Land management – where koalas lose

The Natural Resources Commission has released its proposals for the management of over-abundant White and black cypress pine and Bulloak (Allocasuarina luehmannii) in the Brigalow and Nandewar State Conservation areas.

Important because the NSW government will probably go along with it,  the NRC’s Executive director, Bryce Wilde said ” . . these forests are very different to the old growth forests found on the coast and ranges in NSW, and as a result need very different management regimes.”

Having recently returned from the north coast, hence the lack of a post last week, I didn’t see any old growth, rather massive development, vast areas of regrowth forest and many dead trees.

However, the report does refer to research on over abundant Black forest oak (Allocasuarina littoralis), found in drier forests and woodlands in coastal and tableland areas of New South Wales, including here, Tasmania, Victoria and Queensland. Also Drooping She-oak ( Allocasuarina stricta), found in the previous states and South Australia, finding theses species can also impact on environmental values, including an association with poor eucalyptus regeneration.

The NRC suggests it will ‘place the ecological health of the forests first and foremost’, although much like the Forestry Corporation, Office of Environment and Heritage etc, the notion that forest ecosystems are dependent on the animals isn’t considered. Hence the proposal is limited to suggesting the government subsidise thinning of over-abundant trees, identified in 15% (approx, 30,000 ha) of the conservation areas.

Three options to thin the trees are put forward being, no cost recovery, OE&H cut down trees and leave them on the ground, costing $3.85 to $7.1million. Number two, OE&H sell the trees they cut down, costing $2 -$2.5 million and three, OE&H engage a contractor to cut, remove and sell the trees, costing $0.9 to $2.5 million. In addition, as there are no established markets for the small timbers, the NRC propose a biomass power plant be constructed at a local sawmill, capable of burning 51,200 tonnes of timber a year.

Currently local sawmills produce 14,500 tonnes of waste a year and the NRC propose Forestry also undertake thinning to boost the volumes for the power plant. Based on its submission, it is assumed FNSW will line up for any subsidies that may be available.

While the report is detailed, critical data is missing, in particular, the timber volumes expected from the thinning, said to be in Box 5, Section 11.2.2, but the section and the box are not in the report. The NRC is yet to respond to a request to provide the information.elanora 1114

 

The idea behind thinning is to encourage the regrowth of eucalypt species, for koalas and in the longer term, species dependent on the hollows that large euclypts provide. Regrettably there is no evidence to demonstrate this will occur.

The small tree in the center of the photo above was planted when the housing development, located in Elanora, a Gold Coast suburb west of the highway, was completed some 30 years ago. There are koala signs on all of the local roads, and in this case a koala was recently observed on the road and then it went up the tree where it ate leaves for a while.

Originally it was proposed that the nature strip on each property would have two koala feed trees. Unfortunately this didn’t happen, and where they were planted some landholders cut them down. So in this case koalas have to cross the road to access one tree. Interestingly, koalas have learned how to access the few trees that were retained during the clearing, by walking along the top of paling fences.

Also worth a mention, the NSW government has decided to introduce a ‘Pest Control Order’ (PCO) for foxes, covering all land in NSW.  According to the DPI website, the PCO ‘seeks to better support the coordination of community‑wide fox control programs’.

The website also indicates that in certain circumstances ” . . . it may allow Local Land Services to issue eradication orders to individual private landholders to eradicate foxes on their land.”

Locally, the Corridors and core habitat for koalas project was supposed to be organising the coordination of feral control, but that organisation is yet to appear, and seems unlikely to.

Rather, the PCO provides the LLS with the opportunity to start serving notices, so local landholders can be said to be participating, without knowing what the larger game plan is, or what, if anything, the agencies have achieved so far.

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