A new NSW Government study of koala populations in NSW’s north-east forests has shown evidence for up to 10 times the rate of koala occupancy than previously estimated, and that timber harvesting has no impact on koala numbers, providing further evidence that locking up state forests does not help koala conservation, forest industry leaders said today.
The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) project, which focused on koalas’ response to timber harvesting, involved acoustic technology to get a more accurate estimate of the population and range of koalas. The study found:
“… past timber harvesting did not influence koala occupancy. There was no difference in results between heavily harvested, lightly harvested and old growth sites.
“Time since harvesting and the amount of harvesting in the local area did not influence occupancy. There was also no difference between National Park and state forest sites.”
– Dr Brad Law, NSW Department of Primary Industries
The peak industry groups representing NSW’s timber and forest products industries, Timber NSW and the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA), said Dr Law’s research showed that populist calls to lock up more forests were at odds with the science, and would not deliver better conservation outcomes for koalas.
Timber NSW General Manager, Ms Maree McCaskill, said the evidence of greater koala numbers was welcome and should prompt the NSW Government to reconsider its approach to species conservation in all timber production forests.
“NSW forest industries play a complementary role in the strategy to enhance koala conservation, through the regulatory framework for sustainable forest management and voluntary efforts on privately owned forest land and commercial forestry operations,” Ms McCaskill said.
“With 90 per cent of NSW’s public forests in National Parks and Reserves or in State Forest Reserves and protected areas, and just 1-3 per cent selectively harvested each year and then regenerated, we should be focusing on why our extensive reserves system is failing,” Ms McCaskill concluded.
AFPA CEO, Mr Ross Hampton, said, “The study showed that calls from environmental activist groups to shut down the native forest industry in NSW would not help koala populations, and I urge the NSW Government to take Dr Law’s latest work into account in its Koala Strategy.”