Kalang River headwaters discovery may stop logging

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The Kalang community’s outrage over the proposed logging of Kalang River headwaters has been further highlighted by the discovery of a Giant Spiny Crayfish (euastacus spinifer).

Local residents said they found the crayfish on a recent field trip into the headwaters of Kalang River.

“This is the first time this crayfish has been found north of the Manning River”, Kalang River Forest Alliance’s (KRFA), Jonas Bellchambers said.

The crayfish was identified by a member of The Australian Crayfish Project and is currently being DNA tested to confirm its current probable ID and to see if the local population is genetically different to e. spinifer further south.

Residents said they also found evidence of koalas and the rufous scrub bird which are listed as vulnerable in NSW.

“In Oaks State Forest near Boot Hill, above the Kalang River headwaters, we were excited to hear and record the song of the rufous scrub bird,” Mr Bellchambers said.

“It is inconceivable that NSW Forestry Corporation could consider logging these forests and destroying these unique species’ habitats, let alone the habitat for all the other flora and fauna species which depend on a healthy intact ecosystem to survive.”

KRFA said it is demanding Forestry Corporation and NSW minister for the environment, Gabrielle Upton, cease all logging in Kalang River headwaters “and protect this area for future generations”.

In response to KRFA’s claims a spokesperson for Forestry Corporation of NSW said the state forests around the Kalang River are part of a large network of regrowth forests in the Bellingen area “that have been consistently producing timber for more than a century while continuing to support thriving populations of native wildlife”. 

“Our aim as always is to manage the forests to maintain this balance.

“It is worth noting that across the north coast we have over three million hectares of forest in national parks and 800,000 hectares of state forest, of which less than half (around 350,000 hectares) is available for timber production. It is clear from this that the balance is clearly in favour of conservation at a regional scale. 

“This of course also means that the limited areas where we can undertake harvesting are very important as a source of timber for local industry.

“In the Kalang River catchment, our harvesting is generally confined to the upper ridge lines due to extensive mapping of rainforest protections and steep areas excluded from harvesting on lower slopes. 

“We are also proposing to extend the buffer zone on the Kalang River from 50 metres to 100 metres, which means the majority of the areas to be harvested are quite remote from the river itself. 

“The harvesting is undertaken by local timber harvesting crews and is an important source of sustainable hardwood for the local industry and community. 

“The timber produced is a renewable product that also provides an important product for a sustainable local economy. 

“We carefully plan our operations a process that takes nearly 12 months, and includes neighbour consultation, road surveys, threatened species surveys and a complex detailed mapping process. This is all done well before any harvesting is undertaken. 

“We are aware that threatened species are regularly found in these state forests – in fact, we find them regularly during our pre-harvesting ecology surveys and when they are found, we implement specific protections to ensure that habitat is maintained in and around the areas we harvest.

“On top of this, in each area that is to be harvested, our staff carefully mark out exactly which areas can and can’t be harvested, and which trees must be retained as a seed source, or for flora and fauna protection.  

“This marking is done both physically in the forest and electronically, with each tree electronically tagged using high resolution landscape mapping, mobile computing and GPS technology. 

“The harvesting will be a selective harvest, where around half of the trees are harvested now, and others are left to grow to be harvested later, or kept permanently for their habitat value.

“The local forestry staff are well-trained professionals who are passionate about their work and take environmental compliance very seriously.  

“It is our role, and our goal, to find an appropriate balance in managing all of these issues and we believe that we do achieve this balance.”

In other Forestry Corporation news, a Tarkeeth State Forest neighbour has claimed she was unduly questioned on a road, while walking home within the forest.

Adele Hemphill told the Bellingen Shire Courier-Sun that “Forestry Corporation’s people are drunk on power”.

“They're picking and choosing who can and cannot ‘safely’ access their homes via our public roads, in a manner that is legally dubious,” she said.

“Paul and I have been engaging with FC employees since December seeking an end to the widespread closure of the Crown public roads that traverse Tarkeeth State Forest, as this severely impacts residents’ freedom of movement and access.

“In my case, a five kilometre walk home from my friend’s home in Sweedmans Lane, becomes a 15km walk via the alternate route. That's a tad too far for a senior citizen. It adds 20km onto a trip to Bellingen, and we do that most days.

“We asked FC to limit closures to genuine operational safety needs. We were ignored, and after a six month closure in 2016, we now have a 10-month closure until December 31.

“Since the closure commenced on March 1, there has been no genuine public safety need for road closures. Harvesting, which only began a few days ago, is a few hundred metres away from the road.

“FC has approval from the Department of Industry – Land (Roads) to undertake plantation harvesting and roadworks on the Crown public road reserves. A condition of that approval is that public access not be duly impeded.

“There are small sections of the Crown public roads that have been 'unofficially' realigned outside of the surveyed road boundaries and onto state forest tenure. FC is unconscionably using this as a reason to selectively deny access to public roads.”

Adele also said the most dangerous part of the main haulage route is not within the forest, but in the council controlled section of Sweedmans Lane, from the state forest border to Waterfall Way.

“It's a single lane gravel road with no footpath and insufficient overtaking bays, that is used by senior and elderly residents to access their homes,” Adele said.

“Last year there were ongoing problems with severe dust pollution and incidents of aggressive driving of log trucks and dangerous situations.

“Both police and the EPA have advised that council is responsible for regulation. Residents have long been lobbying for the log truck speed limit to be reduced from 25kph to 10kph, both as a dust control measure and to enforce road safety.

“Residents also want the water cart increased to three times a day, and a ban on the use of noisy engine brakes.”