Forestry Corp backs away from logging in glider habitat

Tracey Ferrier |

Conservationists say greater glider habitat must be protected after a third was lost in bushfires.
Conservationists say greater glider habitat must be protected after a third was lost in bushfires.

The Forestry Corporation has temporarily abandoned plans to log a NSW forest where it’s suspected of destroying the den trees of endangered greater gliders.

Conservationists say it’s a win but a temporary halt isn’t good enough and more must be done to save Australia’s largest gliding marsupial from extinction.

The state-owned logging outfit has been in hot water with the Environment Protection Authority since August, when officers found a dead glider about 50 metres from harvesting operations in the Tallaganda State Forest.

A series of stop-work orders followed, with the watchdog saying it lacked confidence in the corporation’s habitat surveys, which are meant to ensure the protection of den trees and 50-metres of bush around each one.

The EPA has opted not to further extend its stop-work orders after the last one expired on Monday.

Instead it has accepted a Forestry Corporation undertaking to suspend harvesting under current operational plans.

But that leaves the door open for logging to resume when new plans are lodged down the track.

The Forestry Corporation remains under investigation by the EPA, which has said it has reasonable cause to suspect glider den trees and the habitat around them were harvested in Tallaganda.

An aerial view of logging at the Tallaganda state forest
The NSW environmental watchdog says it lacks confidence in the forestry operation’s habitat surveys. (HANDOUT/ANDREW KAINEDER)

The EPA is revising protocols to ensure the forestry industry carries out habitat searches in a competent way.

The Forestry Corporation has told AAP it’s cooperating with that process.

“With respect to the operation in Tallaganda State Forest, Forestry Corporation has closed the existing plans and will not continue harvesting in the areas subject to these plans until a new harvest plan has been developed,” it said in a statement on Tuesday.

Wilderness Australia, WWF-Australia and South East Forest Rescue say Tuesday’s developments must be the first step towards permanently ending logging in Tallaganda’s greater glider habitat.

The EPA has raised similar concerns about the Forestry Corporation’s failure to identify glider den trees in another state forest – Flat Rock, south west of Port Macquarie.

A stop-work order has also been in place there since November.

In both Tallaganda and Flat Rock, concerned citizens have carried out their own surveys and found hollow-bearing den trees the Forestry Corporation missed.

Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek up-listed the greater glider from vulnerable to endangered after the Black Summer bushfires wiped out over a third of its habitat in 2019-20.

The loss of so much habitat has increased the glider’s reliance on unburnt patches of habitat like those in Tallaganda and Flat Rock.

An endangered status means a species is at very high risk of becoming extinct in the wild in the near future.