Illegal logging and clearing by the Forestry Corporation within an exclusion zone for the nationally Endangered Narrow-leaf Melichrus in Gibberagee State Forest (east of Whiporie) was reported to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) in September 2017. Yet it took 18 months for the EPA to finally issue a formal warning for breaches of habitat tree retention requirements.
‘On Wednesday (10 April 2019), eighteen months later, the EPA responded to our complaint… though they made no mention of the intrusion into the Melichrus exclusion zone,’ said Dailan Pugh from North East Forest Alliance (NEFA).
‘It is only because we queried them about this omission that they told us that they had fined the Forestry Corporation $16,500 for the Melichrus breach a week ago.
‘NEFA are incredulous that the EPA refused to acknowledge NEFA’s complaint regarding this breach or mention the fine in their response. They are intent on denying it had anything to do with our complaint.
‘In the same logging area on 8 February and 29 March 2017 NEFA had reported to the EPA a total of eight cases of illegal roading within Melichrus buffers, often within a few metres of the plants, and six cases of logging operations extending up to 22m within what should have been 50m exclusion zones.
‘It wasn’t until January 2019 that the EPA responded to those complaints, issuing two official cautions for not marking the Melichrus exclusion zones, and roading and logging within them. They also issued two warning letters in response to our complaints of failing to protect appropriate habitat trees and 23 instances of recklessly damaging them.
‘The issuing of only a single fine for multiple breaches that continued to occur for seven months after they were first identified is outrageous. They should have been fined for each breach in a timely manner, then maybe they would have stopped earlier,’ said Mr Pugh.