In hiding: Environmentalists claim the search for koalas was not thorough enough. Photo: Jay Cronan
The Environment Protection Authority has been accused of being "extremely shoddy, unprofessional and incompetent" in its oversight of logging in a state forest south-west of Casino, where two threatened and vulnerable species, the koala and the yellow-bellied glider possum, have been identified.
The North East Forest Alliance has written to the EPA chief regulator, Mark Gifford, complaining that the EPA had misrepresented evidence and refused to investigate key complaints about the state-owned NSW Forestry Corporation.
Dailan Pugh, from the NEFA, was responding to the release of an EPA investigation into the actions of the Forestry Corporation, which was issued with three $300 fines for logging in koala high-use areas and a letter of caution for its activities at the Royal Camp State Forest in the northern rivers region.
Mr Pugh said his group complained that the Forestry Corporation had refused to thoroughly search for koala scats (faecal pellets) to identify koala high-use areas and protect them from logging, and also that it had felled trees that showed clear signs that the glider possum, which is protected in NSW, had been feeding on sap from those trees.
The EPA has admitted in budget estimates that a mandatory survey of the koala habitats, which is required before timber logging, was not "thorough" enough.
The EPA investigation had said it could not "determine beyond reasonable doubt" whether incisions made on a tree were from possums.
But the tree had been inspected by the wildlife ecologist David Milledge, who verified the markings as those made by the possums. Mr Milledge said it was "inconceivable that the EPA was unable to positively identify" the incisions that had been made by the glider possum.
Mr Gifford responded by saying that the EPA uses a variety of approaches when investigating any potential environmental impacts.
"There are a number of checks and balances in place to ensure that work is undertaken correctly," Mr Gifford said.