Logging Changes Leave Glider in Hot Water

‘The problem is it’s extremely hard to find timber that’s most attractive for logging, which is not also the habitat of a whole bunch of threatened species.’
Logging Changes Leave Glider in Hot Water
A supplied undated image obtained July 5, 2022 shows a greater glider in a patch of old growth forest south of Brisbane. Australia's greater glider has gone from threatened to endangered in the space of six years. (AAP Image/Supplied by WWF Australia, Josh Bowell)
AAP
By AAP
5/27/2024
Updated:
5/27/2024
0:00

Logging has been suspended in 14 NSW forests amid a bitter row over protections for Australia’s largest gliding marsupial.

The greater glider was listed as an endangered species after the Black Summer bushfires wiped out more than a third of its habitat but the government’s Forestry Corporation continues to log glider habitat in state forests.

Conservationists have long accused the corporation of failing to properly search for gliders and their den trees, and last year the logging outfit admitted it had been looking for the nocturnal species during the day.

In February, the Environment Protection Authority imposed new rules requiring spotlight searches to be carried out at night, with each transect to begin no more than one hour after sunset.

Studies have shown that’s when gliders are most likely to be seen leaving their hollows, allowing den trees to be identified and protected.

But on May 27, the authority said it was changing the rules again after Forestry Corporation complained its business would suffer if all searches had to closely follow sunset.

The watchdog said there was always a “shared understanding” that only the first search on any given night would need to begin soon after sunset but that wasn’t properly conveyed in February.

“Without these amendments and clarity to search and survey requirements, FCNSW has advised the current conditions would have a material impact on the state’s wood supply,” the authority said.

Conservationists are furious, saying that if the Forestry Corporation carries out 10 searches a night, nine will effectively be useless.

“The EPA is choosing to protect the logging industry over protecting an endangered species,” says ecologist Kita Ashman, from WWF.

Critics include Labor stalwart Bob Debus, who still holds the record for being NSW’s longest serving environment minister.

He’s now chair of Wilderness Australia and has accused the authority and Forestry Corporation of doing a “dodgy deal because there’s no other way that forestry can keep going”.

“The problem is it’s extremely hard to find timber that’s most attractive for logging, which is not also the habitat of a whole bunch of threatened species.

“The science says you do have to look for gliders around dusk and that you will not find them—though they are there—at other times. It doesn’t matter what kind of gloss the EPA tries to put on it.”

The Forestry Corporation is also unhappy suggesting it was blindsided by another change announced on May 27.

Any tree in which a glider is spotted must now be protected and surrounded by a 25-metre logging exclusion zone.

The corporation says it’s been forced to suspend 15 logging operations in 14 state forests while it digests the changes imposed on Sunday (May 26) evening, with immediate effect.

“Due to the short time period for advice on these changes we have not yet had ample time to quantify these impacts.”

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