Wednesday, 7 June 2017

In North-East NSW 'a "reduced survey effort" and the dropping of a longstanding rule applying 20 metre buffers to "high-use" areas' is being proposed. How much more can a koala bear?

PHOTO: Australia Zoo in The Age

The Forestry Corporation of NSW (originally the Forestry Commission formed by an act of the NSW Parliament) is the largest manager of commercial native and plantation forests in New South Wales.

Not content with revenue of $339 million and underlying profit after tax of $36 million in 2015-16 (latest annual report) it wants to increase its harvesting range and is coming after quality koala habitat on the NSW North Coast.

ABC News, 3 June 2017:

Many of Australia's most iconic marsupials will lose protection from logging bulldozers, under a radical overhaul proposed in secret Forestry Corporation documents.

The documents, obtained by the ABC, propose the elimination of long-standing threatened species protections, such as site-survey rules, in many NSW state forests.

Intense clearing in northern regions, and increased access to protected stream-banks across the state are other major changes.

Environmentalists say if current rules are trashed, protected marsupials including koalas, wombats, quolls, and gliders will be stealthily eliminated.

"If you don't look, you don't find and if you don't find you don't protect," said conservationist Dailan Pugh, from the North-East Forest Alliance.

The conditions are part of new forestry agreements — known as Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (IOFA) — and cover four major operational areas across the state. Final details are expected to be announced later this year.

Wombats, quolls, koalas face loss of exclusion zones

Many iconic marsupials face additional changes in the draft proposals.

The highly endangered spotted-tail quoll faces a 70 per cent reduction of no-logging zones around breeding dens — reduced from 12 hectares to 3.5 hectares.

Wombats, another protected species, are geographically protected by a line north of the Oxley Highway, requiring a 20 metre logging exclusion zone around burrows.

But Forestry Corporation negotiators want to redraw that protective line further north to Waterfall Way — eliminating the 20 metre exclusion in a vast logging zone between Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie.

Mr Pugh said that would lead to "more wombats being buried alive, as their burrows are collapsed by machinery and falling trees".

He said environmental regulators, such as the EPA, should address declining wombat numbers by expanding current protections state-wide.

For koalas in north-east NSW, Forestry Corporation proposes a "reduced survey effort" and the dropping of a longstanding rule applying 20 metre buffers to "high-use" areas.

It says future protections are "to be developed" utilising new models to retain habitat.

Cost savings if animal surveys dropped

Currently, prior to harvest, logging companies must survey for 87 vulnerable animals, many already facing threat of extinction.

Where an animal habitat is found, operators then implement site protections such as exclusion zones before logging is approved……

The author cites "significant cost saving" as a benefit of making the change.

But former Forestry scientist Robert Kooyman worried relaxing the rules around surveys would harm up to 49 animal species.

"Forest management requires that you know what it is you are managing," he said.

"While historic records provide an indication of habitat use, they are inevitably incomplete, do not reflect the dynamics of forests, and many animal species are highly mobile within their range and habitats, and follow resources."……

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