Forestry Corporation has announced it plans to burn up to 20,000 hectares on the south coast this year, claiming it is ‘critical to our capacity to manage wildfires over summer.’ The burns will also include areas that have recently been logged to ‘create a rich seed bed that promotes forest regrowth’.

Of course there is no evidence to support these claims, rather there is much evidence to disprove them. The problem is that many are prepared to believe it, apparently assuming Forestry Corporation know and can rationally explain, what they are doing.

For its part, it is now eight months since the OE&H announced the composition, twelve men and one woman, of its gender unequal flora reserve working group. Despite the passage of time, there has not been one announcement from this group. Similarly, the OE&H are yet to respond to my relatively straight forward request for contact details.

In the hope, neurotic though it may be, of getting some movement. I’ve sent the request, along with some background information, to the NSW Environment Minister, the Hon. Gabrielle Upton, inviting her to respond.

According to the Ministers website, the response time can be up to 20 working days, depending on the complexity of the request.

Last month a new Korean strain of the rabbit calicivirus was released at 1000 sites across the nation. The impact on rabbits is not expected to be as great as the original release of the virus, or the first release of Myxomatosis, back in 1950.

At that time, the national population of rabbits was reduced from an estimated 600 million, down to 100 million. Not surprisingly this reduction would have had a significant negative impact on rabbit predators, particularly foxes.

One probable outcome is increased fox predation on native species and as experienced in most coastal forests, a reduction or extinction of native species necessary to maintain soil fertility and forest health.

Moving forward to the 1960’s, the Forestry Commission observes a general reduction in forest growth. Consequently, Forestry forms the belief that the downturn is due to many years of selective logging. So it moves toward integrated logging, opening up the canopy to ‘create a rich seed bed that promotes forest regrowth’.

Luckily Forestry doesn’t need everyone to believe its claims, just its regulators, the OE&H and the EPA.

The NSW government has released its Chief Scientist and Engineers report on koalas.  Apparently forming the basis of a revised approach, the report makes 11 recommendations ‘to inform the development of a NSW koala strategy’.

The first recommendation is “That Government adopt a whole-of-government koala strategy for NSW with the objective of stabilising and then starting to increase koala numbers.” Unfortunately,  some significant issues around notions of ‘whole-of-government’ approach, given the differing opinions about how the environment and forest actually work. However, number six is “That Government investigate models for guiding and incentivising collaborative best practice for development and ongoing land use occurring in areas of known koala populations across tenures, industries and land users.”

Theoretically, such an approach could have some significant positive outcomes. Regrettably the major hurdle would seem to be the notion that the OE&H’s past and current do nothing approach will stabilize and increase koala numbers. Nothing could be further from the truth and it seems unlikely there will be much change, while a scientific understanding about forest decline continues to be minimised or ignored.


Over the past couple of weeks South East Forest Rescue has halted illegal logging in compartment 2433 of Tantawangalo State Forest on two occasions. The major issue was the protection, or lack of it, for rocky outcrops. The Harvesting Plan indicates Cpt 2433 is one of nine contiguous compartments, approved for logging late last year. The location of the compartments is immediately above the area of National Park where the government had intended to translocate koalas from Victoria.

There are two koala records in the compartments, although perhaps not surprisingly, there is no indication FCNSW followed the prescriptions required for koalas. However, the map above is from a complaint SEFE lodged with the OE&H back in 2011. In this case koalas were located and the four blue circles are alleged to be the areas where logging didn’t proceed during the operation.

Number seven of the Chief Scientists recommendations indicates ” That Government agencies identify priority areas of land across tenures to target for koala conservation management and threat mitigation.”  So it seems worthwhile, early in the new year, to take a trip to the area, just to see whether the prescriptions were implements, effective and koalas still exist.

Life is littered with ironies, so while Forestry Corporation received a South Coast tourism award last week, for general tourism services. In the same week a fire started at Blue Ridge hardwoods sawmill at Eden, putting the operation out of action for an unspecified period.

The tourism award was apparently for providing things like the Bodalla rest area, last logged in 2014. Of course this was not your standard selective logging operation, because they had to clean the place up afterwards.

The costs associated with the clean up, chipping heads and branches of trees on site, grinding tree stumps, repairing other damage and the like, would have been quite substantial. Of course this was prior to forestry realising it had additional 40,000 cm³ around Batemans Bay to keep Blue Ridge going, given the temporary loss of resource in the flora reserves.





Also last week, ABC radio had an interview with Dr George Wilson, based at the ANU, about the need for more private input into species conservation. In an ANU press release Dr Wilson says ” . . . Business as usual for threatened species is not working – lists are getting longer and threats from predators and habitat loss are getting worse.The private sector can help but it is shut out by government legislation that maintains control over both operations and ownership.”

He proposes incentives for landholders to lease animals, so they can “ . . .  acquire and breed threatened species in extensive predator-free facilities,”

I couldn’t agree more, but to finish this predator free facility, the new concrete strip access road, form work for which is pictured above, has to be completed. This road will replace the environmentally undesirable side cut road, within the fenced area. Just need the workers, the concrete truck and the weather to come together, at the same time.

On broader management issues, I hear the NPWS/OE&H will be releasing their management proposals for the flora reserves in the next week or so. One can only trust that it at least considers issues beyond business as usual.

Depending on one’s perspective, the decision to establish a Department of Environment and Energy could be the most interesting, or disturbing outcome from federal election.

Minister for the new department, the Hon. Josh Frydenberg, was quick to talk about the need for more natural gas. Naturally I expect this means more fracking, rather than constraining the large volumes of gas exported.

While this Bio-region has no coal, gas or oil, it does have a timber industry that government’s claim is sustainable. So it seems likely the Forest Industry Advisory Council will see some support for its proposals to burn ‘waste timber’ for energy production.

For those interested in growing trees, an alternative is using the timber currently burnt or eliminated through other means. For example, Bega Valley Council has an excavator, essentially a logging machine with a different attachment, that it uses to mulch trees along roads and elsewhere. While the purpose is increasing vision, there is an argument that such management should be part of efforts to reduce fuel loads and potential CO2 emissions, both on and beyond the road verge.

In that regard I’ve recently increased the size of the gas reservoir attached to the back-yard bio-char and syngas production unit. The first gas container was designed for continuous gas production from a methane digester and only holds 0.16 of a cubic metre, at low pressure. Based on trials to date this represents about 10% of the gas produced from 35kg of Silver-top ash sticks.

The new container holds 2 cubic metres and when operating, hopefully this week, should provide the opportunity to compare gas and char volumes from the other species of interest, Black forest oak.  Some long term trials to evaluate whether the soil preparation using char aids in the growth of Forest red gum would be helpful.



A couple of weeks ago a (or the?) NPWS ranger for the Murrah reserves, Simon Conarty, dropped in to talk about the beginning of its dog/fox baiting program, letter below.

According to Simon the Local Land Services previously undertook the baiting program in Biamanga NP. The change to flora reserves has led to the NPWS taking over responsibility for baiting in both locations.

Simon also advised that there is to be no change to the Forestry Corporation’s baiting program, while a management plan for the reserves is developed.

The problem with the Forestry Corporation’s baiting program is the fact that it is not part of a ‘nil tenure’ approach. So while the baiting has largely eliminated dingoes and dogs, hence a significant increase in kangaroo numbers and associated road kill. It will never have a significant impact on fox numbers, while it isn’t part an approach across tenures.

Perhaps when the OE&H get around to a koala management plan, news of the New Zealand government’s project “Predator Free New Zealand”,  to eliminate “. . . introduced rats, cats, stoats, possums and so on.”, may have filtered through.


We are writing to inform you that the far South Coast Region NPWS are conducting a ground baiting program in the Murrah Flora Reserve and in Biamanga National Park wild dogs using 1080 meat baits. The program will commence on or shortly after 28th June 2016 and will be ongoing throughout the year. A warning that non-target animals may be affected. If you have any enquiries please call 64955023. If you have further enquiries, please call Simon Conaughty on 65955025.

Last week the federal government launched its ‘Living safe together’ campaign. The campaign has attracted some publicity, criticism and derision in social media.  Attracting the most criticism is a booklet  titled ‘Preventing violent extremism and radicalisation in Australia’ , in particular a fictitious case study about ‘Karen’.

According to the booklet, Karen’s issues began when she left home to go to university, where she gets involved in the alternative music scene, student politics and left-wing activism. After a while she dropped out of Uni and joined a ‘forest camp’. The goal of the forest camp was to disrupt logging activities through barricades, spiking trees, sabotaging machinery etc. No one was hurt but Karen was becoming more removed from proper non caring society. Eventually she decides to go back to uni and now works  ‘towards developing a sustainable solution using the legal system’.

Exactly how one can use the legal system to achieve sustainable solution isn’t specified, because the Regional Forest Agreements exclude third party rights to legal redress.

Receiving  somewhat less publicity, a coalition of conservation groups attended the NSW parliament last Thursday week to present their ‘New deal for nature’ proposal. The aim being to encourage the NSW government to incorporate the 10 components of the proposal into the new Biodiversity Conservation Act. While the event was apparently well attended, the only apparent  publicity was in the Sydney Morning Herald last Thursday, indicating ChipBusters Noel Plumb had been denied entry, due to his radical ‘save our south coast koala’ t-shirt.

The conservation coalition has proposed returning democratic rights in the’ new deal for nature’ proposal, but I expect it will be a bit like Noel’s t shirt for the government,  a bit radical.

rad wombat

Back in south east NSW the ABC reported on a review of wild dog/dingo management for the Local Land Services(LLS). The review was undertaken by  National Parks and Wildlife Service manager Tim Shepherd who has ’15 years experience battling the region’s wild dog problem’. The review was prompted by concerns that the move to the LLS had reduced the effectiveness of wild dog control.Some may recall Mr Shepherd put himself offside a bit by undertaking a fuel reduction burn on a day of total fire ban some years back.

According to Mr Shepherd ” . . . We had a successful planning process in place which was nil tenure which was supported by the rural community”. His proposal is to reinstate a “wild dog coordinator in order to better deliver wild dog management to landholders.”

The ‘nil tenure’ idea is what the OE&H, FCNSW and EPA  proposed for the 1080 fox/ dog baiting program but it hasn’t occurred. If successful planning was in place dogs, foxes and cats would be treated as separate management issues and the aforementioned agencies would be required to work with local landholders, rather than each doing their own, ineffective thing.

As for the wombat, it too was a bit radical,having torn the fence apart on several occasions at one location, some 20 metres away from the gate in the photo. Thankfully it has seen the light, because the log that I eventually put down to discourage it, is too big for it to move.

The Forestry Corporation recently put out a press release about how well, they reckon, the endangered Smoky mouse is doing Nullica State Forest. So well in fact that two of the mice were trapped and sent to Canberra, where their scent was used to help train dogs for the Office of Environment and Heritage.

The OE&H want the dogs and the ‘eau de smoky’, because they hope to find some mice, in the adjacent South East National Park, where the last one was located in 2013.

The press release quotes Forestry Corporation’s Eden-based Senior Field Ecologist, Peter Kambouris, saying ” . . . The collaborative predator control programs Forestry Corporation is undertaking across tenure in conjunction with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage are certainly assisting the Smoky Mouse.”

Although as the baiting program doesn’t appear to have helped the rodent in the South East National Park,  it seems likely other factors may be at play.

Coincidentally the ABC reported on research, undertaken by University of Melbourne PhD student Bronwyn Hradsky, who has been monitoring foxes and feral cats in the Victorian Otway Ranges. GPS tagging found that both species are attracted to and aggregate in, areas subject to fire. Consequently, foxes changed their diet, eating more smaller animals.  According to Bronwyn ” . . .  if you’ve got an animal that can trot eight or 14 kilometers easily in a night there’s not much point doing really localised fox control.You need to coordinate it over a bigger district.”

new poss

Back at the Murrah spring has definitely sprung as evidenced by baby possum emerging from mum’s pouch. My first goanna sighting was a young one, digging up one of Forestry Corporation’s 1080 dog/fox baits. While it’s claimed goannas require 550 times more 1080 than dogs to be lethal, using this poison in an uncoordinated fashion remains a contentious issue.

Such matters were supposed to be addressed as part of the so-called koala cores and corridors project, but getting the agencies to raise themselves above minor point scoring seems unlikely.

Haven’t found any evidence of koalas for a while, despite ongoing claims that local koala numbers are increasing due to a ‘lack of disturbance’. However, it’s interesting that the official website for the South East Forest National Park, indicates koalas may been seen in the park.

In contrast the page for Biamanga NP makes no reference to koalas. Whether this means koalas have already  been secretly translocated to the SENP is not clear, but it seems likely.

In the lead up to the climate change ‘Paris Agreement’ later this year, governments are supposed to submit “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDC), to aid in limiting predicted global temperature increases. The authoritative Climate Action Tracker rates Australia’s current attempts as ‘inadequate’ and it seems any INDC produced is unlikely to improve the rating.

Making things a little more difficult for governments, ABC’s PM program recently posted an interview with Professor David Lindenmeyer, from the Australian National University.

Employing the federal government’s “Fullcam” forest carbon modelling tool, Dr Lindenmeyer found a saving of 190 million tonnes of emissions, about 80% of the abatement requirements up til 2020, if native forest logging stopped at the end of this year. Correctly approached, this saving could lead to several billion dollars in forest carbon credits for ‘cash strapped state governments’, over the next five years. According to David, if the calculations are incorrect ‘ . . . we cannot faithfully and accurately report to the United Nations on emissions from native forest management’.

Not surprisingly Senator Richard Colbeck, federal parliamentary secretary for forestry differed suggesting, ” . . . I’ve looked at the science from very eminent Australian forest carbon scientists and they quite clearly show that a well-managed forest can provide – harvested and managed over time, can provide a better carbon outcome than one that’s just left fallow.”

While a more appropriate position for Senator Colbeck may be secretary for previously plowed paddocks, the advice from ‘very eminent Australian forest carbon scientists’ may not be the very best. In part this stems from ‘Fullcam’, because like any model its outputs are is only as good as the inputs.

Perhaps the major input limitation is the lack of broadscale tree inventory data, what the states were supposed to collect under the RFAs. These data are also supposed to provide input for the ‘Forest Productivity Index’, the driver for tree growth in the model. Other limitations include credible information on soil carbon, particularly with regard to repeated disturbance.

For many years Australian scientists have relied on the work of forestry to inform an understanding of soils and their limitations. Confirming this reliance is an oft cited study in Eden region forests, the ‘Effects of forest harvesting nutrient removals on soil nutrient reserves’ (Turner J and Lambert M, 1986). With regard to soil phosphorus the very optimistic paper suggested ” . . . at least four forest rotations (320 years) would be required before any detectable change would occur within forest communities.”

It goes on to say ” . . . A similar depletion estimate was calculated for the potentially most vulnerable cation, calcium.”, although subsequent soil analysis found significant calcium depletion in soils locally and regionally.

However, authors John and Marcia do sum up another reason koalas have been pushed to the edge, indicating ” . . . It would therefore appear probable that, during logging, relatively higher quantities of nutrients could be removed from the more fertile sites.”



Also on the ABC this week, the North East Forest Alliance says it has lost confidence in the Environment Protection Authority, claiming the EPA is allowing ‘environmental vandalism’. According to NEFA spokesperson Dialan Pugh, ” . . . the State Government is trying to re-zone 143 thousand hectares of native forest on the north coast for intensive clear-fell logging.”

The EPA expressed its disappointment with NEFA’s comments, a spokeswoman suggesting they ‘have attempted to engage conservation groups about the reform process’.

Tragically the NSW government’s attempts to prop up an unsustainable industry fall short on many levels, including locally.

An example is in the photo above, taken a day or two after FCNSW recently placed some dirt a 1080 bait . Although a bit difficult to decipher, a wombat noticed the disturbance and had a scratch in the pink circle.

Around the same time a smaller animal, perhaps a bush rat or antichinus, dug a hole, indicated at pink arrow head, down to the chooks head bait and ate some of it.

While the fate of this animal is unknown, the next explorer was a blowfly that, no doubt laid some maggots.

Such matters aren’t the focus of the IFOA reform process, although there is an argument to suggest that along with unsustainable logging, they should be.


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