Some of Australia’s leading ecologists have predicted that there will be local extinctions of rare and threatened species if the Pilliga Coal Seam Gas project goes ahead.
The Eastern Pygmy possum, Pilliga mouse and the South-eastern Longeared bat are all at risk from the construction of a gas field in the Pilliga Forest.
The South-eastern Longeared bat has already lost 75% of its habitat and now it’s remaining roosting sites are likely to be cleared and fragmented by the gas wells.
Eastern Star Gas, a gas company now owned by Santos, plan to drill 1100 coal seam gas wells in the Pilliga forest which will result in the clearing of thousands of hectares of forest and the fragmentation of at least 85,000 hectares (ha). However, it is likely that these wells are just the beginning as over 500,000 ha are covered by exploration licences for coal seam gas, posing a serious threat to the future of the region.
A team of ecologists, biologists and volunteers recently conducted a survey of the threatened and vulnerable species that live in the area where Eastern Star Gas has plans for the gas field.
The survey team searched for frogs, reptiles, quolls, possums and the native Pilliga mouse, which is only found in the Pilliga Forest. The Pilliga mouse lives amongst the wildflowers that are out in bloom at this time of the year. Already areas of Pilliga mouse habitat have been cleared for exploration, and further areas of habitat are set to become heavily degraded and fragmented with well pads, evaporation ponds, gas pipelines and roads.
The survey identified 20 threatened or migratory species including the rare Turquoise Parrot, Glossy Black Cockatoo and the internationally protected Rainbow Bee-eater.
The results of the survey, which was commissioned by the Northern Inland Council for the Environment, shows that the Pilliga Forest is a crucial habitat for national and internationally protected species. It provides clear evidence that if the gas field goes ahead it will be an ecological disaster.