It appears that the Forestry Corporation has targeted high use koala habitats for logging over the last four years including areas that have been identified as ‘highest priority for protection’ by the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH).
A North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) study has identified that the Forestry Corporation has logged 2,500 hectares of ‘highest priority’ koala habitat, that is 636ha a year over the last four years.
‘It was shocking to find that the Forestry Corporation has been targeting the best koala habitat for logging,’ said report author and NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.
‘Even after OEH identified them as koala hubs the Forestry Corporation logged 430ha last year. This included compartment 233 in Gladstone State Forest near Bellingen that conservationists resorted to blockades to try and stop.
‘Current harvesting plans show that many more koala hubs are proposed for logging this year,’ he said.
‘It was bad enough that Premier Berejiklian chose to ignore the science by only including 180 hectares of these koala hubs within the sham koala reserves she announced as the centerpiece of her koala strategy in May last year.
‘It is reprehensible that she has allowed the Forestry Corporation to go on targeting them for logging, including with unlawful intensive logging.’
Koala scat-detection dogs on offer
The resistance of the Forestry Corporation to fulfilling its legal obligations in regards to the identification of koala high use areas is currently being highlighted by their response to recent lock-ons at Gibberagee State Forest south of Lismore.
While logging has currently been suspended as a result of the lock-ons the Forestry Corporation is still refusing to take up NEFAs offer to to engage a scat-detection dog to search for koala high use areas in Gibberagee.
As proven in studies properly trained dogs are the most efficient and effective way to search for Koala scats, said Mr Pugh.
‘They engaged the koala detection dog Oscar in Royal Camp State Forest in 2013 after NEFA revealed the Forestry Corporation were not looking for koala scats and were logging koala high use areas.
‘Oscar found koalas at a density of one per three hectares and the Forestry Corporation claimed in a media release (7 August 2013) that the results would help them develop ‘accurate operational plans that exclude koala high use areas from harvesting.
‘They have not been able to resume logging in Royal Camp State Forest since because of the large number of koala high use areas revealed by our manual scat searches and Oscar. It is no wonder that they haven’t engaged a koala detection dog since.
‘Our delineation of more koala high use areas in Gibberagee State Forest is their real concern and their reason for refusing our offer to undertake a one day trial using a scat detection dog.
‘They are still refusing to search for koalas before logging and have identified no koala high use areas, yet our manual searches have proven they are again logging likely koala high use areas.
‘The difference this time is that we are proposing on engaging Reconeco’s dog Jet that is specifically trained to locate koala scats rather than just koalas, which fulfils the Forestry Corporation’s legal obligations.
‘Given that logging is not currently occurring we urge the Forestry Corporation to reconsider our peace offer. While the Forestry Corporation may not like us identifying koala high use areas it is a legal requirement which we are offering to do for free under their supervision.
‘They have nothing to lose, except for some of their logging area where we prove the existence of koala high use areas.
‘For the future survival of koalas it is essential that their core habitat is protected in important koala habitat like Gibberagee before logging resumes,’ Mr Pugh said.
♦ Echonetdaily has contacted the Forestry Corporation for comment.