The North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) is calling upon the NSW Environment Minister, Gabrielle Upton, to intervene to stop forestry operations and protect a breeding population of koalas under threat from imminent logging in Gladstone State Forest, 6km west of Bellingen.
"With only 1.2ha of forest protected as Koala High Use Areas out of the 22,600 ha of north-east NSW's public lands currently subject to logging operations, it is no wonder that north-east NSW's koala populations have crashed by 50% over the past 20 years", NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said.
"There are an unusually high 88 koala records in the Wildlife Atlas for compartments 232 and 233 Gladstone State Forest, showing heavy use over the past 20 years. The Forestry Corporation even identified 2 Koala High Use Trees, but not one hectare has been excluded from logging for koalas.
"NEFA participated in a brief inspection on the 28 July and in less than an hour found 2 Koala High Use trees, including scats from a mother and baby proving the areas importance as a breeding colony" Mr. Pugh said.
Last weekend the Kalang River Forest Alliance undertook another inspection, identifying 15 trees with Koala scats including 7 Koala High Use trees, 4 used by a mother and baby. A pair of Tallowwoods had an astounding 380 scats under them, from both a mother and baby, showing frequent and recent use.
"We have looked at this compartment a few times now and its clear that the whole ridge is used heavily by koalas, we have seen koala scratches on almost every grey gum, we have found over 20 different locations with scats in just a few hours of searching. Four of these sites had mother and joey scats", said Jonas Bellchambers from Kalang River Forest Alliance
"I honestly can't believe that this area can be considered for logging, it really shows a total disregard for maintaining a strong koala population around Bellingen" concluded Mr. Bellchambers.
"Given that core Koala habitat is required to be protected from logging on private land where it is identified, surely it is only fair that it is also protected on public land" said Mr. Pugh.
"Given the obvious regional significance of compartments 232 and 233 of Gladstone State Forest, the widespread occupation by Koalas and its evident importance as a breeding colony there is no doubt that it is core Koala habitat deserving of protection.
NEFA have written to the Environment Minister requesting that she:
1. immediately stop further forestry operations in compartments 232 and 233 of Gladstone State Forest;
2. deploy OEH scat detection dogs to thoroughly search for Koala scats and identify occupied habitat
3. ensure that logging is permanently excluded from all identified core Koala habitat.
The Courier Sun has aasked the Minister for the Environment for a response and will publish it as soon as it is received.