Hot Topics in Ecology

Regional Forest Agreements fail to meet their aims

Species declines and unsustainable forestry evident under RFAs
Pr. David Lindenmayer, ANU; Ann Jelinek, Nature Focus Victoria; Oisin Sweeney, National Parks Association of NSW
  • The 20-year Regional Forest Agreements between State and Commonwealth governments are due for renewal. They aim to allow native forest harvesting while providing for conservation and future industry.
  • RFA legislative framing precludes important federal legislation, reducing protection for native species of conservation concern.
  • RFAs have comprehensively failed to achieve their key aims. Instead, vertebrate species declines, timber overharvesting, and forest instability is evident. Industry future is uncertain.
Flea Creek coupe, Rubicon State Forest, Central Highlands, Victoria, previous habitat of Leadbeater’s Possum (photo by J. Poppins) Inset: Greater Glider whose populations have declined in the last 20 years, in part due to logging of old trees with nesting hollows (photo by Steven Kuiter).

The Federal-State Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) were signed from 1997-2001 and are due for renewal. However, the environmental and economic aims of RFAs have not been met despite mandatory review of progress at 5 and 10 years into the 20-year terms.

Claims by Governments that RFAs are sustainable lack supporting evidence. The Victorian Government reports ‘efforts’ rather than tangible outcomes for species conservation. Empirical data suggest that native species have declined significantly under RFAs. In the Victorian Central Highlands, Leadbeater’s Possum has been up-listed to Critically Endangered and populations of the Greater Glider have declined by two-thirds since the establishment of RFAs.

RFAs transfer environmental protections from the Commonwealth to the States, reducing protection for threatened species. Freedom of Information documents show that the Tasmanian Government ignored advice about the impact of proposed logging activity on critically endangered Swift Parrots.

New knowledge of logging impacts has emerged since 1997. In addition to impacts on forest-dependent species, logging contributes to (1) decreased carbon stocks and increased greenhouse gas emissions of logged forests compared with forests managed for conservation, (2) elevated risk of high severity, crown-scorching fire, and (3) increased risk of forest ecosystem collapse.

RFAs have enabled forestry operations that are uneconomic. The corporate and business plan for VicForests states that forestry operations in the East Gippsland RFA have operated at considerable financial loss for many years. Furthermore, the economic value of forests for resources like water production is more than 25 times that of native forest timber ($310 m vs $12 m).

Taken together, the evidence suggests that renewing existing RFAs will see continued biodiversity and financial losses.

Hot Topic Lead Author: 
Name: Professor David Lindenmayer
Email: david.lindenmayer@anu.edu.au
Phone: 02 6125 0654

Name: Ann Jelinek
Email: ann@naturefocus.com.au
Phone: 03 5774 7510

Name: Oisin Sweeney
Email: oisins@npansw.org.au
Phone: 02 9299 0000

Date approved: 
Wednesday, September 6, 2017 - 00:36
ID Title Location Type
9269 Pullinger, P. 2015. Pulling a swiftie: systemic Tasmanian Govenrment approval of logging known to damage Swift Parrot habitat. Environment Tasmania Tasmania Report
9270 Australian Government Department of Environment 2016. Conservation Advice Petauroides volans - Greater Glider Qld, NSW, ACT, Victoria Report
9271 Campbell, R. and R. McKeon. 2015. Money doesn't grow on trees: the financial and economic losses of native forestry in NSW. The Australia Institute. NSW Report
9272 Dargavel, J. 1998. Politics, Policy and Process in the Forests. Australian Journal of Environmental Management 5: 25-30 Article
9273 Department of Environment and Conservation NSW. 2006. Recovery Plan for the Large Forest Owls: Powerful Owl (Ninox strenus), Sooty Owl (Tyto tenebricosa) and Masked Owl (Tyto novaehollandiae) NSW Report
9274 Feehely, J., N. Hammond-Deakin and F. Millner. 2013. One Stop Chop: How Regional Forest Agreements streamline environmental destruction NSW, Vic, Tas, WA Report
9275 Keith, H.M., D. Lindenmayer, A. Macintosh and B. Mackey. 2015. Under what circumstances do wood products from native forests benefit climate change mitigation? PLoS ONE: 10 NSW, Vic Article
9276 Kirkpatrick, J.B.1998. Nature Conservation and the Regional Forest Agreement Process. Australian Journal of Environmental Management 5: 31-37 Article
9277 Macintosh, A., H. Keith and D. Lindenmayer. 2015. Rethinking forest carbon assessments to account for policy institutions. Nature Climate Change 5: 946-949. Article
9278 Swann, T and B. Brown. 2016. Barking up the wrong trees: WA's Forest Products Commission (FPC) and the performance of its native forestry. The Australia Institute. Report
9279 Woinarsky, J.C.Z., A.A. Burbidge, and P.L. Harrison. 2014. The action plan for Australian Mammals 2012 Book
9258 Pullinger, P. 2015. Pulling a swiftie: systemic Tasmanian Govenrment approval of logging known to damage Swift Parrot habitat. Environment Tasmania Tasmania Report
9259 Australian Government Department of Environment 2016. Conservation Advice Petauroides volans - Greater Glider Qld, NSW, ACT, Victoria Report
9260 Campbell, R. and R. McKeon. 2015. Money doesn't grow on trees: the financial and economic losses of native forestry in NSW. The Australia Institute. NSW Report
9261 Dargavel, J. 1998. Politics, Policy and Process in the Forests. Australian Journal of Environmental Management 5: 25-30 Article
9262 Department of Environment and Conservation NSW. 2006. Recovery Plan for the Large Forest Owls: Powerful Owl (Ninox strenus), Sooty Owl (Tyto tenebricosa) and Masked Owl (Tyto novaehollandiae) NSW Report
9263 Feehely, J., N. Hammond-Deakin and F. Millner. 2013. One Stop Chop: How Regional Forest Agreements streamline environmental destruction NSW, Vic, Tas, WA Report
9264 Keith, H.M., D. Lindenmayer, A. Macintosh and B. Mackey. 2015. Under what circumstances do wood products from native forests benefit climate change mitigation? PLoS ONE: 10 NSW, Vic Article
9265 Kirkpatrick, J.B.1998. Nature Conservation and the Regional Forest Agreement Process. Australian Journal of Environmental Management 5: 31-37 Article
9266 Macintosh, A., H. Keith and D. Lindenmayer. 2015. Rethinking forest carbon assessments to account for policy institutions. Nature Climate Change 5: 946-949. Article
9267 Swann, T and B. Brown. 2016. Barking up the wrong trees: WA's Forest Products Commission (FPC) and the performance of its native forestry. The Australia Institute. Report
9268 Woinarsky, J.C.Z., A.A. Burbidge, and P.L. Harrison. 2014. The action plan for Australian Mammals 2012 Book
9245 Victoria’s State of the Forests Report 2013 Victoria Review
9244 Woinarski, J.C.Z., A.A. Burbidge, and P.L. Harrison. 2014. The action plan for Australian Mammals 2012 Book
9243 Swann, T and B. Brown. 2016. Barking up the wrong trees: WA's Forest Products Commission (FPC) and the performance of its native forestry. The Australia Institute. Report
9242 Macintosh, A., H. Keith and D. Lindenmayer. 2015. Rethinking forest carbon assessments to account for policy institutions. Nature Climate Change 5: 946-949. Article
9241 Kirkpatrick, J.B.1998. Nature Conservation and the Regional Forest Agreement Process. Australian Journal of Environmental Management 5: 31-37 Article
9240 Keith, H.M., D. Lindenmayer, A. Macintosh and B. Mackey. 2015. Under what circumstances do wood products from native forests benefit climate change mitigation? PLoS ONE: 10 NSW, Vic Article
9239 Feehely, J., N. Hammond-Deakin and F. Millner. 2013. One Stop Chop: How Regional Forest Agreements streamline environmental destruction NSW, Vic, Tas, WA Report
9238 Dargavel, J. 1998. Politics, Policy and Process in the Forests. Australian Journal of Environmental Management 5: 25-30 Article
9237 Campbell, R. and R. McKeon. 2015. Money doesn't grow on trees: the financial and economic losses of native forestry in NSW. The Australia Institute. NSW Report
9236 Australian Government Department of Environment 2016. Conservation Advice Petauroides volans - Greater Glider Qld, NSW, ACT, Victoria Report
9235 Pullinger, P. 2015. Pulling a swiftie: systemic Tasmanian Govenrment approval of logging known to damage Swift Parrot habitat. Environment Tasmania Tasmania Report
9176 Burns, E. L., D. B. Lindenmayer, J. Stein, W. Blanchard, L. McBurney, D. Blair, and S. C. Banks. 2015. Ecosystem assessment of mountain ash forest in the Central Highlands of Victoria, south-eastern Australia. Austral Ecology 40:386-399. Summary of empirical analyses
9177 Keith, H., M. Vardon, J. Stein, J. Stein, and D. B. Lindenmayer. 2016. Experimental Ecosystem Accounts for the Central Highlands of Victoria. The Australian National Univesrity, Canberra. Accumulation of economic and environmental data
9178 Lindenmayer, D. 2017. Halting Natural Resource Depletion: Engaging with Economic and Political Power. The Economic and Labour Relations Review http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1035304616685265. General across Australian forest and global fishing industries Synthesis of stages of resource collapse in natural resource management industries
9179 Lindenmayer, D. B., D. Blair, L. McBurney, and S. C. Banks. 2015. The need for a comprehensive reassessment of the Regional Forest Agreements in Australia. Pacific Conservation Biology 24: 266-270. Areas in Australia subject to RFAs Thought piece wrt RFA policies
9180 Lindenmayer, D. B., and H. P. Possingham. 2013. No excuse for habitat destruction. Science 340:680. Central Highlands of Victoria Policy assessment
9181 Taylor, C., N. Cadenhead, D. B. Lindenmayer, and B. A. Wintle. 2017. Improving the design of a conservation reserve for a critically endangered species. PLOS One 12:e0169629. Central Highlands of Victoria Simulation modelling integrated with spatial data and empirical information on key target species
9182 Taylor, C., M. A. McCarthy, and D. B. Lindenmayer. 2014. Nonlinear effects of stand age on fire severity. Conservation Letters 7:355-370. Central Highlands of Victoria Correlational study based on contrasts between stand age, logging history and fire severity
9183 Todd, C. R., D. B. Lindenmayer, K. Stamation, S. Acevedo-Catteneo, S. Smih, and L. F. Lumsden. 2016. Assessing reserve effectiveness: Application to a threatened species in a dynamic fire prone forest landscape. Ecological Modelling 338:90-100. Central Highlands of Victoria Simulation study
9184 VicForests. 2013. Corporate and business plans, 2013-2014 to 2015-2016. VicForests, Melbourne. East Gippsland and Central Highlands of Victoria Review

Further information about this topic contact:

Professor David Lindenmayer
david.lindenmayer@anu.edu.au
02 6125 0654

Chair, Hot Topics Editorial Board
Dr Rachel Standish
R.Standish@murdoch.edu.au