Forestry Corporation defends stance on koala protection

THE Forestry Corporation of NSW has hit out at claims it has failed to protect koala habitats from logging operations.

The North East Forest Alliance stepped up calls for Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton to intervene due to alleged breaches in Gladstone State Forest near Bellingen.

"The EPA have clearly failed to make the Forestry Corporation either protect koalas or abide by the logging rules," NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said.

"It is clear the Forestry Corporation is incapable of identifying koala high-use areas," Mr Pugh said.

"We have again asked (Ms Upton) to deploy her scat detection dogs to identify koala high-use areas ahead of logging."

Forestry Corporation of NSW's senior planning manager Dean Kearney said every hectare of compart- ment 231 of Gladstone State Forest had been searched and assessed by experienced ecologists and field technicians to identify and protect habitat for koalas and threatened species.

"Harvesting will not take place in just under half of the compartment which has been set aside and managed for conservation to protect wildlife and other environmental features such as steep slopes, waterways and streams," Mr Kearney said.

"On top of this Forestry Corporation has identified and will protect over 1,000 trees across the compartment set aside for wildlife habitat values such as tree hollows, feed trees for koalas, birds, arboreal fauna such as gliders, and of course to provide a seed source for a new regenerating forest."

"All our staff and harvesting machinery are equipped with GPS enabled iPads that help ensure that all the areas and trees to be protected are identified and managed appropriately."

Mr Kearney said koala populations had lived alongside timber production for more than 100 years and that there was no scientific evidence that pointed to a decline in koalas in the NSW production forests.

"Research published last year showed that there were nearly two million hectares of moderate and high-quality koala habitat across northern NSW and only a fraction, around 14 per cent, of this is in the timber production areas of State Forests," he said.

"Further to this, surveys in State Forests using the new vocal recognition devices detected very strong koala occupancy right across the northern NSW forests, which is great news for those concerned about koala conservation."

According to the study, koalas were detected in areas that had been harvested both recently and historically at an equal rate to areas where no timber harvesting had occurred.

"Whenever we harvest timber, we undertake thorough searches for evidence of koala habitat and in places where they are found we put in place protections for high use areas," and retain their preferred feed trees," Mr Kearney said.

"Most importantly we aim to ensure that the forest quickly regenerates to provide a renewable timber resource for future generations as well as ongoing habitat for koalas, which thrive in forests with young healthy regrowth trees."

"The fact that our production forests continue to support robust koala populations demonstrate the measures we have in place are providing protection for this important native species."

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