Archive

Logging

After only 15 months, the Office of Environment and Heritage has released comments received on its whole-of-government NSW koala strategy. Perhaps the most important of these, at least for the south coast, are those from the South East Timber Association (SETA).  Not surprisingly the comments are consistent with Forestry’s, arguably bizarre, understanding of both forests and koalas. From this perspective, all forests are killed by wildfire and then grow back. So all of the trees are the same age, all of the time.

This idea appears to stem from some Victorian and southern NSW forests where various ash eucalyptus dominate. Unlike most eucalyptus species, ash types are more likely to die in a wildfire. However, this isn’t always the case and ash can frequently be found with other species.  For example, the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and Parks, recently translocated 600 koalas from French Island, with 400 of these going to forests around Kinglake. The forests around Kinglake were burnt in the 2009 bushfires, but clearly not all the trees died.

Aside from the predicable understanding about forests and koalas, that they prefer regrowth forests, the SETA submission included the logging history map below. This map is quite different to previous logging histories.

Also among the comments is a submission from Coast Watchers, a conservation group based in the Eurobodalla shire. According to these comments the last confirmed sighting of a koala in the shire was at Nerrigundah in 2013.

Forestry Corporation has recently provided detail of the compartments, totaling 9.700 hectares, it burnt in Moruya and Dampier State Forests. As indicated in the map below, circles with green crosses are koala records and the burning (blue hatch) was north east of Nerrigundah. The NSW government has developed and approved a burning plan for the Murrah Flora reserves, although details are yet to be made public.

Advertisements

The NSW government has released its draft Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (IFOA) , being the protocols and conditions for coastal public forest logging, over the next 20 years.  While there is a public consultation period, until 5pm 29 June 2018. I expect the draft is pretty well set in stone.

As I understand it the government believes it has a good understanding of koalas on the north coast. However on the south coast koalas are a ” . . . Threatened species requiring the development of site specific biodiversity conditions.” Of course the notion that conditions have to be developed is far too complex for Forestry Corporation, so surveys for koalas are only required in Glenbog and Glen Allen state forests in the Eden region. Both of these forests are on the tablelands and both are pretty well completely trashed.

In the Southern region, koalas surveys are required in Tallaganda, Badja, Dampier, Moruya, Wandella and Bodalla State Forests. As previously reported Dampier and Moruya state forests are where FCNSW has recently burned several thousand hectares. A request for detail ( compartment numbers) on the areas burned has been sent to Forestry, but there is, as yet, no response.

 

Researchers down in Victoria have been looking into the thermal qualities of man made and natural hollows used by native species.

The man made ones, generally constructed out of plywood, have been found to have poor thermal capacities. That is they get too cold in winter and too hot in summer. On the other hand, hollows in trees are far less variable, staying warmer in winter and cooler in summer. The researcher made some prototypes using a chainsaw.

So I had a try at making a little one, as indicated in the photo, from part of a smallish tree trunk that recently fell on the road.  In essence it is a section of trunk cut length ways and a cavity is then cut into its center. A 3.5cm diameter hole provides access to the cavity, when the two pieces are screwed together. It is a relatively simple process, although best for those experienced in using a chainsaw.

Last Sunday the NSW government released its statewide koala strategy. The response from conservation groups the NCC and NPA was generally poor and less than supportive.

A major issue both groups refer to is the government’s land clearing laws. It seems pretty stupid to allow vast areas of private forest to be bulldozed, while spending public funds to buy land and encouraging people to plant trees.This seems particularly the case when the government’s attempts to grow koala feed trees don’t work out.

Down here the ABC spoke to SERCA spokesperson and die-back denier Harriet Swift, who suggested the strategy did nothing for koalas and best way to help the species was to stop logging. Regrettably, this is one of the issues the government can exploit, because while logging remains the only focus for conservation groups down here, any other management is perceived to be acceptable. Hence, proposals for management aimed for positive outcomes at an ecosystem scale, don’t get a look in and forests continue to decline.

However, Harriet’s comments suggest a lack of support for the  “Saving our Species” approach indicated in the map above for koalas here. So while looking forward to information on what SERCA actually supports, I expect, apart from logging,  it won’t deviate much from the NSW government’s position.

In particular the proposal to translocate koalas as indicated in the quote below. According to the strategy ” . . The Office of Environment and Heritage will work with other NSW Government agencies to assess the koala habitat values of land excess to the agencies needs. This will help inform if the land should be permanently reserved or have protections in place.”

There is plenty of land on the south coast without koalas, that the conservation movement and forestry have previously agreed, is suitable for the species.

” . . . Office of Environment and Heritage will work with communities, through the local action workshops, and fauna rehabilitation groups, to identify areas to relocate koalas. The relocation will be informed by research and an agreed plan to maximise koala health outcomes. Office of Environment and Heritage will also partner with researchers to investigate the effectiveness and challenges of undertaking the translocation of koalas. Translocation in this context refers to reintroducing koalas from existing NSW populations to improve genetic diversity and health of local populations.”

Widely reported over the past week has been the fire, thought to be deliberately lit, in and around the Holsworthy army base, south west of Sydney. Some 3,450 hectares has been burnt and koalas escaping the fire have found found wandering in the adjacent suburbs and one was apparently rescued in the base.

Interestingly, back in 2012 a summary of environmental assessments was undertaken for the Department of Defence, when it proposed moving infrastructure at Moorebank to Holsworthy. According to this summary evidence of koalas was not found and if there were koalas they would be ‘ . . . unlikely to be an important koala population”.

More recently on the north coast, the NSW Department of Primary Industries has been employing digital recorders to find koalas. According to an ABC report spokesperson Dr Brad Law said ” . . . We’ve got two main aims. One is to look at the status of koalas across the northeast forests, [The other] is how is their level of occupancy responds to different levels of timber harvest and time since harvest — so we want to look at the effects of logging on koalas.”

Brad went on to say “They’ve been surprised by what the sound recordings have revealed. In the 1990s, there had been a spotlighting survey for koalas over roughly the same study area in northeast NSW. Close to 200 sites were surveyed and koalas were only detected on about 5 per cent of sites using spotlighting. But [using the song meters] we’re finding about 80 per cent of the sites we’ve got koalas.”
So it would appear that logging has proceeded over the past 20 years in areas with koalas and the intention is to continue this management.

Meanwhile on the far south coast, around the area of the red circle on the map, Forests NSW has been undertaking extensive ‘fuel reduction burns’ over some 6,000 hectares. While forestry believe this will make the forests healthy, it also gets rid of koalas.

Whatever the reasons for this management, if one were looking for other koalas on the south coast this would be the place to start. So the notion that forestry found evidence of koalas cannot be excluded.

The cause of the fire that destroyed 65 homes in and around Tathra is being put down to a tree falling on power lines, along Reedy creek road. To date there has been no mention of the Flora reserve, although the fire started near the south west corner of the Tanja section.

As indicted on blurry map below, showing recent koala records and the Forestry Corporation’s incomplete logging history, the fire traveled straight down the Bega River. Aided by 38 degree heat and strong north westerly winds, it jumped the river and took off toward Tathra.

Under these conditions there is nothing fire fighters can do to stop a fire so the town was mostly evacuated. I say mostly because many stayed behind, successfully defending their homes and no-one was killed or seriously injured.

Unfortunately roads into Tanja forest remain closed, while more trees are cut down for safety reasons. However, it is clear that locations where koalas were active, back in 2012, were burnt. While trusting there will be some effort to ascertain their fate, the fire has led to the inevitable concerns about the ‘bush’ and the threat it poses.

A coronal inquiry will be examining aspects of the fire, although whether its scope will be adequate remains unclear. For example, when Europeans invaded this country, there was tall open forest, not bush. This new bush generally has a contiguous fuel load from the ground to the tree tops. Consequently, it seems likely that convection currents and the capacity to both produce and more rapidly spread burning embers is increased.

Clearly the major reason for this threatening bush is decades of mismanagement. However, there will be the inevitable calls for more broad acre burning, even though it won’t help.
Similarly, I’m anticipating, should no evidence of koalas be found, that post fire salvage logging will be proposed, so the timber isn’t wasted.

On a positive note the ABC reported on the Federal government concerns that renewing the RFAs may lead to a legal challenge, because the information is old. From another perspective the information was old when the RFAs were agreed and nothing has changed since then.

Forestry Corporation has released its proposed logging schedule for the financial year. Included in the list are two compartments, 2069 and 2003, in Bermagui State Forest. Of particular interest is 2069 that was last logged back in 2011/12.

At the time and as indicated in the Harvesting Plan map below, I though it was generous that logging was constrained to the east and west of the compartment. This left an intact strip in the center, connecting north to south.

Now not many years on, the intention is to trash all of it and the last intact connection between koalas in the Flora reserve and Kooraban National Park.As reported in the Narooma News, neighbours around Compartment 3058 of Corunna State Forest are concerned about it also being scheduled for logging. Corunna State Forest is about 20km north of the Bermagui compartments and there are koala records in and around both locations.

While forestry has acknowledged the potential presence of koalas, any notion that its arguably unAustalian approach translates to caring about any native species is unrealistic.

Assuming it happens, tomorrow I’m to meet with Kane, the Director – South Coast Branch NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and Alan, the NPWS Manager Eurobodalla Area.

The purpose of the meeting is so Kane and Alan can inspect the fence.I’m not exactly sure what this involves, although I guess many fences don’t have wombat gates and overhead access points. So this fence is a little different to others.

Of course it’s possible that like Forestry, the NPWS may prefer to get rid of the fence. Should that be the case, I probably won’t be much help.

The Regional Forest Agreement drop in sessions featured on radio and in print this week. What hadn’t been previously revealed was ” two invitation-only meetings for industry and environmental stakeholders”.  While several conservation groups had suggested they would be boycotting the sessions. It seems some did attend the invitation only meetings, although none have to up their hands to confirm attendance, so far.

Local ABC radio interviewed a few people at the Eden meeting including former BVSC Greens councilor Keith Hughes. Keith suggested the RFA renewal is largely based on supporting the large financial investment, associated with logging. This suggestion was confirmed in a Narooma News story quoting NSW Department of Primary Industry representative Nick Milham – “We’ve heard from industry that the long-term security that the RFAs provide for them is absolutely critical because it provides them with that longer-term security to enable them to invest in what are significantly capital-intensive industries,”.

Of course if one is going to invest in cutting down trees, it’s a good idea to have the trees to cut down.

In that regard, it seems the Koala surveys did not return to the original plots, so a plot to plot comparison is not possible. However, as reducing soil fertility is a general trend, broader comparisons should identify associated changes to species composition. The following chart, featuring Silvertop Ash and Black forest oak ranked by diameter classes, is based on data from trees (n = 17,670), recorded during the 2006-2008 surveys.

At the time Silvertop ash accounted for 9.9% of all trees above 150mm DBH. Black she- oak accounted for 11.1% of the trees.

The next chart also features Silvertop Ash and Black forest oak ranked by diameter classes, is based on data from trees (n = 9,360), recorded during the 2016-2017 surveys.
Silvertop ash now account for 14.1 % of all trees above 150mm DBH. Black she-oak accounts for 18.2% of the trees.

%d bloggers like this: