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One of the two trees designated as giant trees felled in the Wild Cattle Creek State Forest

Government authority issues ‘stop work’ to government corporation

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) issued the Forestry Corporation of NSW with a stop work order on Saturday July 18, to cease tree harvesting at Wild Cattle Creek State Forest (west southwest of Glenreagh).

One of the trees alleged to be more than 140cm in diameter – and therefore designated as a giant tree – which was felled in the Wild Cattle Creek State Forest. Image: Contributed

The EPA’s executive director of regulatory operations, Carmen Dwyer, said EPA investigations of compartments 32, 33 and 34 of the forest had revealed serious alleged breaches of forestry operations rules.

The Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (IFOA) outlines the protection of trees that must not be felled.

“To maintain biodiversity in the forest, the Coastal IFOA rules require loggers to identify giant trees (over 140cm stump diameter) and ensure they are protected and not logged,” Me Dwyer said.

“The EPA alleges that during an inspection on 9 July 2020, EPA officers observed two giant trees which had been felled.

“Any trees, except Blackbutt and Alpine Ash, with a diameter of more than 140cm are defined as giant trees and must be retained under the Coastal IFOA.

“As a result, the EPA has issued a stop work order under the Biodiversity Conservation Act….

“The order ensures that no further tree harvesting takes place in the area where the trees were felled, for 40 days or until the EPA is confident that Forestry Corporation can meet its obligations to comply with the Coastal IFOA conditions to protect giant trees.”

Meanwhile, the Forestry Corporation says it takes “compliance” with the “rigorous and detailed rules” seriously.

“We recognise the importance of giant trees and actively search for and protect them on all operations,” the corporation said in a media statement.

“In this operation, more than 180 trees have been protected under the giant tree prescription.”

The corporation has challenged the EPA’s interpretation of how it measures trees.

“Due to the shape of the trees and the flaring and buttressing at the base, standard forestry practices would not routinely consider a measurement at the base to be reliable,” the statement reads.

“Our intention on all operations is to comply with all conditions, which are in place to ensure a high level of environmental protection.

“This issue has not arisen before, since the introduction of new regulations.”

The corporation said harvesting of the site is “substantially complete … and no further trees will be felled; the contractor has been briefed and will comply with the stop work notice”.

However, the EPA said the “two old, giant trees” in question, “have provided significant habitat and biodiversity value and are irreplaceable”.

“Their removal points to serious failures in the planning and identification of trees that must be retained in the forest,” Ms Dwyer said, “…and strong action is required to prevent any further harm to giant or other protected trees which help maintain biodiversity and provide habitat for threatened species like koalas.”

This action follows the recent issuing of two penalty notices, totalling $2,200 (under previous rules and lower penalties), to Forestry Corporation for non-compliances associated with an alleged failure to correctly identify protection zones in the Orara East State Forest, for trees around streams and for felling four trees within those protected zones.

With AAP