The NSW governments announcement that that they intend to drastically weaken the logging rules as part of the Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (IFOA) and to remove numerous protections for NSWs threatened species including koalas, old growth forest, rainforest and fish has been described as ‘tragic’ by the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA).
The Greens Forests spokesperson, Dawn Walker has taken it one step further and said the announcement threatens to re-ignite the ‘Forest Wars’ across the state.
‘It’s very clear that the Liberal-Nationals agenda is to let the bulldozers roar and chainsaws rip into some of the best forests left in NSW with their plans to intensify logging operations and weaken protections for native species in our state forests,’ said Ms Walker.
‘By merging the four existing regionally-based Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals into a single Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (IFOA) under the guise of efficiency, the government is relaxing standards and sacrificing our forests.
‘Their plan to intensify logging on the NSW North Coast by introducing clear-felling methods to forests between Grafton and Taree would be a bonanza for chainsaws and decimate vital habitat for koalas and greater gliders.’
Logging old growth forests
As part of the IFOA the NSW Government is proposing to subject mapped old growth forest, protected for the past 20 years, to a review process that is intended to make large areas of old growth on state forests available for logging in order to make up a sawlog shortfall of 10,000 cubic metres per annum on the north coast.
The government are also planning to reduce buffer zones around streams from 10m to 5m and remove logging exclusion-zones around known threatened species.
‘The logging industry has almost denuded the public forests allocated to them 20 years ago of sawlogs. This is all about making more trees available by opening up areas protected over the past 20 years as habitat of threatened species, koalas, old growth forest, and stream buffers for logging, while increasing logging intensity and legalising clear fell logging along the coast,’ NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said.
Regardless of a 50 per cent decline in north coast koalas over the past 20 years NEFAs Paula Flack said that the IFOA is looking to ‘remove current requirements to look for and protect occupied habitat of the most threatened species ahead of logging.’
‘Removing the requirements to look before they log to identify and protect koala high use areas, while allowing widespread clear felling in their habitat, could be their death knell.’
In fact the Greens Ms Walker states that, ‘These changes to rules overseeing NSW forestry operations will directly result in the deaths of many of NSW’s most threatened animal species, including parrots, frogs, possums, wombats, quolls and koalas. They will result in more wombats buried alive in their burrows and koalas cut out of their feed trees.’
Commonwealth intervention and community action
The proposed weakening of the protection for threatened species ‘contravenes a multitude of Commonwealth recovery plans and scientific advices,’ explained Ms Flack.
‘We are calling on the Commonwealth to intervene.’
Adding his voice to the call Mr Pugh said, ‘These are public forests and must be managed for the public good. We are calling upon the community to stand up for their forests and stop the NSW Government proceeding with these draconian changes.’
‘We need to end the logging of public native forest and complete the transition to plantations. We need to help our degraded native forest to recover and provide their full potential suite of benefits to local communities though tourism, environmental repair, carbon sequestration and storage, wildlife habitat and provision of clean, abundant water for downstream users.’
Make your voice heard: #standup4forests
‘We are encouraging people to take a photo of themselves in a forest or as a group and post to Facebook with the hashtag #standup4forests,’ said Mr Pugh.
Otherwise contact the Premier, your local members and candidates and ask them for commitments to protect the states streams, threatened species and old growth forests.
More information is available on the NEFA website and Facebook page.