Threats to koalas and people, will the government ever wake up?

Back in February I referred to the paper ‘Extinction in Eden: identifying the role of climate change in the decline of the koala in south-eastern NSW’ (Lunney et al.).  Although yet to read the full paper, published in April, the authors suggest drought and rising temperatures have been a major driver of koala decline. Implications from the research are, ‘Development of strategies to help fauna adapt to the changing climate is of paramount importance, particularly at a local scale.’

Exactly what this suggestion means is unclear, and the extreme secrecy around the koala issue tends to cloud the issue further. For example, the paper uses a link the this blogs resources page, as a reference for one of Chris Allen’s internal OE&H reports.

Other ‘known threats’ are listed as ‘habitat loss measured as changes in foliage cover (logging), fire, and increases in the human population.

While there isn’t much evidence of anything other than business as usual, the Rural Fire Service has announced it will be holding public meetings, though out the shire, to get feedback on its bushfire risk management plan.  An additional aspect of the plan is the new 10-50 rule, allowing landholders to remove all trees within 10 meters of an asset, and everything else, within 50 metres of an asset.

The purpose of the plans is to identify ‘assets’ at risk of bushfire, establish treatment options to deal with the risk, and who is responsible for carrying out those treatments. The problems begin with the vegetation map, that is different from OE&H maps, like the fire management plan Biamanga NP. Then there is the definition of a tree that, the RFS proposes, is a ‘perennial woody plant having a single stem or trunk that is more than three metres in height, and a circumference of more than 30 centimetres at chest height’.





According to the OE&H map, the vegetation in the photo above is, ‘Tall dry eucalypt forest’.  The RFS map  indicates it is ‘Dry scerophyll forest’ with shrubby sub formation. However , as only one of the  trees in the photo is a eucalypt greater than 30 cm, far left, and the majority of the remainder are Allocasuarina, it could fit into the OE&H classification  ‘Disclimax native scrubland’.

Complicating things a bit more, the federal government require the Corridors and Core Habitat for Koalas on the NSW Far South Coast project to differentiate between residual, modified and transformed vegetation.

To clarify the issue, early last week I wrote to the OE&H,  asking if the project proponents are confident that appropriate ground truthing methods, including tree recruitment, and mortality, have been employed to adequately differentiate between residual, modified and transformed vegetation. Also, whether the original proposal to employ LiDAR on State forest, has changed.

No response of course, but the recent $500m payout to bushfire victims in Victoria, should be a wake up call.


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