Coastwatchers Association Incorporated advise that Forestry Corporation NSW (Forestry) has suspended its last active native forest logging operation in Mogo on Thursday 13 August telling The Beagle "This follows the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Stop Work Order in South Brooman State Forest on 23 July 2020, so now there is no logging of public native forests, on the South Coast between Nowra and Narooma.
Resident citizen scientists and local environment group Coastwatchers alerted the EPA that many hollow bearing trees had been felled at both locations, directly breaching site specific conditions imposed by the EPA, after the devastating Black Summer bush fires which destroyed 97,000 square kilometres across NSW - an area larger than The Netherlands. The group advise that estimates suggest more than a billion native creatures died in the infernos. A spokesperson for the group said "In light of this devastation Forestry was instructed earlier this year by the EPA that all hollow bearing trees were to be retained. However at South Brooman it was stated “EPA officers allegedly found 26 hollow bearing trees that were either felled or damaged, with many trees also not identified and mapped in the planning phase”.
In 2007 the NSW Scientific Committee found that 46 mammals, 81 birds, 31 reptiles and 16 frogs rely on hollows for shelter and nests. Of these 174 hollow dependent species, 40 species were listed as threatened under the Threatened Species Conservation Act.
Above: Threatened Species Powerful Owl chick in hollow. Photo Jasmine Zeleny
Above: Threatened Species Greater Glider in hollow in Buckenbowra State Forest
Coastwatchers calls on local members Andrew Constance and Shelley Hancock, to encourage the forestry industry to pivot away from harvesting public native forests and complete the transition to the job-rich plantation sector based at Bombala and the Tumut forest industry hub.
Coastwatchers say "Since the Black Summer Fires a recent University of Queensland and James Cook University study (with input from multiple Australian Universities and environmental organisations) found that across NSW, 49 more animals now need to be assessed for threatened species listing, due to the fire’s impact on animal habitat. The study concludes the fires were 50 times more extensive and more severe than California’s worst wildfires."
"Mogo and South Brooman/East Lynn featured extensively in the national and global media throughout the summer. The local shire of (Eurobodalla) reports that 80% of its area and 90% of national parks and state forests were burnt last summer.
"Right now, Forestry should be 100% focussed on salvage logging pine plantations, not logging our regenerating native forests in damaged regional communities.” said Julie Taylor Mills, Nature Conservation Council – Southern Representative.
Offering background the groups spokesperson told The Beagle "The cessation of logging in the Southern Region by the EPA, following community reporting, represents a systemic monitoring failure by the FCNSW. Logging resumed in mid-March in the Southern Region, in compartment 60 in South Brooman State Forest on the Old Sheep Track and compartment 174 in Mogo State Forest on Buckenbowra Road.
"Logging then moved to compartment 58 in South Brooman State Forest on the Old Princes Highway and compartments 173/161 in Mogo State Forest on Ross Ridge Road. Logging has now been suspended in all south coast active operations following EPA investigations into hollow bearing trees being cut down. Adequate processes would have ensured, EPA site specific conditions in bushfire affected operations, were implemented on Day One of logging resuming after the fires."
Forestry advised local environment group, The Coastwatchers Association Incorporated, in correspondence on 24 July, that it was undertaking an internal investigation, submitting to an external audit and conducting an independent and external review.
“The EPA has issued a stop work order while it investigates this operation and the Forestry Corporation is cooperating fully with this investigation. Forestry Corporation is concerned by this and has taken several immediate additional steps including commencing an internal investigation, submitting to an external audit by our external certifier under the Australian Standard for Sustainable Forestry Management and conducting an independent and external review of the strength of our practices and compliance with the regulations across all of our native forest operations. We have also reiterated to staff and contractors the importance of compliance”. NSW Forestry Corp
Coastwatchers say "The Mogo operation is the third concurrent suspension of logging in NSW, following community reporting of two giant trees (over 140cm diameter) cut down at Wild Cattle Creek inland from Coffs Harbour, that resulted in an EPA Stop Work Order on 18 July 2020.
"Non-compliance with the Coastal IFOA can attract a maximum penalty of $5 million. The Wild Cattle Creek and South Brooman Stop Work Orders are the first Stop Work Orders, issued by the EPA to Forestry under new 2018 laws.
"Existing softwood plantations urgently need salvage logging and replanting. "The Australia Institute states If native forest logging were to be discontinued in NSW, existing grants and avoided losses could provide funding for ongoing management by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. Furthermore, the impact on jobs is likely to be minimal, as approximately only 600 people are directly employed in the native forestry industry in NSW, less than 0.1% of the total workforce."