Fears for greater glider as forestry laws change

The greater glider is classified as endangered after bushfires wiped out a third of its habitat.

The greater glider is classified as endangered after bushfires wiped out a third of its habitat. Photo: WWF

NSW’s environmental watchdog has put the endangered greater glider on a fast track to extinction by watering down logging protections, experts say.

Ecologists from WWF-Australia and Wilderness Australia have condemned the watchdog, accusing it of making reckless changes so the Forestry Corporation can more easily log state forests.

The government-owned corporation remains under investigation by the Environment Protection Authority over suspicions it illegally destroyed den trees greater gliders rely on for survival.

The EPA recently imposed a series of stop-work orders in two forests and questioned the competency of the corporation’s pre-harvest habitat surveys.

Officers found a dead glider close to harvesting operations at one site. 

The EPA has told stakeholders it is ditching specific search requirements for glider den trees. 

The Forestry Corporation later admitted it searches for den trees during the day, when the nocturnal animals are asleep in their hollows.

On Friday, the EPA told stakeholders it was ditching specific search requirements for glider den trees, which must currently be retained with a 50-metre logging exclusion zone around each one.

Instead, Forestry Corporation will have to keep more large, hollow-bearing trees per hectare – 14 instead of the current eight in high-density glider areas, and 12 instead of the current eight in low-density areas.

Experts are furious and say the change will fast-track the glider’s slide towards extinction, given each animal uses six and 20 den trees each, and also needs food trees nearby.

Dr Kita Ashman is a threatened species ecologist with WWF-Australia and was briefed on the changes by EPA chief Tony Chappel.

“He said ‘we acknowledge that it is a marginal improvement, but it is still an improvement’ to which I responded let me be clear, this is a step backwards,” she said.

“I told him that as an expert on this species, the EPA would be locking in this animal’s extinction.”

Andrew Wong, a greater glider ecologist with Wilderness Australia, said the Forestry Corporation would be able to log right up to the base of retained trees.

He said the new rules would not leave behind useful habitat for gliders.

“The best scientists on this issue don’t know the current status of greater gliders but are desperately afraid for them,” he said.

“Everyone you talk to is basically saying they are going extinct.”


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