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September 29, 2022

Call to stop logging NSW public forests to be debated as fire risk increases

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Hollow-bearing tree damaged by Forestry NSW at Wild Cattle Creek. Photo Dailan Pugh

Over 20,000 people have signed a petition asking the NSW government to debate the proposal to place a moratorium on logging in public native forests, transition to 100 per cent sustainable plantations by 2024 for the native forestry industry, and ban the use of native forest materials as ‘biomass fuel’. This is forcing the NSW Legislative Assembly, also known as the Upper House, to debate the petition and it is due for debate next week on 15 September.

Hollow-bearing tree damaged by Forestry NSW at Wild Cattle Creek. Photo Dailan Pugh

‘The North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) is calling on the NSW Legislative Assembly, when they vote next week, to revoke the Forestry Corporation’s licence to kill threatened species after finding more wanton vandalism of koala feed trees and hollow-bearing trees in Wild Cattle Creek State Forest,’ NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said.

‘These are some of the few trees that legally required protection. This is not an isolated case, the Forestry Corporation were fined $285,600 in June for logging into a Koala High Use Area, rainforest and a rainforest buffer 4km to the west, and last month the EPA announced they are prosecuting the Forestry Corporation for logging six Giant Trees and seven Hollow-bearing Trees 5km to the south,’ he explained.

‘All this illegal logging is occurring in what is some of the best koala habitat in Australia, proposed as part of the Great Koala National Park.

Hollow-bearing tree damaged by Forestry NSW at Wild Cattle Creek. Photo Dailan Pugh

‘In 2017 the Office of Environment and Heritage identified compartment 40 as a Koala Hub, one of 567 priority areas across the whole of NSW for protection as a highly significant area of koala occupancy.

‘Despite this, within this Koala Hub most of the larger Koala feed trees were allowed to be logged, and many of the few token trees they were legally obliged to protect were extensively damaged.’

The aftermath of logging in the Girard State Forest. Photo Dailan Pugh

Logging increases fire risk

The increased risk of fire as a result of logging has also been established and supports the proposition to stop logging NSW native forests. 

Independent NSW MP Justin Field has highlighted that a new study based on research conducted in New South Wales South Coast forests has strengthened the growing evidence that logging increases fire risk and will sharpen calls to transition out of native forest logging in NSW. 

Fire fighters battling flames on the Woombah to Iluka road in November 2019 during the Black Summer fires. Photo Ewan Willis.

The study, published in the journal of Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, assessed 119 sites in coastal forests between Ulladulla and Narooma on the NSW South Coast and found that ‘changes in vegetation associated with logging, and to a lesser extent wildfire, increase the risk of fire.’

‘This research demonstrates that logging increases fire risk and that risk has increased in recent decades with more intensive industrial logging,’ said Mr Field

‘It adds to a growing body of evidence that logging increases the risk and severity of fires in our forests by opening up the canopy, drying out the forest floor and creating ladder fuels bringing fires up into the forest crown.’ 

The NSW Government was warned last year by their own Natural Resources Commission that the combination of logging with the impact of the 2019/20 fires presents a ‘serious and irreversible’ risk to the environmental values of NSW forests. In the last month both the koala and greater glider have been declared endangered in NSW, in part due to the combined impacts of logging and wildfire.

Myall Creek, Bora Ridge Fire, November 14, 2019 during the Black Summer fires. Photo Ewan Willis.

Declining bird life

The impacts of the Black Summer fires have directly impacted functional bird populations vital to rainforest and they are struggling to recover in the years after the black summer bushfires devastated Australia regeneration according to new UNSW Sydney research.

The study, published in Global Ecology and Conservation, investigated the impact of the 2019–2020 Australian bushfire season on the ancient Gondwanan Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, which were burned for the first time in recorded history.

The researchers found that unprecedented megafires negatively impacted the diversity of functional rainforest bird communities among burnt areas of the Gondwanan compared to surviving regions.

These rainforests are 40 million years old, and the fact we’ve burned up to half of it in just once fire season – which we can confidently attribute to climate change – is astounding. It’s another page in the story that is the huge impact we’re having on unique ecosystems worldwide,’ says Professor Richard Kingsford, an author of the study.

The researchers say that we need to recognise the real cost of bushfires on biodiversity.

Koala killed in the fires in Ellangowan State Forest. Photo supplied.

‘Inaction on climate change will come at the expense of our rainforests. Because the recovery of the rainforest is slow, the recurrence of fire is probably going to be too frequent that rainforest won’t be able to recover and will just lose more and more of it through time,’ Mr Lee says

Next week the Legislative Assembly will be voting on the petition to end logging of public native forests. Stopping logging in native forests needs to stop so that bushfire risks can be reduced and threatened species have a chance in the climate constrained future that the world is facing

‘NEFA is calling upon people who care about koalas and threatened hollow-dependent species, such as the Greater Glider, to contact their local members to ask them to take this opportunity to vote to remove the Forestry Corporation’s licence to kill threatened species by stopping them logging public native forests, said Mr Pugh.

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  1. So clearing strips through the forest aka fire breaks, increases risk of fire? Sure it does. Just as banning fuel load management for 10 years helped protect forest animals. Hard to tell if eco-nuts are incompetent or malicious.

    • Well Christian the proof is in the pudding !
      Clearing fire breaks and ‘ fuel reduction burns ‘ encourage the growth of fast growing , highly flammable grasses and mid-story pioneer species, that massively increase the fire intensity and promote the spread of any fires into areas without the protection of a canopy , which preserves the moisture content,
      A perfect example of this is the rainforests which have not burnt for thousands of years , until exposed to threat by the incompetent actions of Forest NSW, and this is incomprehensibly defended and championed by eco-nuts , such as yourself.

      • I grew up in a rain forest that had an intact canopy and high humidity. They burn just fine, and really fast. My parents and the rest of the rural brigade stopped the fire by running a tractor with a blade up old over grown tracks. You can’t bulldoze mature trees fast enough to stay ahead of a forest fire. Go do your FM-1 through FM-3 certs and you will learn these things. And yes, I’m in a rural brigade and have fought forest fires.

      • There is not a blanket yes / no answer to this matter, you can also argue if logging is done a certain way, it could definitely help to reduce fire risk, depends on forest type, logging practices and a whole other range of environmental factors.

        Why do people become so one sided in these environmental issues?

        We need sustainable logging and better forest management (ie. indigenous cultural burns of eucalyptus forest), not just locking up big areas to be left to burn down the next time a fire comes along.

        • White man magic works just fine. I’ve burnt out my private forest many times to prevent it from catching fire. Setting 3 sides of a forest on fire to drive the animals out the forth is a hunting practice most stone age cultures practiced. I go slowly in straight lines and do one patch at a time so I don’t fry my native pets.

  2. Unless the State Forests [especially National Parks] are managed properly with access roads, fuel reduction and fire-breaks, nothing will stop a future major flare-up happening again. Simplistic eco-rants are a pipe-dream – not a solution.
    The scenario of future disastrous North Coast fires was fully predicted in the early 1990s by local councils.
    It has only got worse with more bush-settlement and cessation of grazing leases after the RFAs.
    Blame the exceptional recent weather events for any rainforest fires, not Forests NSW.


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