Regional Forest Agreements - Background, Failure, Renewal Schedule
The National Forest Policy Statement (Commonwealth of Australia 1992, 1995) enshrined principles of Ecologically Sustainable Forest Management (ESFM) and determined that RFAs should:
1. Maintain the ecological processes within forests (the formation of soil, energy flows and the carbon, nutrient and water cycles);
2. Maintain the biological diversity of forests; and
3. Optimise the environmental, economic and social benefits to the community within ecological constraints.
None of these principles has been upheld. Conversely, RFAs have contributed significantly to the perilous position of Australian wildlife facing rapidly escalating extinction rates.[i]
RFAs have shielded an unprecedented level of forest degradation from public scrutiny for over two decades. RFA renewals make a mockery of Landcare, the Natural Heritage Trust programme, state based catchment management programmes and multiple other public and private multi-million dollar programmes that have attempted to address the historic loss of vegetation and habitat across a continent extremely vulnerable to this impact by the nature of its soils, its wildlife’s unique needs, its heat.
In defiance of the recommendations of a major review into Australia’s national environmental legislation, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and specifically how it relates or rather doesn’t relate to RFAs in terms of qualified exemptions of RFAs from the national environmental legislation under Section 38,[ii] Tasmania’s RFA was renewed August 18th. The recommendation that adequate state regulatory protection be corrected before RFAs renew was ignored.[iii] In fact this federal government renewed the Tasmanian RFA even as Tasmanian state legislative protection was further dismantled. A new (draft) state Special Species Timber Management Plan had just been introduced to allow logging of specialty timbers across 1 million ha of high conservation value old growth forest, previously protected by the ‘comprehensive adequate reserve’ system. The new Tasmanian RFA explicitly recognises the extension of specialty timber logging under an approved Management Plan, effectively authorising selective harvesting (using largely untested methods) across an additional 1 million ha of rainforest and other high conservation value forest. The Tasmanian RFA will also continue to authorise the logging of the 800,000 ha of Permanent Timber Production Zone forest, despite repeated concerns that forest planning and logging practices fail to protect identified natural and cultural values.
Supposedly to bring it in line with other Victorian RFA renewal dates the East Gippsland RFA was extended for one year and there is no indication the Victorian government will abandon failed RFAs despite Victorian Forest Industry Taskforce negotiations brought about by a crisis in wood supply and imminent extinction of the Victorian faunal emblem. Further renewals are anticipated in all states. RFA expiry dates – but renewal anytime
RFA renewals can occur at any time. Though both Labor and the Coalition have committed to extending RFAs, the Coalition is guaranteeing semi-perpetual access to the loss making native forest logging industry to meet its (the industry’s) 2011 demand for ‘evergreen extensions’ of RFAs upon expiry.
These are the automatic roll overs now promised in 5 year intervals subject only to government discretion. If these proceed ongoing native forest logging is entrenched in all public forests across Australia into the far foreseeable future. This is not only a national disgrace, it’s a global disaster, a guaranteed accelerator of climate change impact that will culminate in a climax of the extinction trajectory which scientists are now warning is imminent, i.e. global ecological collapse. [iv] Below are just a few warnings on why native forest preservation is critical for – survival.
Clearing Our Rainfall Away, http://www.nefa.org.au/clearing_our_rainfall_away
The Word For World Really Might Be Forest, February 21, 2013: Evaporation and condensation as primary drivers of wind patterns that can create feedback loops. Preservation of native forests for climate change impact mitigation. forests.http://forensicsfossilsfruitbats.wordpress.com/2013/02/21/the-word-for-world-really-might-be-forest/
The contribution of trees to our lives: a case for the defence of trees as a powerful ally in saving the Earth's ecosystems. Surveys by the United Nations collaborative programme on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries show that half the planet's forests were destroyed in the 20th century. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jan/03/trees-allies-against-climate-change
Earth’s Carbon Sink Downsized Nature News: Logging impedes capacity of land plants to absorb more CO2 owing to a depletion of soil nutrients. http://www.nature.com/news/earth-s-carbon-sink-downsized-1.11503
[i] Australian extinction rates and particularly from logging
[ii] Section 38 of the EPBC Act, the Australian Government’s central piece of environmental legislation was reviewed by Dr Allan Hawke 2009. In relation to the legal ‘grey area’ (legal opinion varying in relation to the requirement of the ‘triggering’ or not of the EPBC in the event of RFAs not protecting environmental values), the Hawke review recommended the s38 exemption be subject to RFAs demonstrating regulatory success default provisions to re-assert the EPBC Act and override the EPBC exemption enjoyed by RFAs if RFA environmental outcomes are not demonstrated.
[iii] Although some technical amendments to the new Tasmanian RFA were made which might be argued to be legally in accordance with Hawke review recommentations, these are not substantial in terms of forest protection. (Advice EDO Tasmania)
[iv] Global ecological