The North East Forests Alliance (NEFA) is calling for ministerial intervention to protect fire-affected habitat after a disappointing Land and Environment Court ruling today. 
On behalf of NEFA, EDO took the state government-owned logging company to court in August to stop it from logging Braemar and Myrtle State Forests .
Both forests contain significant koala habitat and were hit hard by the Black Summer Bushfires of 2019-20. 
NEFA argued logging approvals granted by NSW Forestry Corporation were invalid because they were not made in accordance with principles of ecologically sustainable forestry management (ESFM).
NEFA also argued FCNSW was legally required to have sought site-specific conditions from the EPA on post-fire logging measures, rather than use its own “voluntary measures”.
However, Justice Pritchard dismissed those arguments, stating the government had considered and applied ESFM when it made the logging rules (the Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval) in 2018.
Her Honour also found the special conditions process did not apply to harvesting plan approvals.
NEFA President Dailan Pugh said: “This loss is devastating for the future of Koalas and the 23 other threatened species inhabiting these forests, including the southern greater glider, yellow-bellied glider, rufous bettong, masked owl and squirrel glider.
“This loss is devastating for this nationally important koala population. We will continue our campaign to protect them.
“In court, Forestry Corporation argued the EPA could change logging rules whenever it considers it necessary. But Forestry Corp has frequently refused to accept the EPA’s attempts to implement improved logging to reduce impacts in burnt forests and to reduce impacts on Koalas.
“Forestry Corporation is right that the EPA does have the ability to change the logging rules — it just doesn’t have the political will.
“In light of the expert evidence we presented in this case about the impacts of the fires and logging on koalas, it is imperative the Environment Minister direct the EPA to do its job and change the rules.”
EDO Managing Lawyer Andrew Kwan said: “While the decision is disappointing, importantly the court ruled that it was open for NEFA to take the action.
“We welcome confirmation for the first time that the community can take critical action in the court to protect native species in circumstances where the authority to log state forests is disputed.
“We will be looking at this decision closely and speaking to our clients over the coming days to discuss next steps.
“NEFA still has a case before the Federal Court challenging the whole North East Regional Forest Agreement, including on the basis that the impacts of climate change have not been properly considered.
“Judgment in that matter is expected in the coming month.”
The Braemar and Myrtle State Forests are in an area where experts say the fires reduced the koala population by 70 per cent or more. NEFA’s own surveys indicate koalas remain present, highlighting the importance of protecting the area.
The forests before the fires were also home to 23 other threatened species, including the southern greater glider, yellow-bellied glider, rufous bettong, masked owl and squirrel glider.
NEFA and EDO thank barristers Michael Hall SC, Parisa Hart and Natasha Hammond for their assistance in this matter.
AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW
NEFA | Dailan Pugh, President
EDO | Andrew Kwan, Managing Lawyer
EDO | James Tremain | 0419 272 254 | [email protected]