A Great Koala National Park for NE NSW

The NSW National Parks Association is proposing a Great Koala National Park in North East NSW. In essence the proposal involves adding 175,000 ha of State Forest to existing protected areas meaning that logging would cease in those State Forests. The following article is extracted from their web site.

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We know from historical accounts that at the time of European settlement koalas were abundant on the east coast of Australia. Hunting, coupled with rapid habitat loss and fragmentation via land clearing and urban development, has resulted in dramatic falls in koala numbers. Almost every population on the east coast is in decline. In the Bega Valley in southern NSW, a population that used to support a pelt industry in the late 19th century has been reduced to under 100 due to land clearing, intensive logging and climate change. Now, people in NSW are lucky if they see a koala in the wild during their life!

Most of the remaining high quality koala habitat lies in state forests and on private land where ongoing clearing of native vegetation and intense, industrialised logging is leading to the removal of vital food and habitat trees. It’s hard to believe that 200 years after settlement, we have still not taken decisive action to protect our favourite animal.

We know that koalas like larger trees, older forests and low disturbance from fire and logging. So the solution to helping them is obvious! We need to stop logging and clearing in koala habitat. Why? Because protecting existing habitat is many times cheaper and more efficient than having to restore it later. If nothing is done to protect and reconnect koala habitat, population declines will continue unabated and extinction seems inevitable.

Large and well-managed protected areas remain the single most effective tool to protect biodiversity around the world, and Australia is no different. The Great Koala National Park, which is designed as the key component of a larger strategic koala reserve network for the north coast, is the best chance for koalas to have a secure future in NSW.

The new National Park will encompass 315,000 ha of public land in the Coffs Harbour region. This biodiversity hotspot includes two nationally recognised koala meta-populations, estimated to contain almost 20% (about 4,500) of NSW’s remaining wild koalas. The Great Koala National Park is comprised of 175,000 ha of state forests added to 140,000 ha of existing protected areas. Because it’s all public land, it’s a cost-effective reserve option.

Importantly, this koala population is one of the more stable in NSW. This is most likely due to Bongil Bongil National Park acting as a source area of animals which has, so far, offset losses of koalas from land clearing and logging. Because the population has not yet dramatically declined like many others in NSW, the Great Koala National Park has an outstanding chance of making a real difference to koalas. But we must act now while there’s still a chance!

Scientists tell us that as the climate changes koala feed trees and populations will move east as inland NSW becomes too hot. So protecting habitat on the eastern seaboard is a vital strategy to help koalas cope with climate change. The Great Koala National Park would both protect coastal forests on the east coast and restore a link between coastal forests and the escarpment to allow koalas to move in response to extreme weather events and climate change.

It’s not just koalas that will benefit from the Great Koala National Park! This spectacular landscape hosts lush World Heritage Gondwana Rainforests, some of the world’s most diverse towering eucalypt forests — which NPA has assessed as having World Heritage values — and an array of threatened species including the Hastings River Mouse, Spotted-tailed Quoll, Powerful Owl, Sooty Owl, Greater Glider and Yellow-bellied Glider. Like koalas, these species rely on large, well-connected forested landscapes to survive and are threatened by industrial logging and land clearing.

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Keith Scott

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Filed under Biodiversity, Forests

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