Koala habitat threatened by hardwood logging near Casino

ONE of the most koala-rich forests on public land ever seen by local ecologist David Milledge is in imminent danger of being logged for high-quality eucalypt timber and North East Forest Alliance is now calling for its urgent protection.

One year ago NEFA first raised this alarm regarding the logging of prime grey gum, red gum, tallow wood and grey box in Royal Camp State Forest, south-west of Casino and while some logging stopped, it continued nearby with the result that the EPA last week issued three $300 fines to the NSW Forestry Corporation for logging within a "koala high use area". It was essentially three small fines issued by one arm of the state government and paid for by another.

"The Forestry Corporation continued to log koala high use areas under the nose of the EPA while the ministers repeatedly refused our requests for an independent assessment," Explained NEFA's Dailan Pugh.

Mr Milledge, an ecological consultant hired by NEFA to assess the koala population of Royal Camp, said: "The level of koala activity revealed by these searches is among the highest I have recorded in my experience of over 20 years conducting koala scat surveys in coastal and escarpment forests in north-eastern NSW. This highlights the significance of Royal Camp State Forest in supporting a dense local koala population."

The call for the forest's protection from logging is now supported by Friends of the Koala and Nature Conservation Council of NSW.

Mr Milledge said the koalas' favourite food source came from the leaves of medium-sized grey gums, which were precisely those earmarked for logging.

"Unfortunately the koalas here are particularly disadvantaged in that their core foraging habitat is being removed," he said.