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Forestry activists allege the NSW government-owned Forestry Corporation has breached regulations more than 1200 times in recent logging operations in Tallaganda State Forest, one of the last strongholds of the endangered greater glider.
Forestry Corporation failed to identify crucial habitat trees of greater gliders by searching for the nocturnal animals during the day rather than at night, and by conducting their surveys from roads rather than in the forest itself, according to a report by Wilderness Australia, the World Wide Fund for Nature Australia and South East Forest Rescue, to be published today.
Tallaganda State Forest is one of the last remaining strongholds for endangered greater gliders. Credit: Andrew Kaineder/WWF-Australia
The NSW Environment Protection Authority has already declared one suspension of operations due to impacts on the greater glider in the Tallaganda forest, near Braidwood in the south of the state. The Victorian government has announced it will end native forest logging.
Populations of the greater glider have declined by 80 per cent over the past 20 years due to logging, land clearing and bushfires. The glider was listed as endangered in 2022, having previously been declared vulnerable.
Forestry Corp claimed earlier this year it had only identified one “den” tree – in which greater gliders nest in a hollow – in 1800 hectares of Tallaganda State Forest. The three conservation groups claim to have found 27 such trees in just eight hectares and 20 of these had logging within 50 metres.
Under forestry regulation, all greater glider den trees need to be identified and protected with a 50-metre exclusion zone.
“This astonishing failure to adequately conduct surveys
which would identify and protect greater glider den trees before commencing logging means that it is likely that 1215 breaches have occurred across the seven logging compartments,” the report says.
The conservation groups conducted surveys of the area at night when the greater gliders were active. Forestry Corp said earlier this year it conducted its searches for the nocturnal mammals during the day.
At the time, a spokeswoman for the corporation said it had met all requirements and there were no stipulations that surveys must be conducted at night. She said den trees were strictly defined and that meant someone had to physically see a glider entering or leaving.
“It’s called a broad area habitat search, so they are searching for threatened fauna as well as flora … they are not just searching for a particular nocturnal species,” she said.
Forestry Corporation has not logged in the forest since August. The state’s environmental watchdog, the Environment Protection Authority, issued a stop work order after a dead greater glider was found 50 metres from a recently cleared part of the forest. The authority extended the order on Friday and it will remain in place until December 20.
“Forestry Corporation of NSW has not yet addressed alleged deficiencies in previous stop work orders to search for and protect southern greater glider den trees,” the EPA said in a statement.
The Chair of Wilderness Australia, former NSW Labor minister Bob Debus, said: “The time has come. This is the point at which we must move decisively to end the wanton destruction of carbon rich native forest and to halt the extinction spiral of the greater glider.”
WWF Australia threatened species and climate adaptation ecologist Dr Kita Ashman added: “It has been important to expose this destruction to as many people as possible. This must be a turning point. Australians want action. That starts with permanently protecting Tallaganda State Forest.”
South East Forest Rescue coordinator Scott Daines called for the Tallaganda State Forest to be turned into a greater glider national park.
A spokesperson for the Forestry Corporation of NSW said it had no information from conservation groups relating to alleged breaches. However, its operations were planned to comply with conditions of approval and this compliance was regulated by the EPA.
“Forestry Corporation identified and protected 5400 hollow-bearing trees in the harvest area during broad area habitat searches in Tallaganda State Forest,” the spokesperson said.
Conditions of approval, the spokesperson said, did not require Forestry Corporation to search for greater gliders entering or leaving tree hollows nor did it require any specific searches for gliders. Instead, the corporation was required to carry out flora and fauna surveys during planning and broad area habitat searches immediately before harvesting.
The report comes amid a cross-party as current and former politicians from across the political spectrum and including former WA premier Geoff Gallop, Howard government minister Robert Hill, Peter Garrett and Debus, call for the federal government to act to end native forest logging in states that have not yet abandoned the practice.
Independent MP Dr Sophie Scamps cited Australia’s native forests as homes to mammals – including koalas and gliders – as well as birds and reptiles that are unique in the world.
“As recent events in Tallaganda State Forest show, logging can further threaten endangered wildlife like the greater glider, despite practices which supposedly protect these creatures.”
“If Australia continues to log our native forests at the current rate, these animals may become extinct in the wild during our lifetime.”
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