scats under them. This area thus qualifies as a koala high use area that should have had a 20m buffer placed around it and been excluded from logging.
‘Not one of the trees we searched had been searched by anyone before us, despite Forestry Corporation being legally required to thoroughly search 100 trees within this same area for koala scats before logging and to protect koala high use areas.
‘Based on our random sample it is evident that many other koala high use areas are likely to have been logged, with others about to be logged.
Mr Pugh said NEFA undertook ‘a reconnaissance of Koreelah’ on May 10 and subsequently wrote to Forestry Corporation CEO Nick Roberts, complaining that nobody appeared to be searching for koala scats.
‘Both he and the supposed Environmental Protection Authority denied our concerns,’ he said.
‘Last August we found four koala high use areas in Royal Camp State Forest, one was being actively logged and three were about to be logged. While we convinced the NSW environment and primary industries ministers to intervene to stop logging those areas they allowed it to continue in an adjacent area. When we found another high use area logged the ministers allowed the logging to continue into yet another koala high use area.
‘Koalas have deserted all the logged high use areas we have found and the Forestry Corporation is actively targeting the mature feed trees they rely on.
‘Given the EPA’s failure to take action in relation to Royal Camp almost a year later, it is not surprising that Forestry Corporation continue to log without looking while the responsible NSW ministers turn a blind eye.
Fauna expert, David Milledge, who surveyed the area, stated, ‘My records of Albert’s Lyrebird and koala indicate that the prescriptions that should have been implemented were not. I consider that adequate and seasonally appropriate surveys (including koala mark-up searches) should be undertaken before further logging occurs’.