Nature & Wildlife

A dead koala at Ellagowan

Koalas need increased protection, not more of the same

The North East Forest Alliance has described the latest Natural Resources Commission (NRC) report that denies logging of Koala feed trees has any impact on Koalas as dangerous propaganda that further threatens their survival by denying Koalas the increased protection they urgently need.

NEFA considers that the use of Koala recordings that indicate the presence of a Koala somewhere in the vicinity is not appropriate for detecting the impact of logging on Koalas and do not accept that the NRC can justifiably claim from DPI Forestry’s fundamentally flawed study that “the Coastal IFOA conditions and protocols did not adversely impact koala density”, said spokesperson Dailan Pugh.

“This is contrary to the EPA’s 2016 study that found “areas of higher activity positively correlated with greater abundance and diversity of local koala feed trees, trees and forest structure of a more mature size class, and areas of least disturbance”.

“The NRC’s pretence that the Forestry Corporation can log the large trees that Koala’s are preferentially feeding on and have no impact on Koalas maintains a dangerous fallacy that is one of the reasons why Koala populations on the north coast had declined by 50% in the 20 years before the 2019/20 fires.

“The NRC confirms that the 2019/20 fires had a significant impact of Koalas, yet it proposes nothing to mitigate impacts. Surely there should at least be a moratorium on logging in or near burnt high quality Koala habitat until Koala populations have been assessed as recovered from the fires.

“It is particularly concerning that the NRC has not reconsidered its decision in 2016 to over-ride the advice of the EPA and the government’s Expert Fauna Panel that minimum retentions of Koala feed trees should be 15-25 feed trees/ha >25cm diameter at breast height (dbh) in modelled habitat.

“The NRC intervention to reduce the retentions to 5-10 feed trees/ha and sizes to 20 cm dbh is not supported by this study.

“Strangely the NRC have not released results from this study on Koala preferences for tree sizes, instead stating their results are “consistent with previous studies at sites in northern NSW and the Sydney region that found koalas use trees ranging from 30 to 80 centimetres DBH”. This is far greater than 20cm trees.

“This study reaffirms that Koalas chose certain tree species for food, and then individual trees with relatively low amounts of toxic compounds, emphasising the need to retain all individuals of preferred feed species rather than the arbitrary 5-10 feed species per hectare specified by NRC (2016).

“The NRC are playing ‘Russian Roulette’ with Koalas as many of the minimal trees retained may not be suitable for feeding.

“The study also identifies that Koalas use Flooded Gum as a feed tree and Turpentine as a roost tree, yet the NRC makes no attempt to add these to the species requiring retention for Koalas.

“The NRC were meant to review the adequacy of the existing logging prescriptions, but instead have relied upon a fundamentally flawed assessment by DPI Forestry to claim that logging has no impact on Koalas to justify not reviewing the clearly inadequate logging rules. Even though NRC admitted the impacts of the fires it similarly failed to recommend any changes to account for them. The NRC have failed Koalas in their time of greatest need” Mr. Pugh said.

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