Last week, almost a year after its illegal activity was uncovered, the Forestry Corporation of NSW was issued with fines of less than $1000 by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) for logging a koala high use area in Royal Camp State Forest, south west of Casino.
The announcement has provoked the ire of the North Eastern Forest Alliance (NEFA), which first revealed the breaches last year and is calling the loss-making state-owned enterprise ‘totally unrepentant’.
NEFA’s spokesperson described the fine as ‘paltry’, adding there were ‘no requirements for remediation or protection of compensatory habitat’.
The group predicts that ‘any day’ there will be further logging of what it described as ‘some of the best koala habitat in the northern rivers region’. It says that only the recent spate of wet weather has prevented further destruction and has called for a permanent cessation of forest harvesting in the area.
NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said he was ‘disgusted with the pathetic response from the NSW government to the Forestry Corporation’s continuing refusal to thoroughly search for koala scats (faecal pellets) to identify koala high use areas and protect them from logging’.
He has described the area ‘core koala habitat’ and called for it to be made into a National Park.
‘Last August we found a koala high use area being logged in Royal Camp, with three others planned for imminent logging. Our plea to the ministers for the environment and primary industries resulted in logging of those areas being stopped, though it continued nearby with at least two other koala high use areas subsequently logged.
‘The Forestry Corporation continued to log koala high use areas under the nose of the EPA while the ministers repeatedly refused our requests for an independent assessment.
Penalty notices were for logging within a koala high use area, logging within the buffer of a koala high use area and failing to mark the boundary of a koala high use area.
‘These entail $300 fines for each penalty notice, but with no requirements for remediation or protection of compensatory habitat. Such paltry fines provide no incentive to make the Forestry Corporation do the right thing, particularly as their minister lets them get away with it and they make a profit from their illegal logging.
‘Last Thursday we inspected two small sections of the area they are intending to log and found both contained koala high use areas. Given that the Forestry Corporation still refuse to accept that they need to thoroughly search for koala scats, it is evident they will go on trashing core koala habitat.
‘From our investigations it is evident that Royal Camp is one of the most important areas of public land for koalas in the northern rivers region. The loggers should not be allowed near it again. This forest should be fully protected as a national park,’ Mr Pugh said.
Based on his inspections of Royal Camp State Forest, wildlife expert David Milledge has concluded:
‘The level of koala activity revealed by these searches is amongst the highest I have recorded in my experience of over 20 years conducting koala scat surveys in coastal and escarpment forests in north-eastern NSW. This highlights the significance of Royal Camp State Forest in supporting a dense local koala population and possibly one of the most important on public land in the region.’