Logging resumed south of Eden leaves 'no hope' for threatened species, says SERCA

A young powerful owl. Photo: Gayle Osborne
A young powerful owl. Photo: Gayle Osborne

Forestry Corporation of NSW announced this week it will shortly recommence timber harvesting on the Far South Coast.

Daniel Tuan, Forestry Corp's general manager of hardwood forests, said the recommencement of harvesting would allow the region's timber industry to stay in business following the 2019-2020 bushfires and avert job losses in local communities.

Given the extensive fire damage to much of the area, including state logging coupes, the harvesting would recommence "with additional environmental safeguards in place to ensure our commitment to sustainable forest management", Forestry said.

Nature Conservation Council of NSW said in May 2020, Forestry Corporation documents released through parliamentary processes show 85 per cent of native forest on the South Coast designated for logging was burnt.

In response to the Forestry Corporation announcement, environment group South East Region Conservation Alliance (SERCA) is asking Minister for the Environment Matt Kean to intervene to stop the resumption of logging on the South Coast.

SERCA said it was now six months since logging stopped in the Eden region and claimed this was because Forestry was unable to meet the post bushfire environmental standards set by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

"To resume logging now, especially under approvals substantially unchanged since before the bushfires is reckless and irresponsible," SERCA spokeswoman Harriett Swift said.

However, Mr Tuan said Forestry had worked constructively with the EPA for the last 16 months to negotiate site-specific operating conditions for each harvesting operation in bushfire-affected coastal forests.

Forestry claimed no site specific operating conditions had been issued since mid last year and the industry had exhausted its log stocks and opportunities for harvesting on private property.

"As a result, renewable timber harvesting on the South Coast will take place with additional environmental safeguards to further minimise any risks to fire-affected forests."

Forestry said these new rules are above and beyond the existing Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (CIFOA), which prescribes protections for wildlife, soil and water and enables sustainable timber to be produced and the trees regrown.

Nadgee State Forest was heavily burnt in last summer's fires and was formerly home to threatened species including eastern pygmy possums, dusky woodswallows, gang-gang cockatoos, long-nosed potoroos, powerful owls, sooty owls, southern brown bandicoots and common bent-wing bats.

"Any bushfire survivors among these species will have no hope if this logging goes ahead," Ms Swift said.

"Scientific advice tells us that any burnt forests which are now logged will take possibly 200 years to recover, if ever."

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Forestry Corporation said additional environmental safeguards put in place in recognition of the impacts of the 2019-2020 bushfires include additional searching for plants and animals, retaining a greater number of hollow bearing trees and increasing the area of land to be excluded from harvesting.

"We believe these additional environmental safeguards provide the right balance which Forestry Corporation is required to strike between environmental considerations; the need to support the regional communities reliant on timber industry jobs; and meet its supply commitments with small family businesses and key local mills," Mr Tuan said.

Ms Swift said completing the transition of the industry from native forests to plantation wood could be done quickly and with minimal dislocation, "with economic as well as environmental benefits to the community".

Logging resumed in Nadgee State Forest south of Eden on Monday, March 15, with other operations approved for Yambulla and Timbillica/ East Boyd likely to start at any time.

Mr Tuan said Forestry Corporation is transparent with the community, publishing plans for all native forest operations on its website: https://planportal.fcnsw.net/