Time to push for more sustainable logging says NPA
THE EXPIRATION of the first Regional Forestry Agreement today should be a turning point in forestry management says conservation group, the National Parks Association.
The first of 10 the RFAs across Australia, in East Gippsland, Victoria, expires today, allowing a change in policy toward more sustainable logging of plantation timber and protection of native forests and wildlife says NPA senior ecologist, Dr Oisín Sweeney.
RFAs are 20-year deals between the state and federal governments that permit the logging of public native forests.
Across Australia, almost 7 million hectares of native eucalyptus forests are logged under 10 RFAs.
Dr Sweeney said RFAs were a failed attempt to end conflict between the logging indutry and conservationists.
He said instead of just extending them, prolonging conflict and driving species towards the edge, now is the time to chart a new course.
"Twenty years after the first RFA was signed, conservation groups in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia are still opposed to native forest logging because of the huge environmental damage,” Dr Sweeney said.
"The RFAs have not ended the forest wars because they have not adequately protected forests.
"In East Gippsland, the area where the first RFA expires today, conservation groups have been the only bulwark protecting threatened species like greater gliders and large forest owls from reckless logging.
"RFAs are acting as a giant legal loophole that exempts logging from federal environment law and permits actions that no other industry would get away with.”
Dr Sweeney said the situation is worse in NSW because laws prevent environment groups taking the Forestry Corporation to court.
"All they can do is bring breaches to the attention of the EPA and hope they act,” he said.
"As a result Forestry Corporation has committed literally hundreds of breaches, including burying wombats alive, with legal impunity.
"There's no way industrial native forest logging on this scale could occur were it required to meet the environmental standards that other industries are.”
Dr Sweeney said despite all these advantages, Forestry Corporation in NSW has failed to make money logging native forests, losing $78 million between 2009 and 2014.
"On a positive note, the government has it in its power to end this madness. The expiry of the RFAs offers the perfect circuit breaker that the government should grab with both hands,” he said.
"We already get the vast majority of our wood from plantations. With some decisive leadership we can complete this transition and act to secure the jobs of forest workers in a sustainable, conflict-free industry.
"And native forests can do what they do best: provide habitat for our native wildlife, provide billions of dollars worth of water and clean air for people and places to have fun and drive regional tourism.”