By Tom Kelly
SYDNEY — Wingham Forest Action's (WFA) many-faceted campaign to defend forests and fauna from logging in the Wingham management area, north-west of Taree in northern New South Wales, has found its way to Sydney's Land and Environment Court.
A general licence to take or kill endangered fauna in the Wingham management area, issued to the NSW Forestry Commission in February, is currently being appealed in the Court. According to the August 12 Sydney Morning Herald, Noel Hemmings QC, (a former judge of the Land and Environment Court) representing the Forestry Commission, predicted that a ruling against the validity of the licence could set a precedent that would stop all logging in NSW, since the licence concerned is typical of many being applied throughout the state.
WFA is objecting to the licence, granted by the Director General of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), on the grounds that the areas of forest reserved for conservation purposes fail to include the favoured habitat of many of the 33 endangered species known, or likely to occur, in the disputed area.
Commenting on the licence in March this year, WFA spokesperson Jeffrey Nicholls quoted the NPWS Decision Report: "A critical resource in the Wingham Management Area is the old growth hardwood forests on gentle slopes ... They comprise 11,452 hectares or 60.8% of all unlogged forest in the Wingham Management Area. Based on information provided in the Environmental Impact Statement, the Service estimates that by the end of the first cutting cycle as proposed in the EIS, 96% of the hardwood on gentle slopes will have been logged. Neither the EIS nor the Fauna Impact Statement considered the implications of this for fauna".
According to WFA, the NPWS was critical of the EIS because "the proposed reserve system was based on non-ecological values such as low timber value and inaccessible land".
While Forestry Commission policy is to minimise the impact of logging where endangered species are known to occur, its implementation depends on the animal being sighted before it is too late.
A recent survey of the Wingham Management Area by wildlife ecologist Harry Hines found Yellow-bellied Gliders, Sooty Owls, Powerful Owls, Tiger Quoll, Parma Wallabies and koalas in areas soon to be logged. Hines, who spoke as a witness for WFA in court, commented that these animals, "are all listed by National Parks as endangered species. There needs to be a reassessment of remaining old growth forests to establish their fauna values". Forestry, rather than conducting surveys such as this, only inspects for likely habitat.
Nicholls pointed out, "if you destroy habitat, you destroy fauna. This fact is implicitly recognised by the licensing process. Logging kills endangered species so a licence is required".
Wildlife ecologist Christina Potts observed that, "if the reserve system proposed for Wingham Management Area is an example of the state department of forests' commitment to conservation, then the future for old growth-dependent species throughout the state is very grim".
Dr Harry Recher, an ecosystems management expert based at the University of New England, compared logging the habitats of endangered species to keep people in jobs, to cutting up works of art in galleries to keep confetti makers in business.
Wingham Forest Action can be contacted on 065 504 572.