SUNDAY SAY: Battle to protect forests
THE fate of native forests and the amazing wildlife that call them home teeters in the balance, as governments decide whether to extend the Regional Forests Agreements (RFAs), the first of which, East Gippsland, officially ended on February 3.
RFAs were a deal between the state and federal governments that has allowed the logging of almost seven million hectares of public native eucalypt forests across the country.
Planned to run for 20 years, the RFAs were supposed to combine conservation, logging and recreation to bring an end to the 1990s confrontation between conservationists and the logging industry.
However, it has long been realised that the RFAs have failed to achieve their objective, and have been a disaster for wildlife, and biodiversity generally, due to a massive over-estimation of the amount of available timber for industry, and the industry's shift to industrial scale logging.
The latter has had an appalling impact on forests, with the need to raise the percentage of trees logged in any one area, leading to virtual clear-felling of great swathes of forest across the state in an attempt to make operations financially viable.
Massive multi-million dollar compensation payouts have been made to the industry for failure to provide it with timber that never existed, combined with further losses incurred by Forests NSW's native forestry division ($78 million between 2009 and 2014 alone) have cost NSW taxpayers dearly.
Since the introduction of the RFAs, scores of plants and animals have been added to threatened species lists, including koalas and greater gliders, whose slide towards extinction can be directly attributed to the industry's failure to adhere to regulations put in place to protect those species, and regulatory authorities who failed in their enforcement duties.
The National Parks Association points out:
"We already get the vast majority of our wood from plantations, and with decisive leadership we can secure the jobs of forest workers in a sustainable, conflict-free industry.
"And native forests can do what they do best; provide habitat for native wildlife, provide billions of dollars worth of clean water and air, and drive regional tourism.”
John Edwards, Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition