Parkes Shire Council is reminding residents, that the collection of fallen timber and the harvesting of wood on all public land, including roadsides, is an offence under the Local Government Act 1993 and carries a fine of up to $2,200.
Council's Environment and Sustainability Coordinator, Michael Chambers said, "As temperatures begin to drop and residents look for sources of heating, Council is calling on residents to help conserve biodiversity, by leaving dead wood along roadsides and reserves in situ."
Each year, a small number of residents collect deadwood for use as a low-cost source of heating. While this activity may seem harmless, standing dead trees and woody debris are vital components of healthy ecosystems.
"Unfortunately, some community members believe dead trees are an indication of poor ecosystem health. Others, incorrectly think they are performing a public service by removing decaying timber from a site. In fact, dead wood is vital for sustaining forest productivity, stabilising ecosystems, storing carbon and providing food and habitat for countless species," said Mr Chambers.
The removal of dead wood has been recognised as a key factor driving Australia's biodiversity loss. Standing dead trees contain tree hollows that provide nesting opportunities for insects, birds, reptiles, and mammals. The removal of standing dead trees can be detrimental, as it results in habitat loss, increased cat and fox predation, the disruption of ecosystems and soil erosion.
Similarly, coarse fallen woody debris is an important resource for many organisms and ecosystem processes. Decaying timber can support a rich community of decomposers, such as bacteria, fungi and other detritivores, and is essential for maintaining forest and woodland nutrient cycles. The loss of woody debris can alter the soil microclimate and indirectly impact forest food webs.
"By stripping an ecosystem of this natural resource, residents are performing an unnatural and unnecessary action that undermines biodiversity across the Shire," Mr Chambers added.
The forests and woodlands of the Western Slopes and Tablelands have been most affected by firewood collection because they contain popular firewood species. This region of Australia has been largely cleared for agricultural use, and remaining forests and woodlands are further degraded by the removal of dead wood.
There are concerns that this illegal activity is adversely impacting several species that are found in Parkes Shire, including the Swift Parrot, Superb Parrot, Squirrel Glider, Crimson Rosella, Rainbow Lorikeet and Sacred Kingfisher.
Collecting firewood from national and state parks, natural reserves and crown lands is also an offense under various legislation. For more information, contact Council on (02) 6861 2333.