The ongoing clearing of sensitive Lower Mountains bushland to make motorbike tracks has left Mt Riverview ecologist Eli Bendall fuming.
"Motorbike riders who illegally enter, ride and clear bushland for new tracks are causing extensive damage to the unique natural environment within Cripple Creek Reserve,” the PhD candidate told the Gazette.
“People are taking the bush for granted, it’s kilometres of trails [being damaged] that I am talking about and it’s just not on.”
The actions were taking place on crown and council land and Mr Bendall has raised the matter with Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill, as well as local MP Trish Doyle, and Crown Lands officials.
Cripple Creek is about 400 hectares in size, with motorbike trails now criss-crossing more than one third of the reserve, Mr Bendall said.
In a 30 page submission to the relevant authorities, he said “irreversible damage” was happening to soils, waterways, walking tracks and rock formations, as well as “severe erosion and an increased risk of bushfires … through the sheer number of motorbikes present … they are combustible vehicles, known to cause fires”.
“Many walking tracks, used for generations by bushwalkers, are no longer safe to use as a result of motorbike activity.”
The Mt Riverview reserve protects endangered ecological communities such as shale and sandstone forests and ironbark open-forest and may also protect Aboriginal sites.
Mr Bendall says some riders were using chainsaws to clear paths, disturbing the soil, changing the creek hydrology and leading to excess sediment entering the waterway, one of the few places in the Mountains known to contain platypus. He said most were riding unregistered vehicles.
Mr Bendall would like to see signage erected to prevent the activities, the area fenced off to motorbike riders and remediated, and cameras installed to catch offenders.
MP Trish Doyle has written to the minister to look into the issue and council, which controls the periphery of the reserve, including a couple of access points from residential streets, says it is aware of the problem.
A council spokeswoman said rangers “routinely patrol the access gates, however the nature and location of the activity make it extremely difficult for them to undertake enforcement action”.
She said police would have the “primary responsibility of enforcing controls” on the unregistered bike riders, but council would revisit the site to assess whether new or additional signage was needed.
Crown Lands and the Deerubin Aboriginal Land Council control the large majority of the area. A NSW Department of Industry - Lands spokesperson said the department “encourages any concerns about illegal activity to be reported to the local police”
"There are already locked gates and signage on fire trails at main entry points to the land area referred to in the report. For example at Spurwood Road and Rickard Road as well as Attunga Road (Blaxland Tip managed by Council) and Winnicoopa Road (private land).
"A land claim currently exists for this land. With Crown reserve under land claim, other actions on the land such as lease, licence or transfer are not possible until the land claim is resolved."
Blue Mountains Police Inspector Dietmar Allmer would not comment on the matter.