Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) that have been the framework for public forest management in NSW for 20 years have failed to achieve any of their top-line aims, a new study has found.

The Agreements, which were the centrepiece of the peace deal that ended the “Forest Wars” of the 1980s and 1990s, were supposed to lead to:

  • Creation of a comprehensive, adequate and representative system of forest reserves;
  • Implementation and enforcement of ecologically sustainable forest management practices;
  • Development of a viable, ecologically sustainable timber industry;
  • Ongoing research into ecological, economic, and social aspect of forest management.

The review of the Agreements and their performance by the NSW National Parks Association (NPA) found none of these aims has been achieved. Dr Oisín Sweeney, Senior Ecologist with the NPA said:

“The RFAs have completely failed to deliver the ecologically sustainable forest management that was the centrepiece of the Agreements and are therefore a failed model for forest management.

“The RFAs expire in NSW from 2019. Failing to heed the huge volume of evidence illustrating their failure would be tragic for Australia’s unique forests and the wildlife that they support,

“The RFAs failed from the off: timber volumes were overestimated, and to meet the unrealistic targets our forests have been plundered with an increasing intensity over the past 20 years,

“So, far from achieving ecologically sustainable forest management, the RFAs have acted to permit the wholescale destruction of public forests with impunity—because logging under the Agreements is not subject to scrutiny by Commonwealth law,

“The result is our forests are in a worse condition now than when the agreements were struck two decades ago: carbon stores are decreasing and populations of forest species are in freefall,

“Our report shows that ecologically sustainable forest management is just not compatible with the production of cheap wood. Logging kills forest animals like gliders and possums and drives key threatening processes like the loss of tree hollows,

“So we are calling on the government to logging in our public native forests once and for all following the expiry of the RFAs from 2019,

“Our forests are much more valuable for nature conservation—the key driver of regional tourism—fighting climate change by storing carbon and as sources for clean, reliable water supplies.”

This report comes just weeks after an economic report by The Australia Institute showed a long-term decline in demand for native forest wood, driven by declining overseas demand and competition from cheaper wood. The report found jobs in native forest logging were as low as 600 state-wide.

Kate Smolski, CEO of the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, said:

“Unprofitable native forest logging costs taxpayers millions of dollars every year in subsidies, and it is driving our koalas and other native wildlife to extinction.

“A report by The Australia Institute recently found losses from native forest logging cost taxpayers $78 million over the past seven years.

“The Institute also found taxpayers would be better off if the Forestry Corporation stopped logging native forests and managed them as carbon stores and recreation reserves.

“The sooner the Baird government commits to ending the subsidies and transitioning to sustainable management of our great forests the better.”

Key recommendations of the RFA report are:

  1. End native forest logging on public land following the expiry of the RFAs;
  2. Develop a strategy to complete the transition to plantation forests for wood supply;
  3. The forest areas required to create a comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system be protected as a matter of priority;
  4. Remaining forests be managed with sustainability as the core ethos and used to develop opportunities to grow regional tourism and recreation;
  5. The NSW and Commonwealth Governments make the necessary investment to recover populations of threatened species and reverse the key threats driven by logging such as the loss of tree hollows and bell-miner associated dieback;
  6. The NSW and Commonwealth Governments abandon the use of native forests for biomass;
  7. The NSW and Commonwealth Governments explore opportunities to generate revenue from the use of forests for carbon sequestration.

View the report at http://bit.ly/1OfV3PW

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