MEDIA REPORT | Mt Canobolas pine forest better for trail, not conservation area: CCA

An environmental alliance say that they would, in fact, like to see a 100km network of mountain bike trails built on Mt Canobolas, it just shouldn’t be in the conservation area.
The current area earmarked for Orange City Council trail’s development is in the State Conservation Area (SCA) and has an “extraordinarily high biodiversity”, according to Canobolas Conservation Alliance (CCA) vice-president Dr Andrew Rawson. But the vast mountain has good alternatives for the trail.
Adjacent to the conservation area, on the western and southern slopes of Mt Canobolas, is several thousand hectares of pine forest that has already been heavily disturbed so its ecological value is low.
“We don’t think that it’s possible to have this sort of development within a conservation area of such high value and of a particular geographic nature. It’s like an island. It’s a high-altitude island of remnant vegetation, remnant bushlands that contains a number of endemic species that are found there and nowhere else on the planet,” Dr Rawson said.
“[These species have] got nowhere else to go… If we do any sort of damage there, they’ve got nowhere to go.”
However, according to Orange City Council’s Sport and Recreation Committee chair Jason Hamling, this area proposed by the CCA as an alternative track isn’t suitable for a number of reasons.
A mature pine forest will be thinned out every seven years, and completely logged every thirty years, so any track infrastructure would need to be completely re-built at that point,” he said. Additionally, the bike track network in the conservation area would enable a weed management plan to better protect its biodiversity, Cr Hamling said.
“Weeds have already overrun sections of the SCA and building a track network is the best way of dealing with that problem.”
Council also disputed the CCA’s assertation that the consultancy firms hired to investigate the ecological and Indigenous heritage values had not been extensive.
“While it’s crucial to have community scrutiny of this process, it’s also very concerning when you see opponents of the project criticising the work of professional consultants,” Cr Hamling said.
“Over several months, they’ve completed detailed ecological assessments on site and the way they did this work is completely inline with the legislative requirements.”

Report by Alana Calvert in Central Western Daily, 16 October 2021