Picnic with koalas

If you go down to the woods (on Sunday) you might be in for a big surprise – that’s the day koala supporters are gathering in Gladstone State Forest for a picnic.

The Bellingen Environment Centre is inviting the community to bring family and friends to the forest at midday on Sunday August 13 to celebrate the koala population and show opposition to proposed logging.

Local politicians have also been invited to inspect the area where hundreds of koala scats were found under trees on Saturday.

Ashley Love from the Bellingen Environment Centre said Mayor Dominic King had accepted the invitation for tomorrow at 10am but as yet no response had been received from Melinda Pavey MP.

On August 5, members of the Kalang River and Forest Alliance identified 15 trees with koala scats, with at least 300 adult koala scats and 80 joey scats found underneath two small tallowwood trees near Woods Creek Road.

“The find of 380+ scats in the middle of proposed log dump 4 is an exceptional number of scats, demonstrating frequent use of these trees.  These are clearly scats from at least one mother and baby, with many, very fresh scats,” said  Alliance spokesperson Jonas Bellchambers.

The Bellingen Environment Centre and the Kalang River and Forest Alliance are requesting an immediate stop to further forestry operations in compartments 232 and 233 of Gladstone State Forest.

However, Forestry Corporation of NSW’s Senior Planning Manager Dean Kearney noted that koalas and logging are not necessarily incompatible.

“Forestry Corporation is not currently working in compartments 232 and 233 of Gladstone State Forest and will conduct thorough koala searches before any harvesting does take place in these areas,” he said. 

“We have also discussed these issues with representatives from local community environment groups and our planning team will consider the information they have provided.

“Koala populations have lived alongside timber production in state forests for more than 100 years and there is no scientific evidence that points 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.

“Further to this, surveys in state forests using the new vocal recognition devices last year detected very strong koala occupancy right across the northern NSW forests, which is great news for those concerned about koala conservation.  Interestingly in this 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. 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.”