Just like that, the NSW government has decided to convert Tanja, Mumbulla, Murrah and part of Bermagui State Forest into Flora Reserves. According to the press release from Environment Minister Mark Speakman, Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair and Member for Bega Andrew Constance, the move to flora reserves will ‘provide protection to the last known local koala population’.
However, the Bega District News quotes Mr Constance indicating the ” . . . forests were converted to flora reserves, which cannot be logged, instead of national parks so in the future the option of harvesting them again could be considered. ”
This future option would seem to depend on whether there are any koalas to protect and, regrettably, protection from logging in National Parks has not stopped extinction elsewhere in the bio-region. The BDN also quotes National Parks and Wildlife Service deputy chief executive Michael Wright suggesting “ . . . It means we can manage in an integrated way across the landscape . . . This is important for fire management, pest and weed management, as well as working to improve the habitat for the koala.”
At this point the question about how the NPWS intends ‘to improve the habitat for the koala’ and how this aspiration fits with its typical management, over prescribed fire lighting along with pest and weed poisoning, would seem relevant.
To assist the timber industry, given as Minister Niall Blair stated ‘These forests contain some of the largest quantities of high-value timber on the Far South Coast’. The government has arranged a $2.5 million grant, from the Environment Trust, to help pay for logs from forests to the north.
Clearly the NSW government has no qualms about spending money, intended to improve the environment, on increasing logging intensity in the Southern Region.
Reactions to the announcement, from die-back deniers Chipstop’s Harriet Swift and the OE&H’s senior threatened species officer Chris Allen were similar, with the latter quoted as saying “[The conversion] is a good outcome for these forests,”.
While having forestry out of the picture removes one obstacle, the OE&H/NPWS dilemma and its cheer squad, the conservation movement, pay as much attention to the National Forest Policy Statement as forestry and the loggers do.
I suppose this represents some sort of balance, but it does seem to come at a cost, active and adaptive management for example.
An ABC report suggests a single name has been proposed for the flora reserves in the map above, the ‘Murrah Flora Reserves’. Not sure it will catch on though.