The North East Forest Alliance have described the decision by the Environment Protection Authority to remove a logging exclusion over an oldgrowth forest identified as a fire refuge in Doubleduke State Forest, west of Evans Head, a dereliction of duty and are calling for it to be urgently reinstated.
NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said the region was extensively burnt in the 2019/20 wildfires with most individuals of vulnerable species such as Southern Greater Glider, Yellow-bellied Glider, and Koala killed in the intensively burnt forests, making protection of the refuges where they survived vital for repopulating the burnt forests.
Additional measures to reduce impacts
‘When the Forestry Corporation sought to log Doubleduke State Forest a few months after the fires the EPA issued site-specific conditions, that required various additional measures to reduce impacts, including protection of all hollow-bearing trees and all mapped unburned and partially burned areas.
‘This effectively required logging to be excluded from a large area of mature and oldgrowth forest in the Lower Slopes Road valley in Doubleduke State Forest.
Mr Pugh said while this forest has not been surveyed, nearby records indicate this is a vital refuge for a comprehensive assemblage of hollow-dependent species, including the Endangered Southern Greater Glider, along with the Vulnerable Yellow-bellied Glider, Squirrel Glider, Spotted-tailed Quoll, Brush-tailed Phascogale, Masked Owl, Barking OwI, Powerful Owl, Glossy Black Cockatoo, Little Lorikeet, Brown Treecreeper and Stephens Banded Snake.
‘It is also known to contain core Koala habitat.
EPA removed all the post-fire protections
‘While the EPA were advised by their own experts that logging prohibitions on the remaining unburnt and lightly burnt forests within the firegrounds needed to be maintained for at least 20 years, after a year the EPA removed all the post-fire protections, allowing the Forestry Corporation to revert to the pre-fire logging conditions as if nothing had happened.
‘This vital fire refuge in Doubleduke State Forest has now been roaded and is about to be logged.
‘The EPA have a legal obligation to “protect, restore and enhance the quality of the environment in New South Wales”, yet they decided to remove restrictions on logging in burnt forests, despite the massive impacts resulting in Koala and Southern Greater Glider being up-listed to Endangered
EPA have a duty to consider climate change
‘In Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action Incorporated v Environment Protection Authority  NSWLEC 92 it was clearly established that the EPA have a duty to consider climate change, yet they have made no attempt to change the logging rules to account for its growing impacts.
Mr Pugh said NEFA considers that the EPA’s removal of all additional restrictions on logging of burnt forests a dereliction of duty.
NEFA have provided the report Protecting Fire and Climate Refugia in Doubleduke to the EPA Chief Executive Officer Tony Chappel and asked him to immediately reinstate protection for this vital fire and climate refugia in the Lower Slopes Road valley in Doubleduke State Forest.