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Forestry Corporation of NSW could face $1m in fines for alleged illegal logging in koala habitat

12th Oct 2020 | Economics

Article By: Lisa Cox

The Forestry Corporation of New South Wales could face more than $1m in fines for the alleged illegal logging of trees in protected areas, including koala habitat, in the state’s north.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority said on Thursday it had started five prosecutions against the state-owned forestry agency in the land and environment court for alleged breaches of its licence in a forest near Coffs Harbour.

The EPA has charged the Forestry Corporation for alleged illegal felling of trees in exclusion zones and protected areas in the Wild Cattle Creek state forest in 2018. It is facing two charges for logging zones considered “high use” habitat for koalas, with each offence carrying a maximum fine of $440,000.

The authority also alleges that the forestry agency logged protected rainforest and cleared trees inside an exclusion zone surrounding warm temperate rainforest.

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The EPA’s acting chief executive, Jacqueleine Moore, said it was unacceptable to put vulnerable species, such as the koala, in danger by breaking the rules. “We have strict procedures in place to protect wildlife, and if they are disregarded it can put these animals under threat,” Moore said.

A spokeswoman for the Forestry Corporation said during the logging operations it had set aside 21 hectares of habitat “which was three times what was required under the ruleset, protecting an additional 6000 trees”. She said the EPA’s allegations related to nine trees.

“Forestry Corporation recognises the importance of complying with the strict environmental regulations that apply to forestry operations and carried out a thorough investigation into the circumstances that led to these alleged offences,” she said.

The prosecutions follow a long investigation and are listed for mention in the land and environment court on 16 October. In July the EPA issued a stop-work order to the Forestry Corporation for clearing two giant protected trees in the same state forest.