The NSW forestry corporation has been whacked with $230,000 in fines after carrying out illegal logging in a potential roosting area for native bats on the NSW south coast.
Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) was convicted of three offences in the Land and Environment Court over mapping errors in Dampier State Forest, near Bodalla, which saw it breach its approvals and carry out illegal forestry activities within an exclusion zone.
FCNSW failed to mark boundaries of an area that could potentially be used by the Eastern Horseshoe Bat for roosting while logging in May 2019.
Some $45,000 of the fine will be paid to the Australasian Bat Society for its research into how wildfire impacts roosting areas.
FCNSW has been ordered to audit its field mapping and marking activities, including competencies required to comply with the law, and was ordered to pay $8000 in costs to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who brought the action.
EPA Acting Executive Director Regulatory Operations Regional Greg Sheehy said the state's logging corporation needed to ensure correct procedures were in place so exclusion zones were not logged.
"While the Eastern Horseshoe Bat is not threatened, the population is thought to have declined over the past few decades in parts of NSW," he said.
"These activities by FCNSW had the potential to cause harm to any Eastern Horseshoe Bats roosting in the area."
A spokesperson for FCNSW told AAP it regrets it made the error in 2019 by removing trees in a protected area around a disused mine shaft.
"Forestry Corporation carries out pre-harvest surveys and searches and marks all areas that need protection in electronic maps or in spray paint or tape on trees," the spokesperson said.
"At the time of the incident, electronic mapping was newly introduced and the mine shaft was not marked using the same method as the two nearby mine shaft exclusion zones.
"Our contractor immediately reported the incident and we reviewed our processes.
"The mine shaft was not damaged but systems have been improved to prevent a similar incident occurring in future."
A single electronic mapping system is now used by all staff, the spokesperson said.
Earlier this month FCNSW was fined $285,000 after the Land and Environment Court found logging in state forest west of Coffs Harbour in 2018 damaged koala habitat.
"Forestry Corporation of NSW acknowledges that it made some mapping and marking errors during the operation," FCNSW said in a statement at the time.
"We believe these were isolated incidents and have reviewed our compliance systems to drive additional controls and safeguards aimed to prevent such errors from recurring."
Australian Associated Press
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