The NSW election campaign which featured a proposal by Labor to declare a Koala national park (NSW Opposition Leader Supports Koala National Park) on the Mid-North Coast, resulted in some passionate arguments from the timber industry warning that jobs would be lost if such a policy was adopted.
We also had some bizarre and completely erroneous claims about the timber industry not being allowed to log koala habitat.
The reality is that, under the Integrated Forests Operations Approval, the only time any action to ptotect Koalas and their habitat is required, is when there is an official record of Koalas being in that locality. If there is a record, a search of trees must be undertaken 300 metres ahead of the logging, and in the event that either a Koala, or its droppings, is sighted, a complex "star search" of neighbouring trees should be undertaken. However, independent investigations have shown that these time-consuming and costly searches rarely occur.
If, as a result of the search, the area is determined to be "high use", then a small number of feed trees must be retained, with the rest free to be logged. If a Koala is sighted in a tree, a 20 metre buffer is drawn around that tree where no loggiung can occur until the Koala moves on, after which those trees can be chopped down.
Obviously logging koala habitat is allowed under the current rules.
One local industry leader also claimed that forests are being sustainably logged, and took pride in citing Bom Bom State Forest as an example of a well-managed forest. However, while it may be well-managed for timber production, from an ecological point of view, Bob Bom is now a biodiversity 'desert', having been logged into a virtual Spotted Gum monoculture. Most of the old-growth trees with hollows, which provide critical habitat for a range of native fauna, have long since been removed, significantly reducing fauna numbers and diversity.
The popular industry belief that timber production is the primary function of State Forests needs clarifying, with the Forest Corporation NSW equally responsible for managing biodiversity, and for providing for public recreation pursuits.
- J Edwards
This post was orginally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on 6 April, 2014.