THE coastal emu has stuck its beak in the Pacific Highway debate with environmentalists saying the favoured route could put the endangered species at risk.
Ecologist Dr Greg Clancy, who is representing Bird Life Australia, northern NSW, has concerns about the proposed route from Glenugie to the Iluka turn-off.
Cutting across land at Tucabia, Pillar Valley and Tyndale, he said this route would have a detrimental impact on the endangered population of coastal emus and the delicate biodiversity.
The group has organised a meeting for 6pm, August 31 at the Grafton Community Centre to air these concerns and a representative from RMS will attend.
"Our concerns need to be addressed early in the piece," Dr Clancy said. "This could isolate populations and there are little more than 100 birds in the Valley."
A spokeswoman from RMS yesterday said an emu "connectivity strategy" had been developed as part of the Woolgoolga to Ballina upgrade.
"As part of the strategy a number of studies have been carried out to understand the emus' habitat, diet and movements," she said.
"An environmental impact statement (EIS) is being prepared and community and stakeholders will be invited to review the EIS document and submit feedback."
She said a submissions report will then be prepared and lodged with the Department of Planning and Infra- structure for approval and that the project team had a number of meetings with stakeholders during the de- velopment of the strategy.
Dr Clancy said Bird Life Australia would be campaigning for the original "Orange" route, which runs alongside the existing highway, bypassing Clarenza and Ulmarra.
"The impact of the highway will be long-term and permanent," Dr Clancy said.
"We just want RMS to attend the meeting and ask to them to point out why they won't be pushing the coastal emu into extinction by following this route."