New proposals by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) to allow clear felling of large areas of forests on the North Coast could be the catalyst that tips the area’s koalas onto the extinction path, according to the National Parks Association of NSW (NPA).

NPA has joined other community groups to strongly condemn the EPA’s proposed changes to rules called IFOAs that govern logging activities. [1]

‘”The clear felling proposals under the new rules for logging would have a devastating impact on areas such as the proposed Great Koala National Park (GKNP),” spokesman for Coffs Harbour NPA Ashley Love said.

“These new rules would affect two-thirds of the 170,000ha of state forests that should be included in proposed koala park.

“They are horrific reincarnations of extreme logging proposals put forward by Forestry Corporation 20 and 30 years ago and roundly rejected at the time by the state and federal governments.

“These are worse than the earlier rejected proposals because they propose even more expansive and intensive logging of our native forests.”

Mr Love and other representatives of conservation organisations who recently inspected forests logged using the proposed new rules were appalled by the damage.

The EPA’s proposals include alarming recommendations that would:

• Allow clear felling of 30 per cent of coastal forests that are in the GKNP proposal area;
• Allow destructive cable logging in mountainous forest, which cover about 30 per cent of the GKNP proposal area;
• Allow more intensive harvesting in the remaining third of the park proposal—the forests between the coast and the mountain forests.

“It is deeply disturbing that the NSW Environment Protection Authority, a body that is supposed to protect nature, is proposing these destructive changes,” NPA Science Officer Dr Oisín Sweeney.

“The EPA has become the spear carrier of the Forestry Corporation, and this unholy alliance appears hell bent on removing the last stick of timber from our native forests, then sell at a loss.”

“The public would be appalled if they know that under the proposed rules, tiny areas set aside over the past 15 years as koala high-use reserves would be removed and opened up to clear felling or intensified harvesting,” he said.

“The new approach will also relieve the Forestry Corporation of the responsibility of searching for koalas before logging.”

Mr Love said the EPA in partnership with Forestry was developing new measures to protect koalas but these measures:

• would not apply if affected existing timber supplies;
• can be vetoed by Forestry Corporation; and
• are paid for by the citizens on NSW via the Environment Trust.

“This is yet another subsidy to the already heavily indebted native forest timber industry,” he said.

“The EPA has clearly lost sight of its responsibility to the NSW community and we no longer have any confidence in the organisation’s ability to act in the best interests of our environment.

“its inability to regulate forestry, as detailed in February’s Legislative Council report, continues and shows no signs of improvement.

[1] IFOAs (Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals) spell out the steps loggers must take to protect threatened species, water quality, etc, during forestry operations. Existing IFOAs require loggers to not clear near streams, to look for trees used as habitat for koalas, gliders, owls and other threatened species. Details of the proposed IFOA changes are here: http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/forestagreements/trial-IFOA-LowerNE.htm

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