Growing concerns about greater glider protection

Community members halt logging at Sheas Nob State Forest. Photo: Sue Higginson.

THE NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has announced amendments to its site-specific biodiversity conditions (SSBCs) relating to the protection of greater gliders.

The EPA says the amendments clarify search and survey requirements and “strengthen protections for greater gliders”.

The changes require Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) to implement a 25-metre logging exclusion zone around any tree in which a greater glider is sighted during FCNSW’s search and survey procuedures.

This is in addition to an existing exclusion zone requirement which aims to protect trees where greater glider dens have been identified.

“These amendments have been made to increase protections for other trees known to be used by Greater Gliders, where dens have not necessarily been identified but are likely to be present,” the EPA stated on Monday.

Changes have also been made to clarify requirements for how nocturnal search and surveys must be conducted.

“This includes requiring search and surveys to be conducted at night, with the first transect of the search and survey commencing within 30 minutes of sunset to increase the likelihood of observing gliders leaving their dens.”

The EPA said earlier SSBCs did not reflect the shared understanding of the EPA and FCNSW that only the first part of the search and survey had to commence within the first hour of sunset, and, as a result, the EPA is not issuing Stop Work Orders at this time.

However, the EPA states it is continuing to investigate potential occasions of non-compliance with the SSBCs.

“We understand there is community concern for the conservation of threatened species and forests and we remain committed to fulfilling our statutory obligation to protect the environment and independently regulate all licensed industries, including native forest operations.

“We will continue to regulate FCNSW activities to ensure the rules are complied with and will regularly review these settings to ensure that they are operating as intended.”

NSW Greens MP and environment spokesperson Sue Higginson said Monday’s changes are actually a reduction in protections for Greater Gliders, a concern echoed by conservationists and anti-logging groups across the state.

“The changes come after community reports were made to the EPA last month that the Forestry Corporation was logging Greater Glider hotspots without complying with the rules,” Ms Higginson said.

“The EPA has walked away from their regulatory responsibilities over native forest logging and announced that they will change the rules to suit logging, rather than protecting threatened species.”

North Coast Environment Council spokesperson Susie Russell said, “We are devastated that once again the EPA has rolled over and allowed the Forestry Corporation to continue destroying the homes of an endangered species, the greater glider.

“We had hoped they might force compliance of their February rules, but no, logging is the real protected species in NSW.”

Ms Higginson said every day that native forest logging continues in NSW equals a political failure by the Government.

These changes come after forestry protesters temporarily halted logging operations in Sheas Nob State Forest earlier this month, in response to Forestry Corporation of NSW’s alleged breaches of greater glider protection laws.

According to a NSW Greens press statement on May 15, the NSW Environment Protection Authority received reports of 188 breaches by the Forestry Corporation across nine forests and failed to issue stop work orders while the breaches were investigated.

“We’re horrified that Greater Glider habitat is being logged within the Great Koala National Park, which the government promised to protect,” one protester told NOTA.

FCNSW was approached for comment but did not reply in time for publication.

By Andrew VIVIAN

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