EPA on the ground in Tantawangalo Forest investigating complaints

Ian Campbell25 July 2019
Peter Day in Tantawangalo State Forest. Photo: Supplied.

“I have seen so many large healthy trees that have been cut down to be chipped, ” – Peter Day in Tantawangalo State Forest. Photo: Supplied.

Community comment and concern about forestry is always robust, which was again the case last week around Region Media’s reporting of the current logging operation underway in Tantawangalo State Forest, southwest of Bega.

Comments ranged from:

Dave Stewart – “Great renewable resource if done correctly and great for community by providing jobs.”

Vivian Harris – “We shouldn’t be logging native forests, particularly not for wood chips. Why are single use paper products like toilet paper, tissues, etc even allowed to be made from wood chips instead of recycled paper? We need to be planting forests as carbon sinks not logging them.”

One point required further investigation.

Peter Day, a concerned resident and one of those behind the Tantawangalo Forest protest page on Facebook claimed that the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is currently investigating logging non-compliances in Tantawangalo State Forest.

All the timber coming out of the forest is being chipped in Eden as part of ongoing management by the Forestry Corporation of NSW.

A Forestry spokesperson says the “thinning operation” is designed to promote sawlog growth for the future.

“Thinning means removing the smallest and weakest trees to provide the more dominant and vigorous trees space and light to grow, which can be important when managing light-hungry species like eucalypts.

“There is some low-quality timber produced that is suitable for pulp production, it is simply a by-product of the operation.”

“Forestry Corps claim that they are cutting down the smallest and weakest trees is just not true," - Peter Day. Photo: Supplied.

“Forestry Corps claim that they are cutting down the smallest and weakest trees is just not true,” – Peter Day, featuring Bridget Day in Tantawangalo State Forest. Photo: Supplied.

In response to questions from Region Media, the EPA confirmed it is taking an interest in the current operations.

“The EPA is monitoring current operations in the area,” a spokesperson says.

“With regard to the current forestry operation within Tantawangalo State Forest, the EPA received a community report alleging a variety of non-compliances and is currently investigating these matters.”

The EPA regulates native forestry operations on both public and private land in New South Wales and “maintains an active compliance and enforcement program of native forestry operations.”

The EPA assesses the compliance of these operations with rules set by the NSW Government that according to the spokesperson, “aim to ensure native forests in NSW continue to provide valuable habitat for threatened plants and animals and a sustainable timber supply for NSW.”

It’s a role that is often brought into question given the government’s interest in both agencies – the Forestry Corporation of NSW and the Environmental Protection Authority.

What rings loudly in many people’s mind are infringements that date back two years in the same forest.

“In 2018 the EPA concluded an investigation into a variety of alleged non-compliances by Forestry Corporation during earlier operations in Tantawangalo State Forests during 2015-2017,” the EPA spokesperson says.

“Formal warning letters were issued for alleged inadequacies in the protective measures required for rocky outcrops, hollow-bearing trees and streamside buffers.

“A range of other allegations could not be substantiated or were found to be compliant with the Integrated Forestry Operations Approval, with no further action taken.”

Moving forward the EPA says “The Forestry Corporation of NSW is aware of the legal and regulatory frameworks and the EPA expects them to work within these frameworks, or regulatory action could be taken.”

Tantawangalo State Forest June/July 2019. Photo: Peter Day.

Tantawangalo State Forest June/July 2019. Photo: Peter Day.

The non-compliance issues raised with the EPA from the 2015-2017 Tantawangalo forestry operations came as a result of complaints made by environmental activists, which seems to chip away at the confidence those concerned about the current activity have in the EPA.

“Forestry logging operations are self-regulated, so the EPA do not audit forest markups prior to a logging operation,” Peter Day says.

“The EPA conducts risk based forest audits throughout the State only after a compartment has been logged, which is too late to protect critical forest features and communities that are protected under State law.

“Compartment 2400 of the Tantawangalo State Forest contains large and important old growth forest communities that need protecting, yet the Forestry harvesting plan shows numerous areas of forest that have been declared ‘Habitat Unknown’.

“Many of these ‘Habitat Unknown’ areas are to be logged. This is one of the issues I have asked the EPA to look into and I am hoping to get more information on this.”

Mr Day says he understands that his complaints are being taken seriously

“The EPA has confirmed that they will be going into compartment 2407 this week to investigate possible non-compliances by Forestry,” he says.

“The EPA have told me on many occasions that they consider the Tantawangalo forest to contain critical habitat that needs protecting and that they try to prioritise auditing this forest.

“However, they do not have adequate resources available to undertake these audits as often as they would like.”

What's Your Opinion?

18 Responses to EPA on the ground in Tantawangalo Forest investigating complaints

Nienke Haantjens Nienke Haantjens 10:58 am 27 Jul 19

All logging in Tantawangalo should stop immediatley. It is an important water catchment area and carbon sink. We should be planting trees and using recycled paper and or hemp for paper products, not our forests. Thanks for the grest article Ian

Brian Cairns Brian Cairns 9:41 am 27 Jul 19

Sadly that's probably all the EPA will do... take an interest. Their track record is disgraceful.

Allan Allan 8:00 am 26 Jul 19

The log that Bridget Day was standing beside certainly qualifies as weak, the heart rot is obvious and the shape not conducive for milling.
Young forests grow much faster than mature forests and has a consequence absorb more CO2 as they grow. Pasture absorbs even faster.
Considering the huge area that has been locked up into NPWS estate holdings over the past 30 years in SE NSW I would of thought that there is ample reserves.
I can recall while taking part in a RFS tree fellers course seeing habitat trees left in the middle of a coup.
Also obvious was the number of what looked like furry worms.

Apparently they were the tails of gliders that had been residents of the habitat trees which had been caught short of their tree by powerful owls.

The unintended consequences of decisions by well meaning people.

Jennifer McKnight Jennifer McKnight 10:52 pm 25 Jul 19

Judging by some of the trees coming out of the Badja, the EPA might want to extend their range of monitoring...

Giovanna Hounsell Giovanna Hounsell 6:44 pm 25 Jul 19

“…thinning operation designed to promote sawlog growth…” Yeah right!! Our beautiful forests turned into toilet paper 🙁

Jenny Brown Jenny Brown 5:08 pm 25 Jul 19

I hope they left the habitat trees alone ! What a travesty this sort of logging is... Makes me very sad!

Anthony Harrison Anthony Harrison 5:05 pm 25 Jul 19

this kind of thing has been going one for a long time, the rules say one thing and what happens on the ground is another thing. This won't be the last time. Maintain the pressure , it's never too late! The restricting of public access to monitor logging operations should be challenged as well. No more tree sitting and such, document everything but don't physically interfere with operations, thanks very much to those people who have managed to shame the EPA into doing their job

Richard Barcham Richard Barcham 3:43 pm 25 Jul 19

So Blue Ridge Timber is closing while 100% of this forest goes to the chipper. Sustainability? What a joke.

Nick Jay Nick Jay 2:43 pm 25 Jul 19

I really hate people who only value forests in dollar terms 🤑💸💰

Lorraine McDonald Lorraine McDonald 12:39 pm 25 Jul 19

EPA should have stopped the destruction before it happened. They could not possibly have missed the withdrawel of Forest Protection by the Government. It was deliberate and they should be charged with environmental destruction, the same as the logging companies. They are a disgrace and the UN has condemned them for it.

    Anthony Harrison Anthony Harrison 5:16 pm 25 Jul 19

    Should have, but never have in the past... they need encouragement in doing the right thing as well as condemnation for doing the wrong thing

Howard Trendall Howard Trendall 11:39 am 25 Jul 19

Too late for the forest that has been destroyed, I'd like to think we can save the rest. 😭😡

Mim NumPhung Mim NumPhung 11:25 am 25 Jul 19

This is not thinning!! Look at the size of those logged trees. This must stop!!

Speckles McGuire Speckles McGuire 10:57 am 25 Jul 19

thanks About Regional....i was starting to think about a tree sit!

    Anthony Harrison Anthony Harrison 5:13 pm 25 Jul 19

    I think tree sitting and blockades and such are counter-productive, nowadays we have technology that can assist and social media... and there is also a broader awareness of things like biodiversity that needs to be cultivated, emphasising the positive values of protecting forests ecology.

Bernie Richards Bernie Richards 10:44 am 25 Jul 19

Glad the EPA will go in to properly investigate, hopefully not too little, too late.

Bernie Richards Bernie Richards 10:41 am 25 Jul 19

The EPA “do not have adequate resources available to undertake these audits as often as they would like” 🙁 Too bad once the trees are gone.

Stephen Kambouridis Stephen Kambouridis 8:33 am 25 Jul 19

We could grow hemp using wastewater and make the paper here but that would mean more jobs and less damage to the environment

Never happen.