Connecting for Conservation

Some 60 participants gathered at a property on Tindalls Lane, Broughton Vale last Saturday (26 November) to hear about the work of Berry Landcare and a project to conserve and enhance the Berry Wildlife Corridor.

The Berry Wildlife Corridor consists of a patchwork of remnant native vegetation situated between Barren Grounds and Seven Mile Beach, north of the Shoalhaven River.

One fire away from extinction – the koalas of NSW’s south coast

Koalas living on New South Wales’ far south coast are at serious risk of local extinction with just a single wildfire sufficient to wipe them out.

In an effort to save the dwindling population, the National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) has developed a strategic proposal to relink the forests of the south coast.

The new Great Southern Koala Forest would connect the south coast’s remnant koala population with larger ones in Shoalhaven and the Southern Tablelands, including a significant population 700 strong in Cooma-Monaro.

” Koalas were once common between Bega and Narooma, but survival of the current population, estimated at only 70-80 animals, is precarious and warrants strategic management. Their existence is by no means assured and attempts to achieve greater movement of koalas through the region’s forests and between connected populations, are not compatible with the continuation of industrial scale logging and forest fragmentation,” says Kim Taysom, Vice-President of NPA Far South Coast Branch.

“Because their population is so small and localised, one major fire could be the final nail in the coffin for the south coast koalas,” says Dr Oisín Sweeney, NPA’s Science Officer. “With an El Niño predicted for eastern Australia this year, the chance of this occurring has greatly increased.”

NPA argues that the native forest industry has declined sharply in terms of its importance to the regional economy. Log production in the Eden Management area dropped by 36% between 2007-2013, whilst wood chipping is in decline. With the current Regional Forest Agreement due to terminate in 2017, other more economically viable and environmentally sustainable options for these forests should be considered.

“The eucalypt forests of south east Australia contain some of the highest carbon stores on the planet. By logging these areas we release this stored carbon into the atmosphere. It takes over 100 years for regrowth to capture and store a similar amount of carbon. This is just too long if we are serious about dealing with climate change,” says Mr Taysom.

“Emissions reductions to tackle climate change on both a global and national scale offer the potential for an alternative funding model for native forest management. For example forest carbon credits can be used to help finance the Great Southern Koala Forest.”

The area included in NPA’s proposal incorporates the major regional towns of Batemans Bay and Eden, where nature based tourism already provides a significant boost to local economies.

“These beautiful and unique forests are far more valuable for health, biodiversity and recreation than they are as wood chips. This World Environment Day we are calling on the government to commit to building a sustainable future for NSW rather than continuing to support a redundant industry,” says Dr Sweeney.

“We have some of the best terrain for outdoor activities in the world and we need to wake up to the opportunities nature already provides right on our doorstep.”

Threatened species funding is welcome, but Coalition must also defend our land clearing laws  (Our Environment, Our Future News)

“Increased funding to ensure the survival of the states 970 threatened species is always welcome,” NSW National Parks Association CEO Kevin Evans said.

“The NSW Government’s Save Our Species model is starting to provide a holistic framework for species recovery planning and will hopefully improve conservation outcomes.

“It must be pointed out, however, that the biggest cause of species decline continues to be habitat loss.

“It has been 13 years since the NSW Government introduced the Native Vegetation Act, with the support of the NSW Farmers Association.

“The Act has achieved its core purpose of reducing broadscale clearing and protecting native vegetation of high conservation value, and has led to substantial reductions in native wildlife deaths from land clearing.

“We fear the government may use today’s announcement as a smokescreen to slip through plans to repeal the Native Vegetation Act in the closing days before the state election.

“Scrapping the Native Vegetation Act would undermine the benefits of the Coalition’s promised $100 million investment in threatened species recovery.

“In Queensland, where native vegetation clearing rules were significantly weakened in 2014, 275,000 hectares were cleared from Queensland in the last financial year, which was a tripling of land clearing rates since 20101.

“This should send alarm bells ringing to what we can expect in NSW if the Native Vegetation Act is repealed. “There are other issues to consider, too. For yellow-bellied gliders and other species dependent on large tree hollows, it doesn’t matter how much money is spent if hollows continue to vanish from the landscape as a result of land clearing.

“The government’s proposal for addressing these underlying threats is just as important as allocating funds.

“Protected areas are the most effective tool we have for conserving species and ecosystems, and on this score the government’s record is poor.

“What will the government do when a recovery plan for a threatened species identifies preservation of habitat as a key action? “Will habitat be preserved in a protected area, or will we continue as normal and treat this as an optional extra?”

NSW Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said: “We always welcome critical investment to prevent extinctions, but the Coalition must ensure it takes a holistic approach to protect threatened species and their habitat. “If nothing changes, the list of animal and plant species facing extinction in NSW is on track to reach 1000 by 2020. “Even a species as iconic and beloved as the koala is at great risk of extinction in parts of the state if urgent action is not taken to reduce threats to its survival.”

REFERENCES

[1] The Conversation. Land clearing in Queensland triples after policy ping pong, http://theconversation.com/land-clearing-in-queensland-triples-after-policy-ping-pong-38279

[2] Coetzee, B. W. T., Gaston, K. J. & Chown, S. L. Local Scale Comparisons of Biodiversity as a Test for Global Protected Area Ecological Performance: A Meta-Analysis. PLoS ONE 9, e105824, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0105824 (2014).

New EPA proposals could be the tipping point for NSW’s koalas  (Great Koala National Park News)

New proposals by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) to allow clear felling of large areas of forests on the North Coast could be the catalyst that tips the area’s koalas onto the extinction path, according to the National Parks Association of NSW (NPA).

NPA has joined other community groups to strongly condemn the EPA’s proposed changes to rules called IFOAs that govern logging activities. [1]

‘”The clear felling proposals under the new rules for logging would have a devastating impact on areas such as the proposed Great Koala National Park (GKNP),” spokesman for Coffs Harbour NPA Ashley Love said.

“These new rules would affect two-thirds of the 170,000ha of state forests that should be included in proposed koala park.

“They are horrific reincarnations of extreme logging proposals put forward by Forestry Corporation 20 and 30 years ago and roundly rejected at the time by the state and federal governments.

“These are worse than the earlier rejected proposals because they propose even more expansive and intensive logging of our native forests.”

Mr Love and other representatives of conservation organisations who recently inspected forests logged using the proposed new rules were appalled by the damage.

The EPA’s proposals include alarming recommendations that would:

• Allow clear felling of 30 per cent of coastal forests that are in the GKNP proposal area;
• Allow destructive cable logging in mountainous forest, which cover about 30 per cent of the GKNP proposal area;
• Allow more intensive harvesting in the remaining third of the park proposal—the forests between the coast and the mountain forests.

“It is deeply disturbing that the NSW Environment Protection Authority, a body that is supposed to protect nature, is proposing these destructive changes,” NPA Science Officer Dr Oisín Sweeney.

“The EPA has become the spear carrier of the Forestry Corporation, and this unholy alliance appears hell bent on removing the last stick of timber from our native forests, then sell at a loss.”

“The public would be appalled if they know that under the proposed rules, tiny areas set aside over the past 15 years as koala high-use reserves would be removed and opened up to clear felling or intensified harvesting,” he said.

“The new approach will also relieve the Forestry Corporation of the responsibility of searching for koalas before logging.”

Mr Love said the EPA in partnership with Forestry was developing new measures to protect koalas but these measures:

• would not apply if affected existing timber supplies;
• can be vetoed by Forestry Corporation; and
• are paid for by the citizens on NSW via the Environment Trust.

“This is yet another subsidy to the already heavily indebted native forest timber industry,” he said.

“The EPA has clearly lost sight of its responsibility to the NSW community and we no longer have any confidence in the organisation’s ability to act in the best interests of our environment.

“its inability to regulate forestry, as detailed in February’s Legislative Council report, continues and shows no signs of improvement.

[1] IFOAs (Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals) spell out the steps loggers must take to protect threatened species, water quality, etc, during forestry operations. Existing IFOAs require loggers to not clear near streams, to look for trees used as habitat for koalas, gliders, owls and other threatened species. Details of the proposed IFOA changes are here: http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/forestagreements/trial-IFOA-LowerNE.htm

Federal government raises the white flag for Australia’s threatened species  (Biodiversity Conservation News)

Pseudo zoos and tokenistic gestures seem to be the vision for Australia’s wildlife, says the National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) on the Commonwealth’s new Threatened Species Strategy.

The strategy was announced by Environment Minister Greg Hunt at Australia’s first Threatened Species summit, held in Melbourne last Thursday (16th July).

“It is telling that habitat protection does not even get a mention in the plan. Protecting habitat is the number one tool for conserving native species. This indicates that the federal government is raising the white flag when it comes to ensuring our unique wildlife can persist into the future,” says Kevin Evans, CEO of National Parks Association.

“Establishing feral-free offshore islands is a smart approach and can deliver real conservation outcomes. But that’s unfortunately where the positives end. Most of the rest is smoke and mirrors and a distraction from what is really needed.”

“Funding of $6.6 million is a pittance in light of the Abbott government’s $480 million cuts to the National Landcare Program. And over one third of this money will be spent establishing tiny feral-free enclosures which take the focus off meaningful landscape-scale conservation and risk confining species like bilbies and numbats to pseudo zoos,” Mr Evans continues.

“And identifying Leadbeaters Possum for ’emergency intervention’ while continuing to log its core habitat would be laughable if it weren’t so sad.”

NPA believes that there is an overemphasis on culling introduced feral animals in the new plan without the allocation of sufficient funds to address the problem nationally.

“We think this is a red herring. With limited resources there is no way that we can use feral control on a continental scale to protect our wildlife,” says Dr Oisin Sweeney, NPA’s Science Officer.

“Rewilding offers a genuine complimentary strategy: we need to urgently plan to allow dingoes to reclaim Australia to do cheap, full-time pest control for us, and ensure that there is protection in place for landholders in case of stock losses,” he said.

“We face a choice: either we grasp the nettle and restore ecosystem function, or we have vast areas devoid of native mammals. It can be done: in the USA and Europe wolves are recolonising with dramatic benefits to nature. We just need to safeguard farmers and make sure they don’t bear the cost of conservation alone,” Dr Oisin concluded.

“What struck me about the new Threatened Species Strategy is that the Federal Government is seeking investment from the private sector to help fund their initiatives to reverse biodiversity decline. However, contradictions in environmental policy will deter many private funders. For example the government’s continued support of native forest logging is completely at odds with the very aim of this strategy,” says Mr Evans.

“Set against the background of a government that is failing on climate change, facilitating mining at any cost and burning our native forests for fuel, the plan looks like a cheap band aid,” Dr Oisin concludes.

The National Parks Australia Council Policy Officer position available  (Park Protection News)

The National Parks Australia Council Inc (NPAC) is the peak organisation for national parks and protected area advocacy in Australia. NPAC represents organisations from Australian States and Territories with a particular interest in national parks.

The Policy Officer will assist the National Parks Australia Council to campaign for national parks and nature conservation in the lead up to the upcoming federal election. The Policy Officer will assist with policy development and communication with decision makers, policy makers and influencers.

The role will involve research and monitoring for key nature conservation and protected area issues, identifying opportunities and strategies for advocacy and communication with politicians and public servants.

To apply for the position click here.

Further information and instructions for applicants available in the position description.