A north coast environment group has told the Baird government it’s prepared to take over the role of policing native forests in the region if the government can’t or won’t do it.
Following the finding of yet more widespread and ongoing breaches of logging laws, the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) is calling on the state government to restore the rights of the public to take the Forestry Corporation to court to enforce environmental laws,
‘If the Baird government refuses to enforce the logging rules, then let us do it’ said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.
‘For years we have been finding the same sorts of logging offences, time after time after time. The Forestry Corporation are being allowed to flout environmental laws with impunity. The Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA) lax regulation is clearly not working’.
‘We have been waiting over a year for the EPA to respond to our last audit of Cherry Tree State Forest, while they dither the breaches continue.
‘Our recent audit in Sugarloaf State Forest (40km south-west of Casino) found that the Forestry Corporation is still refusing to look for and protect Koala High Use Areas, carelessly damaging remnant hollow-bearing trees hundreds of years old, refusing to retain the recruitment trees needed as the hollow-bearing trees of the future, failing to protect endangered Lowland Rainforest and causing unnecessary damage to stream buffers.
‘Over one and a half days we documented breaches of 35 licence conditions, and breaches of 2 conditions of the National Parks & Wildlife Act.
‘Our audits show that environmental laws are being broken all the time. Given that some 20,000 hectares of NSW’s public native forests are logged every year the scale of the rorts are staggering, and the damage immense.
‘Our public forests are being trashed. It is so sad to see old hollow-bearing trees, many hundreds of years old but in robust health, over 40m tall and a metre diameter, so recklessly and needlessly killed and damaged. Our wildlife can’t afford to lose any more homes. As the forest is degraded lantana and dieback are spreading.
‘Our rights to enforce the law were taken away in 1998 on the promise that the EPA would regulate and police the Forestry Corporation. But the EPA have been a dismal failure.
‘Someone needs to enforce the laws to protect our remaining oldgrowth trees, streams, rainforest, Koalas and other threatened species, as the NSW Government refuses to, we ask that Premier Baird restores the public’s rights to do so’ Mr. Pugh said.
Sugarloaf State Forest is situated on the southern slopes of Mt. Pikapene in the upper Clarence River valley, 40km south west of Casino in north-east NSW
NEFA assessed 37 hectares of logged forest and found:
- 4 intrusions into Lowland Rainforest,
- 17 intrusions into stream buffers,
- 4 Yellow-bellied Glider feed trees wilfully damaged.
- no evidence that anybody is searching for Koala scats to identify and protect Koala High Use Areas,
- 25 hollow bearing trees recklessly damaged and 4 logged,
- 26 ‘recruitment’ hollow-bearing trees recklessly damaged, and
- likely aggravation of lantana and forest dieback with no remediation.
The group said these comprise breaches of 18 conditions of the Forestry Corporation’s Threatened Species Licence, breaches of nine conditions of their Environment Protection Licence, breaches of eight conditions of their Fisheries Licence, and breaches of two conditions of the National Parks & Wildlife Act.
It added that the ‘wilful destruction of animal’s homes will have ramifications for centuries. We particularly fear for the future of the seventy species (28 per cent) of vertebrates that depend on tree hollows in north-east NSW, as well as the numerous species, such as koalas, that prefer to feed on older trees.’
It takes a eucalypt 120-180 years to develop hollows, and over 220 years to develop the large hollows needed for large animals. Large old growth trees are priceless treasures.
The Forestry Corporation is required to retain five hollow-bearing trees per hectare where they remain. The intent is to provide some hollows for denning, roosting or nesting by species such as owls, cockatoos, parrots, possums and gliders.
Naturally there are 15 to 30 hollow-bearing trees per hectare, with over half these occupied. Retaining just 5 means there is already a severe shortage of hollows, so dependent animals can’t afford to lose any more.
For each hollowing-bearing tree, the next largest tree is required to be retained to be able to develop the hollows needed when the old trees die. These mature trees are also intended to provide the abundant nectar, seed and other resources that so many other species rely upon, such as Yellow-bellied Gliders, Flying foxes, honeyeaters and Koalas,
The problem is that hollow-bearing trees are rapidly declining because they are still being cut down, physically damaged in logging operations, and burnt out in post logging burns.
‘The biggest healthy mature trees that should be retained as recruitment trees are being logged, while poor, suppressed and defective trees are being retained. Retained trees are being carelessly and wantonly damaged during logging,’ the group said.
‘Our hollow-dependant animals are fast running out of places to live, and the availability of food for them is being diminished.’
The full audit is at: http://www.nefa.org.au/another_damning_audit