The EPA has brought a halt to logging work in parts of the Flat Rock State Forest, near Ulladulla, over concerns about the endangered southern greater glider.
Environmental protestors set up camp in the forest early on Monday, November 13, in an effort to stop destruction of the greater glider's habitat.
One of the protestors, Dr Lisa Searle, was even suspended 25m in a platform attached to five logging machines to prevent further work after a glider den tree was identified.
The Forestry Corporation of NSW did not find any den trees during pre-logging surveys.
"The greater glider is listed as endangered, and the possibility of extinction is real if FCNSW continue their archaic and destructive practices of logging native forest that this endangered glider, as well as many other species, relies on for habitat," Dr Searle said.
"I am here risking arrest to stand up for the greater glider and to send a strong message to FCNSW and our leaders that this logging has to stop.
"There is no time left for these precious creatures," Dr Searle said.
EPA officers responded to the protestors' concerns and inspected several active logging compartments on Tuesday, November 14, identifying what appeared to be an endangered southern greater glider den tree within 30 metres of active logging.
Under the Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval, FCNSW is required to plan, implement and conduct forestry operations in a competent manner.
The EPA said FCNSW was required to protect den trees and implement 50 metre exclusion zones around them.
The stop-work order requires FCNSW to cease all harvesting, haulage operations, and any road and track construction and maintenance work in the areas of concern in Flat Rock State Forest.
EPA operations executive director Jason Gordon said the protection of the southern greater glider and the vulnerable yellow-bellied glider was especially important given the impacts of the 2019/20 bushfires.
"These glider species rely heavily on unburnt areas of forest after much of their habitat was impacted by the fires," he said.
"The EPA alleges that FCNSW has not conducted detailed and thorough searches necessary to identify all greater glider and yellow-bellied glider den trees within the Flat Rock State Forest compartment.
"FCNSW have advised pre-harvest surveys indicated the presence of 137 glider sap feed trees.
"Den trees and their surrounding habitat are critical for the gliders' feeding and movement and removal of habitat removes shelter and food, making the gliders vulnerable to harm.
"This Stop Work Order is necessary to ensure required measures are in place to protect glider den trees.
"The EPA expects FCNSW to meet the requirements in the Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (CIFOA) to protect Southern Greater Gliders," Mr Gordon said.
The EPA has also commenced discussions with FCNSW to strengthen the survey requirements in the CIFOA to ensure the future protection of critical habitat for threatened species such as the southern greater glider and yellow-bellied glider.
Following the EPA's stop work order, the Nature Conservation Council called on the State Government to take decisive action to protect endangered wildlife across NSW.
"Thanks to the dedication of locals from South East Forest Rescue, Brooman State Forest Conservation Group and Friends of the Forest Mogo, the gliders and other wildlife of Flat Rock are protected for now," said NCC CEO Jacqui Mumford.
"However, stopping forests that are legally required to be protected from destruction should not be left to the community," she added.
"This decision does nothing to address the systematic logging of glider habitat that is occurring right now across NSW.
"Forestry Corporation is required to protect all glider dens, the hollows that the iconic marsupial uses to nest and sleep, and implement a 50 metre exclusion zones around them," Ms Mumford said.
General Manager of Forestry Corporation of NSW's Hardwood Forests Division, Daniel Tuan, said the corporation was meeting its responsibilities.
"Forestry Corporation is committed to protecting the habitat of greater gliders and other threatened species using NSW State forests and is concerned that a Stop Work Order has been issued for Flat Rock State Forest," he said.
"The Forestry Corporation believes it is implementing, before any harvesting commences, its commitments under the primary regulatory agreement on forestry, the Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval.
"Forestry Corporation has put in place the measures outlined in the CIFOA to protect greater glider habitat by limiting operations to a proportion of the forested area and retaining large numbers of trees for glider habitat and food sources," Mr Tuan said.
"Forestry Corporation is undertaking harvesting with the same approach it has implemented for the past five years and has been seeking clarification on this issue from EPA following similar issues raised by them in Tallaganda State Forest.
"Forestry Corporation is committed to positive environmental outcomes and a sustainable timber industry and will sit down with the EPA to negotiate a new approach so that the community can be satisfied," Mr Tuan said.
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