The Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) that govern logging in nearly 7 million hectares of state forests in NSW, Tasmania, Victoria and WA have failed in all their objectives and should be terminated when they expire over the next four years. That is the damning assessment by over 30 environmental groups in a statement released today.
“The RFAs commenced in the 1990s and did not take factors such as climate change into account” said Lorraine Bower of the Australian Forests and Climate Alliance (AFCA). “Now we know that forests are vital for moderating climate and storing carbon, and that logging significantly reduces carbon stores in forests.
“By giving the logging industry unfettered access to public forests over the 20 years of the RFAs, other industries that could support jobs and growth, such as the carbon market and tourism, have been stymied.
“The RFAs act as a loophole excluding logging from accountability to federal environmental laws that would apply to any other industry, enterprise or individual landowner” said Ms Bower. “It’s no surprise then that numerous studies have shown that the logging of native forests has resulted in devastation of forest ecosystems, loss of wildlife, reduction in water supplies and decline in soil health.
“In essence, the RFAs function as a license to devastate our forests with impunity.
"Just two weeks ago greater gliders became the latest forest species to be listed as threatened. Clearfell logging and the loss of hollow-bearing trees are the key reasons in their decline. The magnificent mountain ash forests of Victoria have been so battered by fire and logging that just 1% is now unburnt and unlogged, and the ecosystem faces collapse in just 50 years. Leadbeater’s possum is on course to enter extinction even sooner.
“Yet the logging industry keeps pushing for the use of native forests for low value products like paper, export woodchips and firewood, and now the government sanctioned burning of native forest logs for the production of electricity.”
“The logging industry has flouted regulations with innumerable breaches, and not even been able to turn a free resource into financially viable industry. It loses money in all four states, and employs few workers” said Ms Bower
“For so many reasons the RFAs must not be rolled over or renewed when they expire, and the industry moved to the prosperous plantation sector, where 80% of the jobs already reside”.
Read more from the statement released today by over 30 environment groups here (PDF)