The stopping of winter clearing of the Leard State Forest for Whitehaven’s massive coal mine may have been just a stay of execution for the threatened species for whom the forest is home.
A week before their amended 2014 Biodiversity Management Plan (BMP) was due to be legally challenged in the Land and Environment Court, Whitehaven have lodged a new one.
If this new BMP is approved, it will allow Whitehaven to resume clearing in the spring, from 1 November. This will turn the forest, which provides habitat for 34 threatened species, including the Koala and the Masked Owl, into a spring slaughterhouse.
Threatened bird and bats species are breeding in late-spring and early summer. These include the Little Eagle, Little
Lorikeet, Turquoise Parrot, Yellow-bellied Sheath-tailed Bat, and South-Eastern Long-eared Bat. They will have eggs in the nest or dependent young during October to December.
The original 2013 BMP stated that any clearing of the forest should be done outside of the winter and spring months, to allow the threatened species in the forest a fighting chance of survival.
The Government has described the Leard State Forest as “irreplaceable … with ecologically unique values”.
It has been prepared nonetheless to sign over 5000 of its 8000 hectares , listed nationally as a critically endangered ecological community, for destruction by a coal mining company, after a dubious assessment process.
Even if clearing doesn’t resume until late summer, many of the Forest’s birds and animals will not survive Whitehaven’s bulldozers.
Are we to see, as well as the destruction of more than half of this remnant of the beautiful grassy whitebox woodland, the last remnant of the vegetation that once carved a swathe west of the Great Divide from Queensland to Victoria, massive loss of its threatened species?
The BMP lacks scientific evidence to prove that all the threatened species affected by this mine will be compensated in the offsets, which are mostly cleared farmland. Habitat for key species won’t be enhanced, which means affected threatened species and a critically endangered ecological community of some of the rarest woodlands in Australia will decline.
Members of the Blue Mountains Conservation Society at the Leard Blockade August 2014
The Minister, Pru Goward, has yet to approve the new BMP.
The matter will go back to court on 12 September to get advice from the Department of Planning and Environment (DoPE) as to what their intentions are with regard to the new BMP. This means that the Secretary of the DoPE has 4 working days to make a decision on whether to let Whitehaven change the rules and clear Leard Forest in spring and early summer.
Frontline Action Against Coal have launched an appeal to the community to urge Pru Goward to refuse these changes (frontlineaction.org/springslaughter).
Please take whatever action you can to help.