Information recorded by independent ecologists working on the Byron Bay bypass project will provide a substantial amount of scientific data on the Mitchell’s Rainforest Snail, a critically endangered species under the Australian Government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
It comes after Council completed extensive snail surveys when clearing a 1.5 hectare section of Mitchell’s Rainforest Snail habitat for the new road, as part of the strict environmental controls and protocols, as approved by the NSW and Australian Governments.
Council’s Project Engineer, Josh Winter, said no pile of leaf litter or hollow log was left unturned, in the search for the snails in the lead-up to the clearing.
“The work that was done to locate the snails prior to clearing work was extensive, as it needed to be because we want to do everything we could to minimise the impact of the road on the Mitchell’s Rainforest Snail, as well as other species,” Mr Winter said.
“We engaged a team of independent ecologists who were onsite for three weeks and spent more than 600 hours surveying the area for snails,” he said.
The ecologists undertook surveys during the day and night, starting two days prior to the clearing and moving through ahead of equipment and vehicles, checking leaf litter, around trees, roots, and hollow logs and they also stripped the bark off trees.
Logs on the ground were checked, as well and this intensive effort found 163 Mitchell’s Rainforest Snails.
The snails were all checked, their weight, size and age were recorded and they were carefully relocated at least 20 metres away, outside the construction area, to nearby wetland which is also known Mitchell’s Rainforest Snail habitat.
“To find so many snails was an excellent result and testament to the thoroughness of our surveys,” Mr Winter said.
“When we started seeking environmental approvals for this project back in 2015, independent surveys found no snails but we always assumed they would be there and that is why we took such precautions and care with our pre-clearing surveys and we have been rewarded.
“As part of the construction of the bypass we will be building a fauna underpass to connect the wetlands and this will be lined with leaf litter, logs and soil so the snails can move between areas,” Mr Winter said.
“It was exciting to find so many Mitchell’s Rainforest Snails and the information we have collected will no doubt be valuable for future projects and scientific purposes,” he said.
A detailed report on the clearing process is available on Council’s website, www.byron.nsw.gov.au/bypass.