This season’s bushfires have had a major impact on regional communities, the environment, wildlife and local forestry industries.
Permission to carry out approved logging operations is granted to the Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) by the NSW Government under the Forestry Act 2012 and the Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (IFOAs).
The IFOAs set out the conditions designed to manage the impact of native forestry operations on the environment, including rules which protect soils, water, ecosystems, native plants and animals, including koalas.
The EPA’s role is to ensure native forestry operations comply with these stringent rules.
The EPA has been working with other government agencies and FCNSW to understand the impacts of these fires. Most forestry operations are now being undertaken in burnt state forest to maximise the protection of unburnt and partially burnt areas for wildlife recovery efforts, including for koalas.
The EPA has imposed additional site-specific conditions for logging being undertaken in burnt state forests on top of the existing strict environmental controls that already apply through the IFOAs.
These additional conditions aim to mitigate the specific environmental risks caused by the recent bushfires at each site, including impacts on plants, animals and their habitats, soils and waterways.
The additional rules for timber harvesting in fire-affected areas vary from site to site.
On sites where koalas may be present, the additional conditions protect primary koala feed trees and require that preferred koala habitat be additionally protected as clumps during the logging. FCNSW are also required to check for the presence of koalas before any trees are felled and put in place temporary exclusion zones around areas where koalas are identified.
The additional conditions also increase protection on streams to improve water quality and retain habitat for threatened species. They limit the intensity of harvesting operations and increase protections for areas of unburnt forest to maximise wildlife recovery.
The EPA is monitoring these forestry operations to ensure these rules are followed.
The EPA responds to potential breaches of environment laws and forestry licensing conditions such as logging in stream protection zones, causing sediment to wash into streams, damaging habitat in protected areas and harming threatened plants or animals.
The EPA can use tools under the Biodiversity Conservation Act and the Protection of the Environment Operations Act to address any breaches of these conditions.
The EPA has regulatory powers ranging from warnings, cautions, stop work orders, fines or prosecutions to clean up notices and remediation orders.
The EPA reports on unlawful activities through the public register on its website and through the media.
Members of the community can help the EPA by reporting details of illegal activity to the EPA’s Environment Line on 131 555.