The allocation of Crown land for conservation dates back to 1866 in NSW, with the first National Park created in 1879. Since then it has been a slow and tedious process to construct an effective reserve system in north-east NSW. NEFA was instrumental in achieving a doubling of reserves (See: A Short History of Reserves in North East NSW).
Reserves have been established for recreation, scenic qualities, heritage values, and flora and fauna conservation. It has been community agitation that has been primarily responsible for public land being set aside for conservation, with destructive uses such as logging, mining and grazing generally excluded.
Vested interests have led the fight against reservation of crown land for conservation. Historically they were successful in largely limiting reserves to the least productive areas with limited commercial potential.
In 1992 the National Forest Policy committed all Australian Governments to establishing Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative reserve systems for forests based on explicit national reserve targets (See: CAR Reserves). This was meant to be a way forward to ensure that reserves encompassed representative samples of all ecosystems and species while being of adequate size to maintain viable populations of flora and fauna into the future.
The process leading to the 2000 Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) for North East NSW did result in a significant increase in the reserve system in north-east NSW based on sound data and targets. Though unfortunately politicians once again bowed to pressure from vested interests and intervened to stop the promised CAR reserve system from being established (See: CAR Reserves).
Despite north east NSW’s forests being one of Australia’s and the world’s biodiversity hotspots, the reform process still left us with one of the worst forest reserve systems in Australia, and many of the national reserve targets unmet. There remains an urgent need to expand north east NSW’s reserve system to achieve the basic requirements of a CAR reserve system, particularly in light of the accelerating impacts of climate change.
Due to the conservation of more productive lands in recent decades, the vested interests are now campaigning to have reserves opened up for logging and grazing. The pretence is that they need to be logged for “ecologically thinning” and grazed for fire protection.
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