The Forestry Corporation of New South Wales has issued an apology for the unintentional removal of 17 trees from a protected area of Coopernook State Forest during a forestry operation that took place in 2021.
The corporation has collaborated with the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) to develop an Enforceable Undertaking that outlines a series of projects aimed at compensating for the mistake, Timberbiz reported.
The incident occurred in December 2021 when Forestry Corporation’s contractor mistakenly harvested trees in a riparian exclusion zone, allegedly breaching the Forestry Act 2012. The alleged breaches were self-reported to the EPA by Forestry Corporation.
General Manager Hardwood Forests Daniel Tuan said compliance with the environmental regulations is of paramount importance.
“We are disappointed that we did not comply on this occasion, and we are sorry. When we identified the error, we immediately self-reported it to the EPA,” he said.
“We have worked collaboratively with the EPA over the past 12 months to identify investments that will deliver tangible environmental and community benefits to compensate for the damage this operation caused.”
The Forestry Corporation of New South Wales must pay $500,000 towards four environmental projects in a legally binding Enforceable Undertaking with the New South Wales Environment Protection Authority.
EPA Director Operations Steve Orr said adherence to stringent rules regarding forestry operations is crucial.
“These trees were in a protected riparian exclusion zone, close to streams, so removing them had the potential to destabilise the soil and cause potential harm to the aquatic system as well as reduce available habitat for fauna,” Mr Orr said.
The Enforceable Undertaking (EU) requires Forestry Corporation to fund four projects that will deliver benefits to the environment, the local community, and improve its operations including:
- $150,000 to develop and test an industry-first in-cab Boundary Warning Prototype to improve forestry operational boundary management.
- $150,000 to improve Forestry Corporation’s corporate website to better inform external stakeholders about its forestry operations.
- $100,000 to establish and maintain a nature-themed playground at the Forest Camping Ground in Coopernook State Forest that will cater for an expanded visitor demographic.
- $100,000 to establish, monitor and maintain breeding sites for threatened frog species in the Olney State Forest.
Forestry Corporation has agreed to pay $37,802.94 for legal and investigative costs, as well as future compliance monitoring costs.
These projects will be delivered over the next 12 months and progress will be reported regularly to the EPA.
In the meantime, Forestry Corporation is reviewing its systems, processes, and training to ensure the full implementation of strict environmental regulations in forestry operations.