Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Defend the Pilliga’s Conservation Reserves

A Natural Resources Commission (NRC) report kept under wraps since September was released on December 8. It recommends logging and grazing of state conservation areas in the Pilliga, north of Coonabarabran.

Take action: send a letter to Premier Baird and stop NSW Government adopting these NRC recommendations.

The scheme to log Pilliga’s conservation reserves is illegal under the National Parks and Wildlife Act, 1974, has no environmental benefit and will cost the taxpayer money. Trying to recover some of the tax dollars will only make the proposed logging scheme worse.

The costs of logging reserves can only be partly recovered through the sale of sawlogs and other products, so this park abuse has to be subsidised by tax-payers. The NRC proposes that park key legislation be changed to allow for commercial logging and grazing in state conservation areas.

The environmental impacts of logging are well documented: logging machinery causes soil compaction and erosion. It permits ingress for pest species, including foxes, prickly pear and box thorn, as well as plant pathogens. Grazing of stock does not reduce blazing (wildfires) and is associated with weed outbreaks. Fencing to contain stock causes serious environmental harm.

The Commission’s alleges that White Cypress pine thickets are environmentally damaging to the Pilliga’s woodlands. This is just ‘PR spin’ to justify commercial logging of reserves. The NRC recommends that Cypress thickets larger than a hectare with more than just 11 per cent canopy cover should be logged, affecting 57,000 hectares of reserves.

Dr Haydn Washington, who has 40 years experience as a plant ecologist, explains that dense stands are a natural characteristic of White Cypress that has evolved in this habitat. Single species stands are a normal part of our natural heritage. Blue Gums, Ash forests, Coachwood rainforests and Snow Gums are other examples of single species stands.

Haydn is not a lone voice of protest. Other scientists find that areas of dense White Cypress provide conditions vital for the survival of several native plant and animal species, and that thinning this habitat is not associated with any ecological benefit (Thompson and Eldridge, 2005).

Karl Beckert, Forest and Wildlife Campaigner for the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, says that the Pilliga is one of Australia’s 15 national biodiversity hotspots. Its State Conservation Areas contain a high proportion of the largest threatened population of Barking Owls in NSW, the Pilliga Mouse, the Black-striped Wallaby, Koala, and a range of woodland birds and microchiropteran bats.

Some of these species, such as the Black-striped wallaby and Koala, use dense stands of White Cypress to shelter from heat. Fragmentation of larger, dense stands of white cypress through logging and grazing will remove the cooler microclimates created by the stands and refuges used by small birds and mammals.

Reference: W.A. Thompson and D.J. Eldridge, 2005 White Cypress Pine (C. glaucophylla): a review of its roles in landscape and ecological processes in eastern Australia