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NSW Native Forests: more logging, conservation downgraded

NSW logging native forests

Liberal National Coalition’s war on native species extends to new forest rules.

LATER THIS YEAR the NSW Liberal-National Government will ramp up logging and exploitation under proposed changes to the rules governing logging and exploitation of NSW State forests. The proposals will revise NSW logging laws and clearly value timber over protecting our environment.

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Current rules have been in force for the past 20 years and form an important part of Regional Forest Agreements (RFA) between the NSW and the Commonwealth governing more than two million hectares of NSW public native forests.

Following more than 30 years of conflict over the use and abuse of forests, this RFA agreement was struck in the 1990s to conserve the environment while permitting logging to maintain a timber supply. RFAs operate in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania but expire in 2018 or soon after.

No review of forest estate. Expert advice ignored (sound familiar? remember 2017 native vegetation revisions). Giant trees to fall.

Regional Forest Agreements settled 30 years of conflict.
NSW proposes to favour logging interests. Endangered forest species at risk.

Blackbutt Eucalyptus by Peter Woodard
Blackbutt Eucalyptus. (Peter Woodard CC0 1.0)

Despite not conducting any comprehensive review of the remaining forests and whether the existing agreement for NSW was working as required by the agreement, the NSW Government has proposed radical changes to the logging conditions in the two million hectares of NSW Forests including:

  • permit logging in exclusion zones – part of the reserve system
  • dramatic increases to the scale and intensity of logging, putting several threatened species at direct risk.
  • reducing headwater stream buffers from 10 metres to five.
  • allowing logging of giant trees up to 140cm in diameter, or 160cm in the case of Blackbutts and Alpine Ash which are preferred timber species.

As the present government’s own technical committee noted, the proposed changes are unsustainable and will have direct negative impact on the environment of State Forests, bringing about profound long-term effects on their ecology.

The government’s proposed regulations take no account of the impact of global warming. The anticipated logging will also generate significant net increases in atmospheric CO2 and the net loss of freshwater runoff from these catchments.

[The Labor Opposition has pledged no action on RFAs until proper reviews have been conducted.]

All NSW State Forests affected. In Monaro to Coast region…

All NSW State Forests will be affected by these proposed changes. This includes the great swathe of State Forests south along the coast and adjacent ranges from Nowra to the Victorian border and upland to Delegate – covering hundreds of thousands of hectares. Some are very high value forests in which the Blackbutt and Alpine Ash species occur.

The changes will affect the Tallaganda State Forest between Queanbeyan and Braidwood, and the western edges of the coastal range forests near Braidwood, Cooma, and Bombala. But the biggest effects will be in the north east of NSW between Grafton and Taree where a new “intensive harvesting zone” will cover 140,000 hectares.

These forests are in the Forests of East Australia global biodiversity hotspot and many are included in a proposed Great Koala National Park.

Regent Honeyeater by Roger Smith
Regent Honeyeater, threatened species. (Supplied Roger Smith)

Greater Glider, Koala, Swift Parrot and Regent Honeyeater, listed under national Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

What happens next in lead up to state and federal elections?

The NSW Government is expected to introduce these major changes to NSW Forest operation in the next few months. It is not yet known whether the Australian Government will accept these new conditions and simply roll over the existing RFA agreement with NSW.

Signing off on these changes will cast serious doubt on the Australian Government’s commitment to the national environmental interest.

In addition to potentially reducing the size of the reserve network, the NSW’s proposals directly threaten federally-listed endangered and vulnerable species such as the Greater Glider, the Koala, the Swift Parrot and the Regent Honeyeater, which are listed under the national Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

It should be noted that the NSW state seats of Monaro and South Coast and the federal seat of Eden-Monaro all contain significant areas of NSW State Forests.  If the Australian Government agrees to the proposed NSW changes without any changes or serious attempts to test their impact, several effects are likely.

There will be an immediate return to major public conflicts and protests in and around NSW forests including those in the of South East.

Federal and or State court legal actions will be taken to try to stop the changes being implemented.

Voters should be hearing a lot more about the threat to our forests and the ecosystem benefits they provide over coming months.

This article has drawn extensively on two recent articles in  The Conversation  by Oisin Sweeney of Sydney University and Professor David Lindenmayer of ANU.

Greens NSW representative digs out flagging income for logging operations, as logging primed to go up despite expert advice. 
View here  > Around the Web

MAIN IMAGE. Left: (Shutterstock). Right: NSW native forest. (Peter Woodard CC BY-SA 3.0)

Bulletin editor says:

Don’t like the new threats to public forests?  Write to the Premier

NSW voters can write directly to Premier Gladys Berejiklian with reaction to the Coalition’s National Party-driven assault on native vegetation and native animals in 2017–18. Tell her what these developments might do to your voting intentions.

Email — Links to Premier’s website email  OR;
Phone electorate office — (02) 9439 4199;
Copy in — the Opposition Environment spokesperson Penny Sharpe

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