By Rebecca Collerson
Environmentalists have won the battle to save sections of Croobyar State Forest. However, the battle to save our forests from woodchipping and logging continues.
The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service is creating three moratorium areas, each with a 1.2km radius, to prevent woodchipping and other associated activities in the Croobyar State Forest. The forest, on the NSW south coast just kilometres from Pigeon House Mountain, is home to threatened native species including the sooty owl, the masked owl, the powerful owl and the yellow-bellied glider.
NSW State Forests had no environmental impact statement or fauna impact study prepared prior to the start of logging operations in the Bateman's Bay area, despite evidence of endangered species in the area. The Wilderness Society and local conservationists organised a blockade and set up a camp in the middle of the logging operations for two and a half weeks prior to the NPWS ruling.
Although a victory for conservationists, Croobyar is only a minor one; only three small areas are now protected. "The rest of the forest is still totally vulnerable to woodchipping and general logging without a legal environmental impact statement or fauna impact statement. This is a blatant disregard of environmental laws, and although the Sydney Morning Herald has said otherwise, it is an illegal logging operation", said Tom McLoughlin, spokesperson for the Wilderness Society.
The federal government is entering the final stages of deciding on renewal of export woodchip licences affecting a total of 764 high conservation forests, including Croobyar. Licences expire at the end of December, and a decision must be made by then.
A survey conducted by Newspoll in five capital cities shows 80.3% of Australians disapprove of cutting native forests for export to Japan as woodchips.
"The poll sends the clear message to the Keating government", said Jo De Silva, South Australian project officer for the National Plantation Study. "Wood resources from plantations have the potential to provide Australia with an ecologically sustainable alternative to what amounts to the destruction of our native forests ... Prime Minister Keating can now move decisively to protect our remaining native forests knowing he has the overwhelming support of Australians."
Conservationists are working on a final push to convince those in power to save our forests.
A delegation from a number of environmental groups, including the Western Australian Forest Alliance, the Wilderness Society and the Earth Repair Foundation, went to Parliament House on December 7. The group presented a petition calling for an end to logging of the last of Australia's high conservation value forests, and the establishment of a plantation-based timber industry. The petition is one of the largest in Australia's history, containing more than 97,000 signatures.
Forest ecologist Dr Tony Norton said, "Australia is one of 12 mega-diverse nations on the planet ... We have an international obligation to set standards for the conservation of biodiversity."