Environment

Eden forest allegedly logged illegally while recovering from Black Summer fires

Albert McKnight26 June 2022
A blackened East Boyd/Timbillica State Forest

East Boyd/Timbillica State Forest, which is adjacent to Yambulla State Forest, is pictured in 2021 recovering from the Black Summer bushfires. Photo: David Gallan.

A Far South Coast forest was allegedly illegally logged two years ago while it was recovering from the devastating Black Summer bushfires.

It’s alleged over March and July 2020, contractors for the Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) cut down 53 trees in “unburned” and “partially burned” environmentally-significant areas of the Yambulla State Forest.

The forest is on the NSW/Victorian border, south of Eden.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) alleged this breach happened because the corporation did not mark the area as off-limits in the operational map used for the harvest.

“Mapping activities are a legal requirement and must be carried out correctly by forestry operators,” EPA acting executive director regulatory operations Greg Sheehy said.

“These laws protect areas in our forests that may be home to important shelters and food resources for local wildlife or unique native plants.”


READ ALSO: Forestry Corporation ignores EPA and resumes logging in heavily burnt forests


The EPA has now launched a prosecution, alleging FCNSW breached conditions imposed to aid the recovery of the forest after the 2019/20 bushfires.

If the allegations of illegal harvesting are proven they would contravene rules made after the bushfires, imposed to protect areas of forests that were of environmental importance and less affected by the flames.

“Bushland along our South Coast was severely damaged by the devastating fires and the EPA established additional protections for bushfire-affected forests like the Yambulla State Forest in order to limit further harm,” Mr Sheehy said.

“The additional protections, applied to certain forests in NSW, were designed to help wildlife and biodiversity recover in key regions.”

Nature Conservation Council chief executive Chris Gambian said while the allegations are yet to be proven, the fact the EPA had launched this prosecution did ring alarm bells.

“What more evidence does the government need before it orders a comprehensive independent review of Forestry Corporation to ensure it acts lawfully and sustainably?” he said.


READ ALSO: Forestry Corporation fined $45,000 for felling habitat trees in Mogo State Forest


A spokesperson for FCNSW said it “would not be appropriate to comment on the merits of this prosecution while the matter is before the courts”.

“Forestry Corporation recognises the importance of complying with the strict environmental regulations that apply to forestry operations and worked with the EPA to develop special conditions that address environmental risks following the fires to harvest areas that have already been damaged by fires, to limit impacts on critical unburnt remnants while supplying the renewable timber that has been critical to the rebuilding efforts,” the spokesperson said.

They said since the 2019/20 bushfires, the Corporation had also adopted additional environmental safeguards above the requirements of the strict rules in place in NSW.

This was to balance providing timber to local industries employing local people to produce important timber products and ensuring the forests could regenerate after the fires.

Also, it had increased its focus on compliance with additional resources on the ground for planning and monitoring.

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