The logging at Doubleduke State Forest has been the centre of protests for months and forest advocates are celebrating a win this week following an EPA order that FCNSW ‘cease operations’ across are while giant trees are properly mapped.
Doubleduke State Forest, near New Italy, has been a site of ongoing community scrutiny and non-violent direct action since logging operations began in January 2023. On March 10 Valerie Thompson held up logging for 30 hours while occupying a tree-sit attached to logging machinery, and on April 4 former Federal Greens candidate Kashmir Miller did the same for eight hours, bringing widespread public attention to the values of the forest.
A public open day at the forest on March 16 attracted almost 100 people and a strong police presence.
Citizen science surveys
Ecologist Anastasia Guise has been involved in citizen science surveys of the forest. Ms Guise said the cease operations is excellent news. ‘It’s what the community has been fighting for for months. Our citizen science team have documented an incredible number of giant trees in this forest, hundreds of years old.’
Ms Guise says all trees over 100 years old should not be logged at all. ‘This is part of the largest forested wetland in northern NSW and an important stronghold in the State for the three large forest owls, the Powerful, Masked and Barking Owls. A colleague also recorded the Sooty Owl last week. These species are all listed as vulnerable and at threat of extinction. Another stronghold was the Pilliga – but that’s being trashed by CSG.’
‘The forest is also core koala habitat, with dozens of felled trees covered in koala and glider scratches, and documented reckless damage to retained koala feed trees.’
The North East Forest Alliance is calling on the new Environment Minister, Penny Sharpe, to intervene by directing the EPA to change the logging rules to require protection for all old growth forest and fire refugia following the 2019/20 bushfires.
Forest mapped in 1998
NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said the valley contains old growth forest mapped in 1998 that was meant to have been protected decades ago. ‘It is reprehensible that Forestry Corporation are still allowed to log identified old-growth forest.
‘The valley was identified by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) in 2020 as a fire refuge that needed to be protected from logging as a source area to allow recolonisation of burnt forests, however the EPA refused to extend that protection despite being advised that it needs to be protected for at least 20 years.’
Lawyer acting for the North East Forest Alliance, Eddie Lloyd, welcomed the EPA direction to FCNSW to immediately stop work but was disappointed it took two complaints for the EPA to do their job.
‘Our original complaint to the EPA on March 10 noted that giant trees had not been mapped properly, and that without correct mapping, these trees were vulnerable to being illegally or accidentally felled. The EPA dismissed our 10 March complaint because they claimed FCNSW was still to survey, map and mark up for harvesting.
‘The EPA officer who responded to our complaint, did however advise NEFA that once this was done, the EPA would check that FCNSW had complied with the mandatory protocols to accurately map giant and habitat trees for protection prior to harvesting.’
Two giant trees felled
On 11 April citizen science surveys documented that two giant trees had been felled, and further giant trees within active logging compartments had not been properly mapped. Ms Lloyd said she was very concerned that despite the EPA advising that they would confirm the mapping had been done by FCNSW, it is clear that they had not.
‘Multiple, systemic breaches have been reported since operations began, including damage to retained trees, felling in a protected drainage line, felling of stags, felling of giant trees, failure to map a Threatened Ecological Community, all of which have been dismissed with ‘dog ate my homework’ excuses,’ said Ms Lloyd. ‘The EPA are not doing their job. They have finally been forced to act.’