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December 5, 2023

NSW EPA fails forests as federal Environment minister looks at developing action plan

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Federal Environment minister Tanya Plibersek. Image www.tanyaplibersek.com

The federal Environment minister Tanya Plibersek announced in the last week the development of an action plan that will assist in the protection of habitat for threatened species. Yet the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) and the NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) continues to fail fauna and flora across the state and Australia with the country now recognised as a ‘global deforestation hotspot’.

Fifteen species and three ecological communities from around the country were added to the federal threatened species list on October 4 including the parma wallaby, koalas, greater glider.

Nature Conservation Council CEO Jacqui Mumford said, ‘The federal government’s commitment to conserving 30 per cent of our land and sea area will put threatened wildlife on the road to recovery and protecting NSW’s state forests from logging is the obvious place to start’.

The addition of the parma wallaby and two types of forest to the threatened list adds weight to long and loud calls to end native forest logging.

‘It’s madness that logging companies are driving the parma wallaby, koalas, greater glider and dozens of other forests species towards extinction to make toilet paper and other low-value products.

A giant koala feed tree illegally logged in koala habitat in another part of Wild Cattle Creek in 2020. Photo Dailan Pugh

‘Deforestation in NSW has been identified as a threat to our forest-dwelling wildlife for decades.’

National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) also supported the Action Plan development with CEO Garry Dunnett saying, ‘it is our view the majority of the “30%” should be met through the conservation gold standard of national parks, nature reserves and marine sanctuaries’.

‘We hope the action plan will prioritise ensuring sensitive landscapes and ecological communities are included within Australia’s protected area network.

‘It is critical the definition of the Southeast Coastal Ranges includes both the NSW Southern Forests and the mid North Coast, capturing important ecological communities in need of enhanced protection.’

Damaged trees in Compartment 44 of the Wild Cattle Creek State Forest. Image: NEFA

EPA failures

While the right noises are being made on a federal level the NSW Forestry Corporation is failing to protect native forests and threatened species. 

This failure was highlighted again by the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) who pointed out that the ‘NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has once again allowed the Forestry Corporation to get off scot-free for wantonly and recklessly damaging habitat trees legally required to be protected’.  

Damage to retained koala feed trees by NSW Forestry Commission. Photos supplied

NEFA is shocked that the EPA has dismissed all NEFA’s complaints that the Forestry Corporation caused excessive damage to 13 marked hollow-bearing trees and seven koala browse trees in core koala habitat in compartment 44 of Wild Cattle Creek State Forest, NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said.

‘It is illegal to damage trees required to be retained, and this damage is blatantly obvious, yet the EPA claims it is not damage. Something is fundamentally rotten with logging regulation.

‘Compartment 44 was identified by the Office of Environment and Heritage for protection from logging as a “highly significant” area “of koala occupancy”, though the NSW Government ignored their advice to protect it.

‘Instead the Forestry Corporation were allowed to log it subject to the token requirements that eight hollow-bearing trees and ten koala feed-tree species be retained per hectare, with the legal requirement that “Retained trees must not be damaged during a forestry operation”.

Damage to retained koala feed trees by NSW Forestry Commission. Photos supplied

‘During a brief assessment in July 2022, NEFA identified that most koala feed trees had been logged, and many of those identified for retention had been damaged during logging.

‘We reported the breaches to the EPA, asking them to use the range of injuries to provide clear guidance on what legally constitutes damage to retained trees.

‘There can be no doubt that the worst of this damage will severely affect the health and longevity of the trees, and hasten their death and the loss of the resources they provide.

‘The EPA response last week was that “the damage sustained to each tree did not meet the definition of “damage” as defined in the CIFOA Protocols.

‘l was shocked that according to the EPA, the severe bashing of retained trees by machines that knocks off extensive slabs of basal bark, the crushing and severing of main roots, nor the knocking out of tree crowns by felling trees on them, constitute damage.

‘It is outrageous that hollow-bearing trees (which in this case are also mostly koala feed trees) hundreds of years old, with hollows essential for survival of a plethora of our native species, are bashed and damaged with such reckless disregard by the Forestry Corporation, and the EPA do nothing about it.

Damage to retained koala feed trees by NSW Forestry Commission. Photos supplied

‘Similarly the bashing of Tallowwoods, so that they are virtually ringbarked, retained as koala feed trees, does not count as damage according to the EPA.

‘This is just the latest in a series of complaints we have made that the EPA have similarly ignored or denied.

‘By their refusal to take legal action for obvious damage to retained trees, the EPA has fostered a culture of careless disregard for the survival of trees legally required to be retained, along with the koalas and hollow-dependent species that need them,’ Mr. Pugh said.

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