In a week where Pope Francis has, via his environmental encyclical, poured scorn rich countries for their greed and unjustified ‘absolute domination over other creatures’. Bellingen Shire Council has wrapped up its second round of public comments for the shire’s Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management (CKPM).
There were several problems with the first CKPM, notably relevance to ‘State Government legislation governing private forestry operations’. It seems the EPA had advised and Council hadn’t fully realised, that any ‘core habitat’ left out of the plan could be subject to logging. Consistent with the NSW government’s tenure based approach, as indicated in the map of koala habitat classes below from the CKPM, there is no indication of what habitat may exist on public land.
This is particularly the case for State Forest that occupies up slope areas adjacent to most of the habitat on private land. It seems at this point, it is once again necessary to have unbridled faith in the State Government’s understanding of ecological processes and koala management practices.
According to the CKPM, the Office of Environment and Heritage has identified the following five threats to koalas in the shire –
1. Clearing of koala habitat for urban and rural residential development, roadwork, forestry and agricultural activities.
2. Fragmentation of koala habitat which isolates individuals and populations, impedes gene flow and the ability to maintain effective recruitment levels.
3. Mortalities caused by dog attack and vehicle strike
4. Mortalities caused by random events such as wildfire and/or extreme weather conditions.
5. Disease, mainly associated with Chlamydia.
Missing from the list is Bell Miner Associated Dieback, although it is associated with threats 1, 2 and 5, there is no mention of this threat in the CKPM.
The main idea behind the CKPM is to protect, rehabilitate and restore koala habitat using various trade-offs and private land incentives. Regrettably, while the terms protect and restore are readily understandable, rehabilitate isn’t. This and the need to log private land to sustain timber supplies, may be a reason why BMAD isn’t mentioned. Whatever, without reference to this threat and what to do about it, the plan is not comprehensive.
Climate change is referred to in the context of potential increases in wildfire and fuel reduction burning is proposed, at a minimum of every six years.
Closer to home, the NPA’s Dr Oisin Sweeney was kind enough to respond to my perceptions of inaccurate koala information reported in local newspapers. Oisin repeated the NPA’s concerns that a single wild fire may eliminate the last koalas. Regrettably the NPA hasn’t proposed any way to address this issue, but seems happy to accept broad acre burning and pretty well everything else, excluding logging, the NSW government is committed to.
What the NPA are yet to push for is the NSW government’s yet to be realised proposal for community based koala monitoring. Should this occur, a focus on real koalas, as opposed to anything the future may bring, may be higher on the agenda.