Understandably, most of us are completely preoccupied with the current Covid outbreaks across Australia. In fact, the whole world’s attention has been sharply focused on little more than the pandemic and its ramifications for more than a year. ‘Human survival’, or rather ‘threat to human survival’, has the ability to coalesce our attention like nothing else can.
However, in our mid north coast hamlet there is another population whose survival is under imminent threat. Even before the Black Spring bushfires of 2019, koala populations across the mid north coast were declining.
“Prior the bushfires, industrial logging, coastal development, highway construction, disease and feral predators all synergistically conspired to cause major declines in Koalas and their disappearance and extinction in many landscapes,” says local ecologist Mark Graham.
The 2019 bushfires ravaged swathes of North Coast bushland, destroying koala habitat and decimating key koala populations within the bounds of the Great Koala National Park. However, the good news is that Bellingen and Coffs Harbour are in the middle of the biggest unburnt expanse of forest in the North of NSW.
“This means that these globally significant forests have become a critically important refuge for species and populations displaced by the fires of Black Spring and Summer. The survival of these species requires the protection of this refuge,” says Mark.
However, the Forestry Corp. is proposing to log 500 hectares of the Pine Creek State Forest adjoining the Bongil Bongil National Park, a region which provides vital corridor for the many Koalas that are known to frequent these beautiful compartments, a fact supported by a study completed in 2012 by the Australian Museum.
A recent meeting organised by the Bellingen Environment Centre drew large crowds of concerned locals from across the Shire, all determined to protect our Koala colony and their Native habitat. Dr Tim Cadman, Mark Graham and Sean Tuohy from Friends of Kalang spoke about the active work happening at Kalang Headwaters, Newry Forest, Wild Cattle Creek and now Pine Creek Forest to preserve whatever Native Habitat that remains after the loss of 22% of our forests in the Black Summer Fires.
The Resolution of the meeting was to form a combined working group between Coffs Harbour and Bellingen to protect Pine Creek Forest.
Mark, how crucial is the Pine Creek State Forest to the survival of our remaining koalas?
After the decimation of the Port Macquarie Koala population in the fires of Black Spring the Koala population between Coffs Harbour and Bellingen is the largest remaining. This is centred on Bongil Bongil NP and Pine Creek SF. This is a globally significant breeding colony of Koalas with many hundreds of individuals. Animals dispersing from this core area support the entire regional Koala population, supplementing and augmenting populations in nearby landscapes where Koalas are declining (because of industrial logging, fire and development), thereby maintaining the viability of the entire Koala population of the Great Koala National Park.
In your view, how will the logging of this region impact on the numbers and ongoing health of the koala population?
In a dire fashion. Industrial logging causes local extinctions of Koalas. The NSW Government has found this in places such as Clouds Creek SF on the western Dorrigo Plateau. Industrial logging causes extinctions. Industrial logging stops our rivers flowing. Industrial logging turns healthy forests into weedy degraded wastelands filled with lantana. Industrial logging makes fire much much worse. All these factors smash Koalas.
It doesn’t have to be this way. These public forests are worth much more to all unlogged. They are the cornerstone of our tourism industry and they are our life support systems. Enough is enough. We must protect our forests to protect our future and that of our Koalas.
When is the logging scheduled to commence?
Apparently later in 2021.. Keep an eye on https://planportal.fcnsw.net/ watch where the ecocide is proposed.
Is there a way for concerned community members to get involved to protect the local koala population?
Absolutely. There is so much to be done. Visit and enjoy this precious public forest; take your friends, family and visitors (covid safely); write letters; tell your neighbours; let the local members know you love Koalas intact and not killed by industrial logging; attend rallies; join groups of citizen scientists. You name it there is so much that we can do and that must be done to save our globally significant Koala population. Onwards into the Symbiocene…
Do You Want To Get Involved: Local people can get involved by leaving a message on the Bellingen Environment Centre page or calling 0409996423 to have your name added to the contact list.