Daytime search for nocturnal glider sparks new rules

Tracey Ferrier |

Concerns for the endangered greater glider have led to logging being suspended in a NSW forest.
Concerns for the endangered greater glider have led to logging being suspended in a NSW forest.

A NSW watchdog is revising search rules to better protect threatened species from logging, after the Forestry Corporation looked for a nocturnal glider during the day.

Logging remains suspended in the Tallaganda State Forest after the state-owned corporation was hit with two successive stop-work orders.

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) stepped in after an endangered greater glider was found dead near a harvest site.

The watchdog is now revising protocols to ensure the forestry industry conducts searches in a competent way.

EPA chief executive Tony Chappel recently told a budget estimates hearing stop-work orders were not issued lightly.

He said EPA officers had a number of serious compliance concerns in relation to the contractor operating in Tallaganda.

“…. they go to the rigour of surveys and other matters,” he told state parliamentarians last week.

Greens MP Sue Higginson said she had grave concerns about broad area surveys the Forestry Corporation has to carry out before harvesting starts.

She asked Mr Chappel if he had any influence, or concerns, about how they are carried out.

“I think yes would be the answer to both of those questions,” he said.

“Part of the stop-work order that has been referred to at Tallaganda relates to those issues.”

In NSW, a mechanism called Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals sets environmental rules for how forestry operations can be carried out in state forests.

“The IFOA is an outcomes-based instrument, but I think our observation is sometimes the way the Forestry Corporation seeks to operationalise those outcomes lacks, in our view, sufficient rigour,” Mr Chappel said.

“It needs to be developed in a competent manner. That’s, I think, at the heart of some of our concerns in Tallaganda regarding the way surveys were conducted for den trees and so on.”

He said protocol adjustments were being made to improve how Forestry Corporation identifies and protects threatened species habitat, among other things.

“We’ll be aiming to finalise those in the near term.”

The Forestry Corporation recently revealed it conducted pre-harvest surveys for glider den trees in Tallaganda during the day, when nocturnal greater gliders would have been asleep.

It identified just one den tree.

The E​PA later did its own work and easily identified 20 in areas earmarked for harvesting, saying: “We are not confident that habitat surveys have been adequately conducted to ensure all den trees are identified.”

AAP has asked the Forestry Corporation for a response to the EPA chief’s latest comments.

But in an earlier statement, it said it had identified and marked for protection 5400 hollow-bearing trees in Tallaganda, even if no gliders were spotted using them.

Meanwhile, Mr Chappel has received preliminary advice on what killed the glider found 50 metres from a harvest site. But he told parliamentarians he can’t release it yet.

“I don’t want to prejudice any legal process that may eventuate here, and the investigation is still very much live.”