December 8, 2023

The state-owned Forestry Corporation of New South Wales has again been ordered to stop work in an area of forest after the Environment Protection Authority identified endangered greater glider habitat nearby.

It has prompted the NSW Greens to reiterate calls for a plan to end native forest logging, while environment groups urged the Minns government to immediately suspend operations in other parts of the state with high glider records.

The stop work order was issued a day after several former environment ministers, including Robert Hill and Peter Garrett, signed on to a campaign led by the independent MP Sophie Scamps for a national ban on native forest logging.

The regulator issued the direction for the forestry agency to stop harvesting operations in parts of the Flat Rock state forest, near Ulladulla on the south coast, after a community complaint.

The EPA said officers inspected several sites in an area with active logging and found what appeared to be a den tree for an endangered southern greater glider within 30 metres of forestry operations.

Under its approval, the forestry corporation is required to create an exclusion zone of 50 metres when den trees are identified.

It marks the second time the forestry agency has been ordered to stop work in recent months for allegedly failing to protect greater glider habitat.

The EPA’s executive director of operations, Jason Gordon, said protection of the southern greater glider and vulnerable yellow-bellied glider was especially important given the impact of the 2019-20 bushfires.

“These glider species rely heavily on unburnt areas of forest after much of their habitat was impacted by the fires,” he said.

“The EPA alleges that FCNSW has not conducted detailed and thorough searches necessary to identify all greater glider and yellow-bellied glider den trees within the Flat Rock state forest compartment.”

Gordon said pre-harvest surveys by the forestry corporation had identified 137 glider sap feed trees. He said this made it likely that a family group of yellow-bellied gliders was active in the vicinity and would require a number of den trees, yet no den trees were identified in the pre-harvest surveys.

The EPA said it had separately commenced discussions with the forestry agency to strengthen survey requirements.

The Nature Conservation Council of NSW said it should not be up to members of the community to stop logging of forests that the agency was required to protect.

The council’s chief executive, Jacqui Mumford, said analysis by the organisation had found areas with some of the highest numbers of southern greater glider records in the state were being logged.

“We called for an immediate suspension of approved and active operations in areas of high glider records, which include Riamukka, Styx River, Forest Land and Currowan state forests,” she said.

“We are also calling on the Minns government to work with the EPA to develop new guidelines that at a bare minimum mandate that any survey of a nocturnal animal is undertaken at night.”

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The NSW Greens environment spokesperson, Sue Higginson, said “the government must act to stop this destruction until we can be confident that any forestry operation is compliant with the law”.

She also called on the government to announce a transition plan to “end native forest logging in NSW before it’s too late for the greater glider and the many other forest dependent threatened species”.

Higginson pointed to legal challenges that halted forestry operations in Victoria before the state government announced it would end native forest logging at the end of this year. Forestry operations in parts of NSW including Myrtle and Newry state forests are now the subject of legal challenges.

The Minns government has said it will not put in place a moratorium on native forest logging.

Daniel Tuan, the general manager of Forestry Corporation of NSW’s hardwood forests division, said the agency was committed to protecting greater glider and other threatened species habitat and was concerned about the stop work order.

“The Forestry Corporation believes it is implementing, before any harvesting commences, its commitments under the primary regulatory agreement on forestry, the Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval,” he said.

He said Forestry Corporation had put in place the measures outlined under the approval to protect greater glider habitat by limiting operations to a proportion of the forested area and retaining a large number of trees for glider habitat and food sources.

He said its approach had been the same for the past five years and the agency was seeking clarification from the EPA after similar issues were raised in Tallaganda state forest.

“Forestry Corporation is committed to positive environmental outcomes and a sustainable timber industry and will sit down with the EPA to negotiate a new approach so that the community can be satisfied,” he said.

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