13 January 2024

Forestry Corporation must pay $100,000 over felling trees in Mogo

| Albert McKnight
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Protests have taken place in Mogo State Forest over logging in the past.

Protests have taken place in Mogo State Forest over logging in the past. Photo: James Tremain.

The Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) has been ordered to pay a fine and legal costs totalling $104,000 after it illegally took down protected trees in a South Coast state forest.

A logging operation had taken place in March 2020 at Mogo State Forest, which is south of Batemans Bay.

In 2022, the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) issued three $15,000 penalty infringement notices to FCNSW for allegedly felling hollow-bearing trees across three areas in the forest.

The FCNSW challenged one of these notices in the Bega Local Court last year, before Magistrate Doug Dick handed down his decision in the Batemans Bay Local Court in December.

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Under the site-specific operating conditions that followed the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires, FCNSW was required to permanently retain all hollow-bearing trees to prevent the loss of habitat for hollow-dependent species, the EPA said.

“Following the challenge, FCNSW was found guilty of the offence under the Forestry Act 2012 in Bega Local Court in November 2023,” the EPA said.

“The magistrate was satisfied all four trees had visible hollows before they were cut down.”

FCNSW was ordered to pay a fine of $20,000 as well as $84,340 to the EPA as legal costs.

A spokesperson for the corporation said that during the operation, Forestry undertook searches and identified and preserved hundreds of hollow-bearing trees.

“Forestry Corporation and the EPA had differing opinions as to whether the hollows in four trees were visible from the ground before they were felled,” the FCNSW spokesperson said.

“Forestry Corporation is committed to complying with the ruleset and ensuring habitat is protected during its operations.”

EPA executive director of regulatory operations Jason Gordon said the court’s decision supported the EPA’s position that the visibility of tree hollows must be assessed broadly and requires scrutiny from several angles.

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“All hollow-bearing trees, living or dead, are important because they provide vital habitat for endangered and native species,” he said.

“They can take decades to naturally form and provide a necessary refuge for animals from the weather and predators, as well as safe sites for roosting and breeding.

“Any decrease in the availability and variety of tree hollows can lead to a significant loss of species diversity and abundance.”

Mr Gordon said the decision was a great result for the EPA and signified the care needed when conducting forestry operations to comply with conditions and ensure homes for wildlife were protected.

Magistrate Dick also ordered FCNSW to publicise the orders made against it in media outlets to send a message of deterrence.

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Philip in Narooma11:01 am 19 Jan 24

I thank Ms Chrissy for her reply. Unfortunately she has gone off in tangents that are not relevant to what I actually said.

a. I did NOT imply that forests were relogged every 40 years. I said AFTER 40 years they could be revisited and not tell the difference. The other issue I have is that there is NO significant old growth forest left in SE NSW after 200 years of European occupation. Old growth forest is a misnomer – it was extensively burnt over thousands of years during the indigenous period. It is only since European occupation that this practice has essentially stopped. In fact logging coupes are logged every 20 to 30 years and thinned (managed) every 7 years or so.

b. I claimed that the ‘conservationists’ only look at a logging coupe for Greater Gliders and not the adjacent Tallaganda NP. As you would be aware the southern part of Tallaganda NP and SF (including coupe 2445 were spared the fires of 2019/20.

c. Plantation hardwood is actually decreasing as a percentage of wood used in NSW. Imported hardwood, from unregulated harvesting in Indonesia and Borneo, is replacing it Forest Corp NSW manages just on two million hectares of State Forest in NSW. However allowable harvesting area has reduced to not much more than 750,000 hectares. On what land do you consider suitable for hardwood plantations?

d. The demolition of the timber industry in SE NSW will cause an employment crisis. I sincerely hope that Government carefully looks at the total picture

Margaret Chrissy9:28 pm 18 Jan 24

Philip in Narooma misses the point. Endangered species such as gliders require hollows in very old trees in order to nest and survive. Most South Coast forests are being logged on a rotation of 14 years, not 40 years (check your publicly available harvest records!), and the trees in those forests are far too young to develop hollows, which is why protecting any old trees and ANY hollow-bearing trees in State Forests is so important. It is disingenuous to ask why State Forests are being scrutinised – they are the areas being cut down, not National Parks. Why are gliders sparse in Tallaganda National Park? Maybe if you had seen that national park burn on 26th November 2019 and the following days, you wouldn’t need to ask that question. Most timber used in Australian construction is softwood from plantations. As to hardwood sources, plantation timber is already online and growing rapidly. And FCNSW breaking the law, and paying the fines from taxpayers’ pockets, is the ultimate government cynicism.

Philip in Narooma10:06 am 15 Jan 24

South East NSW has approximately one third National Park, One third private Land and one third State Forest. Logging is restricted to about 50% of state forest land and is done so on a rotational basis. Logging has occurred in this region for over 140 years and I defy anyone to go into a forest logged 40 years ago and say it is ‘destroyed’.

It never ceases to amaze me that logging is so carefully scrutinised whereas National Parks management is not. Tallaganda SF is a classic example. Why are so many gliders seen there and not in the adjacent National Park 2kms away?

This reminds me of the discussion around a farmer’s ‘right to farm’. If we want to source our wood from Indonesia and Borneo .. really threatening their environment so be it. If we want to source our wood from NSW sustainably managed forests then let’s stop the nit-picking around four ‘hollow bearing’ trees and get on with it. State Forests are still essential as sources of Australian hardwood until plantation timber comes on line.

Natural resource use in Australia is becoming a dirty word. When the availability of locally sourced fish, meat and timber drives cost of living pressures higher and house prices much higher then Australia will suffer. This is already happening in Western Australia.

cannedbeeria10:10 pm 13 Jan 24

Pffft! For the Forestry Corporation this is chicken feed – a cost of doing business.
See the related stories below, and related stories from those related stories.
When is someone in authority going to get serious with these clowns?
Fines don’t work. Restricting where they can work will.

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