Should we create national parks to protect koalas from logging and land clearing?

According to a recent poll in the NSW seats of Lismore and Ballina the answer is a resounding YES with 68.3% of participants in Lismore and 71.9% in Ballina in favour.

The poll, conducted by National Parks Association of NSW, North Coast Environment Centre, Kalang River Forest Alliance and Total Environment Centre also showed that participants would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supported creating new national parks to protect koalas.

This provides the NSW Government with a huge opportunity to ensure that the long-awaited Whole of Government Koala Strategy results in new national parks to protect koalas from logging, land clearing and urban development.

Participants were also asked what they thought was the best use of state forests. The protection of wildlife, nature and trees was the clear preference in both Lismore (47.9%) and Ballina (48.6%) with the protection of water supplies coming in second.

The least preferred use of state forests was logging them for biomass power. Only 2.1% of participants in Lismore and 2.2% of participants in Ballina listed Logging and burning forests for biomass power as their preferred use of state forests.

NPA CEO Alix Goodwin said that the polling should be viewed as an opportunity by the NSW Government to better protect koalas and their forest habitats:

“Koalas are already extinct in some part of NSW, and have undergone steep declines in many other areas1-4.

“The NSW EPA and the science community tells us that koalas like big trees and mature forests5,6. Protecting forests from logging, clearing and urban development is the way to achieve this, and therefore protect koalas.

“The NPA has proposed a suite of new national parks between Newcastle and the Queensland border in an effort to halt the alarming declines in koala populations.

“This polling shows that were the Government to create them, they would be broadly welcomed. We expect that the forthcoming Whole of Government Koala Strategy will reflect the wishes of the community and include new protected areas.

“Our flagship proposal is the Great Koala National Park near Coffs Harbour, is situated to protect some of the best koala habitat in Australia7, and some of the most important koala populations8. It’s also well-placed to help koalas adapt to climate change9.

“NSW Labor and The Greens have already supported the Great Koala National Park proposal. The polling shows that there is no political pain for the Coalition to make it happen. They should get on with it while we still have a chance of halting and reversing declines.

“In light of the lack of support for logging, and the majority view that protecting nature and water should be the primary use of public native forests, the Government should abandon any plans to burn forests for power and to chart an exit from native forest logging immediately.”

Ends

Media contact: Alix Goodwin 0417 679 964

References

  1. Adams-Hosking, C. et al. Use of expert knowledge to elicit population trends for the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus). Diversity and Distributions 22, 249-262, doi:10.1111/ddi.12400 (2016).
  2. Lunney, D., Stalenberg, E., Santika, T. & Rhodes, J. R. Extinction in Eden: identifying the role of climate change in the decline of the koala in south-eastern NSW. Wildlife Research 41, 22-34, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WR13054 (2014).
  3. Lunney, D. et al. in Wildlife and climate change. Towards robust conservation strategies for Australian fauna   (eds D. Lunney & P Hutchings)  (Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, 2012).
  4. Lunney, D. et al. The remaining koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) of the Pilliga forests, north-west New South Wales: Refugial persistence or a population on the road to extinction? , Vol. 23 (2017).
  5. NSW Environment Protection Authority. Koala Habitat Mapping Pilot. NSW State Forests., <http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/resources/forestagreements/koala-habitat-mapping-pilot-160038.pdf> (2016).
  6. Moore, B. D. & Foley, W. J. Tree use by koalas in a chemically complex landscape. Nature 435, 488-490, doi:http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v435/n7041/suppinfo/nature03551_S1.html (2005).
  7. NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. A Preliminary Map of the Liklihood of Koala Occurrence in NSW: comparison of preliminary baseline liklihood of occurrence mapping with koala habitat mapping on the NSW north coast, <http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/resources/epa/140868KoalaMapSubProj.pdf> (2014).
  8. Love, A. & Sweeney, O. F. A blueprint for a comprehensive reserve system for koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) on the North Coast of New South Wales (National Parks Association, Sydney, 2015).
  9. Adams-Hosking, C., McAlpine, C. A., Rhodes, J. R., Moss, P. T. & Grantham, H. S. Prioritizing regions to conserve a specialist folivore: considering probability of occurrence, food resources, and climate change. Conservation Letters, n/a-n/a, doi:10.1111/conl.12125 (2014).