Hard to miss over the past week has been the visit from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, including the obligatory photo with a non local koala. As indicated in this case, with the NSW Premier, milking the opportunity for all it’s worth.


Meanwhile on the south coast, Berejiklian’s Minister for Transport and local MP Andrew Constance has apparently made one comment about the protests and arrests at Corunna Sate Forest. To quote the Corunna groups facebook page  he said ‘logging MUST happen to provide employment’. Even if we forget that the cost of trucking the logs from Corunna to Eden is being paid for from the NSW Environmental trust. The belief that logging must continue is much like the desire to build more coal-fired power stations. Both reflect garrulous and truculent attitudes that ignore economic and environment reality and the need for change.

Hence the need to continue work toward possible legal action, with regard to the management of local koalas. According to Chris Allen, the NSW government is not prepared to spend any time on the south-east koalas because the population is too small.However, I’ve updated the genetic map for koalas in the southeast, showing the three endemic populations, Strzelecki, south coast and Blue Mountains (black outline). The map also shows the Campbelltown, southern highlands and Numerella koalas that, based on current information have previously been translocated (supposed to be red outline).

To date there are at least three and possibly four different genetic koala groups in this latter group. It seems likely that at least one of these groups are descendents of animals that escaped from Canberra. So in absence of information to demonstrate other wise, it’s arguable that the south coast population is quite important, if only from a genetic perspective. The tricky part is getting the NSW government to provide honest information.

 

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Late last month the Australian government released its vision/plan for forestry titled “Growing a Better Australia – A Billion Trees for Jobs and Growth”.

According to the government, ‘Australia has a proud forestry history’ and ‘Our forests are continually growing wood and fibre that provide products we all use in our daily lives’.
However, to capitalise on the use of timber products and provide certainty to the industry, another 400,000 hectares of plantation is required.

Not surprisingly, yet another attempt at creating more plantations will take some time, so in the interim the feds will be ‘working with state governments, private native forest owners and interested Indigenous communities to unlock potential timber supply’, where ever it may be.

The plan goes on to suggest ” . . . research tells us that Australians have limited understandings of the management of our trees, and misconceptions regarding the sustainability of the sector.”
Hence the government aims ” . . . To improve public understanding of forest management in Australia, we need to improve the transparency around our management practices.” and ” . . . We need to ensure that the post-harvest replanting and regeneration of our native production forests is effectively demonstrated to the public.”

This of course, is what the RFAs were supposed to demonstrate.

BMAD in the Murrah Flora Reserve

 

Back on the south coast, at Corunna State Forest, after Forestry corp started logging, the Beagle Weekly reported local residents had photographed a Sooty Owl in the compartment. Such a sighting is supposed to trigger an exclusion zone, but if this has happened neither forestry or the EPA can say where the zone is.

What hasn’t been mentioned to date is whether there are any Bell-miner colonies in the compartment. A video on youtube, thanks Geoff and Lynne for the link, shows how removing lantana, with glysophate from a ‘splatter gun’ led to the bell-miners leaving several areas on a far north coast property. 

Of course there are several factors operating, so this outcome cannot be expected everywhere. Particularly at Corunna, given logging is occuring at the same time as some lantana is being removed.

Coincidently, earlier this year Eurobodalla Council and the NPWS used splatter guns to remove lantana at Bellbrook, just south of Corunna.  There is no mention of BMAD at this location either. 

The federal Senate is currently receiving submissions to an inquiry titled Australia’s faunal extinction crisis. Among the submissions to date is one from the NSW government.
Not surprisingly the NSW gov is full of praise for its efforts, although it’s a shame some-one in the department didn’t proof read Minister Upton’s attached letter. In particular the paragraph reading ” . . . Further detail on these reforms and how they are contributing to protecting important native species as well as other actions can be found in the attached submission. The attached submission”

According to the submission ” . . . A concerted effort with strong vision and leadership is required to ensure as many of Australia’s native species as possible continue to survive and thrive in the wild. This requires coordination across all levels of government as well as non-government and private organisations, communities, volunteers and individuals.”

Sounds good in theory, until one considers the government’s poor scientific basis that essentially excludes many non-government and private organisations, communities, volunteers and individuals.

Take mother swamp wallaby for example, not considered to be a ‘important species’. If she lived in any of the forests that have been burned this year, either deliberately or otherwise, they, along with many other animals probably would have starved. Thankfully there are several submissions from pro-animal and ‘rewilding’ organisations, Australian Wildlife Conservancy, for example.

On koalas the NSW gov talks about gathering more information, so they can learn more about them. An interesting notion given they all claim to know pretty everything.

So I’m looking forward to some positive recommendations from the extinction inquiry. Although hoping it may influence forest management in NSW seems a little unrealistic.

Forestry Corporation have released the long-awaited Harvesting plan for Compartment 3058 in Corunna State Forest. Nearly 3,500 people have signed a petition opposing the logging and this week forestry will be speaking to Eurobodalla Council, about their plan to log. As expected the plan has the usual errors, omissions and inadequacies.

However there is a koala record (1980) and also a new map, indicating locations, or what forestry has found, of lantana growing in the compartment.  I’m not sure if there are any Bell-miner colonies in the compartment, but there probably are some.

According to the independent review of BMAD, a consistent feature of these areas is an initial loss of leaves in the canopy, followed by an increase in under/mid storey species, generally lantana or pittosporum. The plan doesn’t provide information on the logging history, so the spread of lantana may be associated with the last extensive canopy dieback event, during 2002-2004.
Unfortunately the plan doesn’t provided the forestry map of dieback below, associated with dry weather and drought.

 

As indicated, forestry found the compartment had ‘moderate’ extensive canopy dieback, although what that actually means, relative to a high/low of high occurence isn’t clear. According to the plan soils are not dispersible, a conclusion that conflicts with soil landscape mapping for the area. As indicated it found most of the Cpt is on the Murrah soil landscape, where all profiles were found to be sodic and dispersible.

Not far to the south, the Yankees gap fire blew up on the weekend, with embers jumping containment lines on the southern and eastern sides. Some 18,340 hectares have now been burned and on this occasion the house of someone I know near Bemboka.

The fire will keep burning, until it rains a lot.

The ABC’s 7.30 program recently reported on the NSW government’s intention to increase logging intensity on the north coast. According to the forestry industry ” . . . the move is necessary to meet demand for native timber, and the expansion will be done under strict environmental guidelines”.

Speakers on the program included NEFA’s Dilan Pugh, undertaking a check on logging practises and multiple licence breaches near Lismore.

Former state and federal labor politician Bob Debus appeared suggesting current and proposed logging ” . . . completely contradicts agreements made at all levels of government, going back to 1992 ”

Then Wildlife Ecologist Steve Phillips from BIOLINK saying ” . . . This is the sort of industry which has really needed some big, forceful hands placed on it to say, “Stop”.” He went on to say ” . . . as the forests get weaker and weaker, in an ecological sense, the pressure on them gets greater and greater.”

Speaking in support of the industry was Jerry Vanclay, a professor at Southern Cross University. According to Jerry ” . . . for some types of eucalypt forest, intensive harvesting in selective places makes sense. If we want to have healthy regeneration of sun-loving trees, we need to make some disturbance.We need to clear a big enough area that we get lots of sunlight into that gap.”

Regrettably, Dr Vanclay’s ideas are a bit behind the times. For example, Dr Vanclay wrote a paper in 2013 titled ‘Forest site productivity: a review of spatial and temporal variability in natural site conditions’. The paper’s abstract suggests ” . . .  It is generally assumed that natural site conditions and, in turn, site productivity changes gradually and predictably.” Well yes that’s what forestry, the logging industry and many others assume.

The problem being, in this bioregion, after the European invaders cut down most of the primary koala habitat. It only grew back and supported koalas for another 30 years.
Based on this reality and as we’ve had the increased logging intensity for 50 years, it’s reasonable to assume some associated changes to site productivity.

As the map above, derived from Forestry’s dieback mapping, appears to demonstrate. However, despite the extensive canopy dieback, Forestry still claims this sub-catchment contains areas with both medium and high site quality, within areas rated with a high, high/low or low dieback occurence. Must be some sort of voodoo magic

While our national leaders have been doing their best to avoid actually leading the country. Down here the State government has been working to eliminate the native forest sawlog industry. 

According to the Eden Magnet, the Forestry Corporation called for expressions of interest for the supply of 25,000cm of sawlogs per annum from the Eden Region over a 15 year period. The current sawlogger, Blue Ridge Hardwoods and the woodchip company Allied Natural Wood Exports both applied and the woodchipper won. This is not a surprising outcome, if one believes Forestry’s management is all about short-term pulplog rotations, as opposed to longer term sawlog rotations.

The state Member for Bega Andrew Constance announced a $12.4million investment or handout for the Eden timber industry. Blue Ridge Hardwoods gets a $10 million income support package for job losses and $2.4m, assumedly to assist in closing the mill over the next 12 months.

Blue Ridge Hardwoods managing director Allan Richards, was reported as being surprised very disappointed with the result. On a positive note he also suggested the decision ” . . . has the potential to destabilise the timber industry in the South East.”

Of course the notion that Forestry has enough sawlogs to supply the yet to be seen contract does take a large leap of faith. The Regional Forest Agreements were supposed to provide the data to confirm, or otherwise forestry’s capacity to grow sawlogs. Unfortunately, Forestry decided not to undertake the necessary inventory work. So it must be assumed that a yet to be specified volume will come from private forests, while it lasts.

On public forests the uncertainty begins with the area actually available for logging. The following table provides the various areas Forestry have provided over the past decade. The last ‘Net Area’ figure supposedly excludes Bermagui SF and the Murrah Flora Reserve. However, if the figure is correct the net area in the flora reserve and Bermagui SF would appear to be greater than the gross area. So it can’t be right.

Source Year Gross Area Net Area
1 2008 164200 95945
2 2009 157122 124071
3 2012 164200 88018
4 2017 163318 73945

1. Internal review of wood supply modelling for Eden RFA area. (2008) Forests NSW

2. Forests Sustaining Native Forest Operations: Forests NSW.(2009) Peter Achterstraat, NSW Auditor-General, Sydney

3. Performance Audit Report Yield Forecasts – Eden Regional Forest Agreement, (2012) Forests NSW

4. Post-2018 Yield Forecasts – Eden Regional Forest Agreement Area (2017) NSW Forestry Corporation

 

Meanwhile the South east National Park continues to burn and the fire has exceeded 12,700 hectares. While the RFS claim it is ‘being controlled’ the reality is that the only thing that will put it out is a large dump of rain.While there has been a change in the weather, there is no sign of decent rainfall in the short-term.

So the fire will keep heading north and the fire control efforts will attempt to stop it moving east.

The first reports of a fire at Yankees gap came at 10 am on Wednesday. At that time it was said to be out of control, over 70 hectares and had spread into the South east National Park.

As reported in the Bega District News the RFS was ” . . . asking people to refrain from burning on their properties until there was a significant change in weather conditions. There had been numerous cases of people with good intentions, they said, but the significant winds the Bega Valley had been experiencing made it hard to contain fires. ”

By 8pm on Wednesday the fire had moved 13 kilometres to the east and had burnt 3,000 hectares. Three days on the fire has now burnt 5,554 hectares, according to the RFS website. 

Rumor has it that the fire was a ‘fuel reduction burn’ that was initially sanctioned by the RFS. The fire escaped. as they do and the RFS came and ‘controlled it’. Still according to rumor, the landholder then set it going again and it really took off. One can only trust the true story about this fire is made public.

 

Hoping for a realisation that burning is a really counter productive approach to land management and only makes things worse, is probably asking too much. This seems particularly the case while humans believe they are the only creatures worth saving.

There is little or no consideration of the hundreds of animals that have perished in the fire, like the antechinus, or will die as a result of it. The fire will burn for a long time and may jump across to Biamanga NP. Should this occur there will be nothing that will stop it from getting into the flora reserve.

As it is the fire will continue to move north to Murrabrine, where I understand some evidence of koalas was recently found.

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