22 June, 2023

Benarkin native forest logging plans shelved

Residents near a high conservation value forest close to Blackbutt are hopeful the area will be added to the Benarkin National Park.

Conservationists at the Benarkin State Forest BioBlitz on Saturday, June 3.
Conservationists at the Benarkin State Forest BioBlitz on Saturday, June 3.

A coalition of environment groups is supporting calls for the forest’s designation as a national park.

“We received confirmation last week that logging plans have now been permanently shelved. It’s an early finish to logging and a win for nature and wildlife including the endangered greater glider, powerful owl and koala, which are known to live here at Benarkin State Forest,” Queensland Conservation Council (QCC) organiser Hayley Troupe said.

“We see this as a nod to conservation values of this forest, and appreciate the effort of foresters to help move out of native forests in SEQ early, as logging is due to end under the State Government’s Timber Industry Action Plan by December 2024.

“We know the conservation values are extremely high and this forest would make a valuable addition to the tiny 200-hectare Benarkin National Park it is adjacent to.”

Moore resident and Friends of the Forest president Carolita Fuentes was among more than 20 forest conservation volunteers, some who travelled from Brisbane and neighbouring regions to attend a BioBlitz organised by Queensland Conservation Council at Benarkin State Forest earlier this month.

“We are overjoyed to have just found out that Benarkin State Forest has been removed from the State Government’s SEQ native forest logging schedule,” Ms Fuentes said.

“We have been very worried that this forest, which is home to threatened species including the endangered koala, powerful owl and greater glider, would be logged in a final cut before the government ends all logging in SEQ at the end of next year.

“The complexity of existing biodiversity would be significantly reduced by logging, if it is allowed to continue and it would interfere with cultural sites of significance which are at present still being identified and mapped.

“We are now hopeful this forest will be added to Benarkin National Park as soon as possible, and will be writing to the Department of Environment and Science to ask for their timeframe for its transfer and permanent protection.”

At the BioBlitz around 400 different species were identified.

“The area is incredibly diverse and includes endangered ecosystems and wildlife. It would make a wonderful addition to the tiny Benarkin National Park as well as importantly expanding the broader Protected Area estate,” Sunshine Coast Environment Council spokesperson Narelle McCarthy said.

Located on the border of the South Burnett and Somerset Regional Council areas, Benarkin State Forest is home to threatened species.

“We call on the decision-makers to consider the expansion of the Benarkin National Park in order to encourage more nature based tourism and employment opportunities in the area,” Mike Moller, from Wide Bay Burnett Environment Council said.

“We would love to see indigenous rangers, guided educational tours for schools and the public, special interest groups such as birdwatchers.

“There are so many other untapped possibilities that would not only benefit the local community but would enhance the profile of the region to interstate and international visitors.”

Biodiversity surveys in 2022 at Benarkin State Forest were undertaken by Protect The Bush Alliance, and identified 152 bird species and areas of high value habitat.

“This forest is of high value for conservation and needs elevated protection,” Protect The Bush Alliance chairman Stephen Prowse said.

Ms Troupe organised the Benarkin State Forest BioBlitz and said the momentum was building for more national parks in the South Burnett and Somerset region on Jinibara and Wakka Wakka country.

“We have so many individuals and community groups contacting us and wanting to be involved in BioBlitz events, where we gather and document species using an app that allows us to upload photos from our phones.

“It’s a fun way to explore the area and we find people love getting together and doing something to help protect our biodiverse native forests.”

Ms Troupe said that QCC was informed last year parts of the native forest would be logged by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries but a letter to QCC recently indicated plans had been shelved.

Benarkin State Forest straddles two Department of Agriculture and Fisheries forestry areas: South East Queensland and Eastern Hardwoods.

“The Eastern Hardwoods sections are still at risk of logging and we will continue to campaign for their protection. But we’re thrilled to learn that DAF has withdrawn from parts of this important forest before logging was carried out, Ms Troupe said.

To get involved or join QCC’s campaign to protect native forests from logging, visit www.qldconservation.


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