Australia’s Environment Protection Agency has come under fire because damage to an important rainforest has gone unpunished. The nation’s environmental watchdog claimed it didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute the state-owned Forestry Corporation NSW, who are thought to have done the damage, and the failure has been damned as ‘totally preposterous’ by the eco-activist who identified the many breaches committed by the Corporation.
Apparently the EPA had a full two years in which to investigate and take legal action for damage caused in the beautiful, ancient Cherry Tree State Forest. But the organisation waited until two weeks before the deadline ran out to tell the spokesman for the North East Forest Alliance, Dailan Pugh, that the origin of the damage couldn’t be proved ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.
The Forestry Corporation NSW has allegedly harvested and bulldozed numerous roads through the precious lowland rainforest, which is seriously endangered. But Mr Pugh first alerted authorities to potentially thousands of instances of damage to protected trees during 2015. And Forestry Corp have completely refused to admit it was responsible for the damage. The EPA is trying to claim someone else damaged the forest, something Mr Pugh said was ‘preposterous’. In his opinion the Agency has long had more than enough circumstantial evidence to prosecute.
The other problem is the difficulty of proving whether the cleared trees were virgin forest or regrowth from previous harvests. While Jackie Miles from the EPA’s forestry division told Mr Pugh they had, “conducted a thorough and rigorous investigation“, they concluded there wasn’t enough evidence to prove the damage wasn’t caused buy someone else. Mr Pugh responded that both the EPA and the Forestry Corporation should have been aware of protected rainforest in the region since its principal area was mapped as such in the 1960s and has been re-mapped repeatedly since then. He feels there’s absolutely no doubt who is to blame.
Is this another instance of greed and profit trumping environmental protection? Dawn Walker, spokesperson for the NSW Greens, says there’s “no clearer example of how the current system is failing,” with “one government agency, Forestry Corp, wantonly damaging the environment, while the EPA turns a blind eye”. There are currently more investigations going on to pin down the blame for similar damage in Australia’s Gladstone, Giberagee and Sugarloaf forests.