Governments fail to save the forests for the trees

Tuesday 5 September, 2017

Australia’s Regional Forest Agreements are failing the very values that they were designed to protect, according to Professor David Lindenmayer, one of Australia’s pre-eminent ecologists.

‘Forest logging causes a host of environmental problems,’ said Professor Lindenmayer in an Ecological Society of Australia’s ‘Hot Topic’ published today. ‘Logging reduces water runoff, increases the risk of high-severity fires and ecosystem collapse, while adding to carbon dioxide emissions.’

Professor Lindenmayer, from the Fenner School of Environment and Society at The Australian National University, said the Agreements lock in unecological, uneconomic policies that are socially divisive.

‘Logging affects tourism. People don’t want to travel to look at something like the Battle of the Somme.’

Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) are 20-year plans for the sustainable management and conservation of Australia's native forests. There are 10 RFAs in four states covering commercial native forestry regions – five in Victoria, three in New South Wales and one each in Western Australia and Tasmania.

‘The Agreements consider only timber, a rapidly declining part of the economy. Native forest logging is uneconomic in many Agreement areas,’ said Professor Lindenmayer.

‘If Australia is serious about encouraging jobs and growth, and protecting the environment, we’ve got to do better than this medieval forest policy. The Agreements do nobody any good, except for a handful of workers who could easily be moved into far more viable and sustainable jobs, including in the plantation sector.’

Native species have declined significantly under the Agreements. In the Victorian Central Highlands, home to many threatened species, Leadbeater’s Possum has been up-listed to critically endangered. Populations of the Greater Glider have declined by two-thirds since establishment of the Agreement.

‘Melbourne needs water. It’s a big city with a growing population. The least smart thing to do is to log the catchments, reducing rainfall runoff. It’s madness to jeopardise water worth $310 m per year for a $12 million timber industry in decline.’

‘It is incomprehensible that the Regional Forest Agreements could be ‘ticked off’ for another 20-year term without comprehensive reappraisal. We need a comprehensive review to examine the transition of native forest sector into plantations.’

The Hot Topic, ‘Regional Forest Agreements fail to meet their aims’ was published by the Ecological Society of Australia today at

For further information:
Paul Holper, Scientell, 0407 394 661