16 Feb 2024


But conservation groups warn changes won’t save greater gliders

NSW's environmental watchdog has scrapped controversial new logging rules after scientists and conservation groups warned they would fast track the extinction of the endangered greater glider.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority today announced it would reintroduce a requirement for Forestry Corp to search for and identify the den trees of greater gliders before logging operations.

Forestry Corp will also now be required to conduct pre-logging surveys at night, as there is little chance of seeing the nocturnal species entering or leaving a den tree during the day.

The EPA had previously removed the requirement for Forestry Corp to search for den trees on 2 February. The watchdog hit pause on these new rules following an outcry from greater glider experts, who said they were not consulted.

But conservation groups warn today’s changes won’t stop greater gliders from continuing to slide towards extinction. Only ending native forest logging will protect gliders.

“We’re basically back at square one with protections for greater gliders. The EPA is righting a wrong that should never have happened in the first place,” said Dr Kita Ashman, Threatened Species & Climate Adaptation Ecologist, WWF Australia.

“Reinstating the requirement to survey for gliders is a good thing, but these surveys need to be done by independent, qualified ecologists and not by Forestry Corp. The same people who want to cut down forests and destroy glider habitat for profit can’t be the people who survey the forests for gliders.

“Ultimately the only way to secure a future for greater gliders is to get out of native forest logging and into sustainable plantations. Gliders are not going to persist in areas that are being logged. The NSW Government needs to buy out the wood supply agreements that are driving logging of glider habitat.”

The issue of greater glider den trees came to a head when Forestry Corp cut down thousands of trees in Tallaganda State Forest, one of the last greater glider strongholds.

Last August the EPA launched an investigation saying it had no confidence Forestry Corp had properly searched for den trees and protected them with 50 metre exclusion zones, as the government-owned corporation was required to do.

South East Forest Rescue Coordinator Scott Daines said the survey protocols announced today remained insufficient, as Forestry Corp is only required to search for gliders near existing roads and tracks.

“At most these surveys would pick up 5% of the area where gliders could be living. You can’t protect a species if you can’t go out and find them,” said Daines.

“Now as long as Forestry Corp ticks a very small box, then the EPA loses its enforcement powers, and the gliders lose their homes. Just because they live further than 50 meters from a road, they don’t count.”

Wilderness Australia Operations Manager Andrew Wong said the EPA had today made minimal and inadequate changes to logging rules.

“This demonstrates the NSW Government’s policy is incapable of preventing the likely extinction of greater gliders. The government needs to intervene and give the EPA the power it needs to stop species going extinct,” said Wong.

“We need to very quickly identify areas that are critical to these species and stop all logging. There must be a long term, comprehensive process to rescue the greater glider and this will only work if there’s an immediate moratorium on logging of critical areas like Tallaganda.”