NSW Forestry set to push ahead with post-bushfire logging despite EPA and community concerns

21 October 2020

Published by https://www.abc.net.au/

AUSTRALIA – New sections of burnt-out native forest in the Shoalhaven have been earmarked for logging less than a year after bushfires destroyed more than 80 per cent of the region’s bush.

Forestry Corporation of NSW (Forestry) has written to residents outlining plans to log three new areas of South Brooman State Forest but has not indicated whether there will be site-specific conditions post-fires to ensure wildlife habitat protection.

The plans have not been well received by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and some residents.

EPA chief executive Tracey Mackey wrote an open letter to Forestry and the Department of Regional NSW in September stating that any logging done without post-fire specific regulations would pose a major threat to wildlife and could be a breach of NSW forestry laws.

Brooman resident Takesa Frank has started a campaign to stop any new logging.

“The forest needs time to recover before they come back,” Ms Frank said.

“It’s not sustainable. They’re taking habitat from the wildlife.”

Logging already resumed, conditions breached

Timber harvesting resumed in other parts of the South Brooman Forest earlier this year subject to site-specific operating conditions issued by the EPA to mitigate the environmental risks caused by logging in bushfire-affected areas.

In July, conditions were breached and the EPA issued a stop work order for 40 days after 26 hollow-bearing trees were found to have been cut down or damaged.

These trees provide crucial habitat for threatened species living in the forest, such as the yellow-bellied glider and the glossy black cockatoo.

Independent MLC Justin Field has joined the community campaign and said he was frustrated that no conditions for the new areas had been set.

“It’s frustrating to me, the EPA is actually saying don’t log these forests under poor conditions, it’s going to destroy the recovery of those forests,” Mr Field said.

“The community agrees with that position and Forestry is trying to come in anyway.”

NSW Forestry defended its environmental record.

“Timber harvesting takes place in around 1 per cent of the State Forest each year, which is around 0.1 per cent of broader forested landscape, in line with strict rules to protect wildlife habitat.”

Setting a precedent

There were also concerns if logging under pre-fire rules was allowed in South Brooman it could set a precedent for other fire-affected forests around the state.

In her letter earlier this year, Ms Mackey recommended a long-term approach to managing the risks of timber harvesting in all post-fire landscapes for NSW but recognised that this was not an easy task.

“The EPA has been working with [Forestry] and NSW agencies to ensure forestry operations are subject to additional conditions to mitigate their impacts,” the letter read.

“As you note, this has not been easy but it does not mean it should be abandoned.”

Forestry had not indicated when they will begin logging the new fire-affected areas of Brooman, but said planning was underway.

An EPA spokesperson said the EPA would be monitoring logging operations at South Brooman at all stages of activity.

“The EPA will not hesitate to take strong regulatory action if the requirements are breached,” a spokesperson said.

Key points:

  • NSW Forestry Corporation wants to log three new areas of South Brooman State Forest
  • The EPA says new logging could breach forestry laws that protect wildlife
  • There are concerns that if logging begins without any bushfire-affected site-specific conditions, it could set a precedent for the rest of NSW
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