There is a new threat to our public native forests: an extreme clear fell logging proposal.
The new logging licences currently being negotiated by the Forestry Corporation and the Environment Protection Authority, known at the IFOA or Integrated Forestry Operations Approval, are a major step backwards for our forests. They want to zone 150,000 hectares of public forests from Grafton to Taree into an intensive logging zone where clear felling is the norm. North of Grafton and south of Taree the plan is for a massive intensification of logging.
Only a few trees will be required to be protected. This would turn these public native forests into pseudo-plantations, drying up streams and devastating wildlife habitat. The koala and 32 other animal species that are threatened with extinction will be seriously affected.
In the Clarence and Richmond catchments the proposed new rules will see thousands of hectares of stream side forest and threatened species habitat become available for logging.
Dailan Pugh has done a detailed analysis of the impacts. The full report can be found here:
We now need to spread the word about this. Standby for campaign actions and be ready to write submissions opposing it when the new IFOA is put on public exhibition.
Proposed Sandy Creek Koala Park
Dailan Pugh, North East Forest Alliance, August 2020
NEFA are proposing that 6,988ha of public land south-west of Casino in north-east NSW be created as the Sandy Creek Koala Park, comprised of Royal Camp, Braemar, Carwong and Ellangowan State Forests, and remnant native vegetation on land purchased for plantations. The Bandjalang clan are the recognised native title holders and so the future management of this reserve needs to be determined in consultation with them.
The genesis of this proposal was the finding of exceptional densities of Koalas at a number of localities and widespread Koala usage. The Koalas appeared to be increasing as the forests recovered from past logging, with good future prospects if the forest was allowed to age and provide increasing resources over time.
The Koalas suffered a mortal blow when the Busby's Flat fire swept through the proposal on the night of 8 October 2019, with the apparent loss of 78-89% of Koalas, which suggests the loss of 270-310 Koalas due to the fires and a surviving population that could be as low as 40-80 Koalas.
As most Koala feed trees survived the fires, Koala populations can recover over time and increase if survivors and their habitat are protected. Given the prognosis that Koalas are likely to become extinct in the wild by 2050 if we continue 'business as usual' , and the devastating impact of the 2019 fires on the Banyabba Koalas, protecting an area where Koala populations can recover is more important than ever.
Saving Banyabba Koalas
On 3 March 2020 the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) approved the Forestry Corporation to undertake logging of burnt Koala habitat in three State Forests on the Richmond River lowlands. Given the failure to account for the landscape scale impacts of the fires on this Koala population, this approval was irresponsible and jeopardises the Koala's recovery, and possibly the survival of this population.
The EPA are requested to immediately withdraw their approvals for logging of Koala habitat in Bungawalbin, Doubleduke and Myrtle State Forests and do due-diligence by assessing the landscape impacts of the fires on Koalas. As shown by this example, a moratorium is needed on further logging of populations of all species significantly affected by the fires until surveys are undertaken to assess their vulnerability.
The approved logging is in parts of the 142,000 ha Banyabba Area of Regional Koala Significance (ARKS) that had 83% of its modelled 71,000 ha of 'likely' Koala habitat burnt in the 2019 wildfires, with the apparent loss of 90% of Koalas from burnt areas.
NEFA have been particularly focussed our efforts on the conservation of Koalas since we caught the Forestry Corporation illegally logging Koala High Use Areas in Royal Camp State Forest in 2012.
We are gravely concerned that Koala populations on the north coast have crashed by 50% over the past 20 years, and that the increase in land clearing and reduction in logging rules will likely see them made extinct in the wild within the next 20 years.
Within a given area Koalas will firstly select feed trees based on species, and secondarily on size, preferring trees over 30cm diameter, with use increasing in line with tree size. They also utilise understory trees for shelter on hot or windy days. In good habitat they have stable home ranges, with a male overlapping a number of females. Logging is targeting the mature trees preferred by Koalas for feeding, with less feed trees there are less Koalas and social systems can break down.
For the past 20 years the Forestry Corporation were meant to thoroughly search for Koala scats (faecal pellets) ahead of logging. Where small numbers of scats are found token feed trees (5 of any size per ha) were required to be retained. Where there were abundant scats they were required to protect small areas around the scats as Koala High Use Areas. Because the Forestry Corporation normally refused to do thorough searches, and because of the minimal protection when found, only some 13 hectares of Koala habitat were protected in any year, and they are allowed to log these next time around. On private land there are few records of Koalas and no need to look before they log, so most Koala habitat is indiscriminately logged.
The Government has decided to remove the need for the Forestry Corporation to look before they log and are instead protect 10 Koala feed trees per ha over 20cm diameter in modelled high quality habitat and 5 per ha is medium quality habitat. The EPA recommended that it should be 25 feed trees per ha over 25cm diameter in high quality habitat and 15 trees per hectare in moderate quality habitat. The NRC over-rode the EPA to support the Forestry Corporation.
The 2018 OEH submission to the IFOA laments that there will "be a reduction in protections offered to koalas", with Koala feed tree retention rates "less than half those originally proposed by the Expert Fauna Panel", noting:
"The increased logging intensity proposed under the draft Coastal IFOA is expected to impact Koalas through diminished feed and shelter tree resources. Animals will need to spend more time traversing the ground as they move between suitable trees that remain, which is likely to increase koala mortality".
It is outrageous that 43% of the high quality Koala habitat on State Forests identified by DPI-Forestry is in the North Coast Intensive Logging Zone where clearfelling will be the norm.
On the north coast Koala populations have crashed by 50% over the past 20 years because they generally prefer the more productive forests left on the coastal floodplains and foothills, the forests that have been most targeted for clearing, logging and urbanisation. If Koalas are to be given a chance it is essential that all remaining colonies be identified and fully protected.
It is evident that the Forestry Corporation can not be trusted to provide the required protection for core Koala habitat and have instead been routinely logging it. In order to provide Koalas with the protection they need the National Parks Association have recently proposed the Great Koala National Park and a series of smaller Koala Parks throughout north east NSW. (see A Blueprint for a Comprehensive Reserve System for Koalas on the North Coast of NSW).
The North East Forest Alliance has proposed that the 2,100 ha Sandy Creek National Park be created over an important Koala population in Royal Camp and Carwong State Forests, south-west of Casino.
We are seeking the protection from clearing and logging of all resident Koala populations across the north coast of NSW.
Dailan Pugh, March 2019.
This review focuses on assessing recent logging by the Forestry Corporation of Koala Hubs as identified by the Office of Environment and Heritage.
The Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) have analysed Koala records "to delineate highly significant local scale areas of koala occupancy currently known for protection", which they term Koala Hubs. Based on the data then available these are the known highest priority areas for Koala protection in NSW to increase their survival prospects.
Koala populations in NSW are in precipitous decline. The threats are immense in coastal areas (where most hubs are), making the protection of the 19,785 ha of Koala Hubs on State Forests in hinterland areas the highest priority for the basis of a Koala reserve system to safeguard core Koala populations and begin to stabilise Koala numbers.
Further work has been undertaken by WWF which identifies Koala Reserves based on a broader analysis of Koala Hubs, though this assessment is limited to Koala Hubs as identified by OEH.
This review found that of the OEH Koala Hubs on State forests in north-east NSW, 2,546 ha has been logged over the 4 year assessment period 2015-2018, which is an average of 636 ha logged per annum within Koala Hubs. It is assumed that some 430 ha of Koala hubs have so far been logged since they were identified. Many more are proposed for logging in current harvesting plans,
Outside exclusion zones and plantations there are 12,253 ha of Koala Hubs identified on State Forests, which means that over the past 4 years 21% of the loggable area of Koala Hubs within native forests on State Forests have been logged. Many of these have been logged well in excess of allowable logging intensities, with significant areas subjected to the unlawful logging practices of heavy and regeneration Single Tree Retention.
Of the 2,546 ha logged from 2015-2018, 1,283 ha (50%) has been modelled by DPI Forestry (Law et. al. 2017) as high quality Koala habitat and 574 ha (23%) as medium quality habitat. There are also 590 Koala records within the logged areas of the Koala Hubs. These confirm the importance of these areas for Koalas, and emphasise that this should have been well known to the Forestry Corporation before they logged them.
Over the period 2015 to March 2017 in the Lower North East forestry region, of these logged Koala hubs 22 ha is identified as being subject to the unlawful logging regimes of Regeneration Single Tree Retention (STS), 116 ha to heavy STS, and 348 ha to medium STS. It is evident from Harvesting Plans that intensive logging of Koala Hubs is more widespread than indicated by these figures, which is also shown by satellite images. This shows that many of these Koala Hubs, and surrounding areas, were subject to more intensive logging than the logging rules allowed.
It is essential for the future of Koalas that a moratorium be immediately placed on all remaining OEH Koala Hubs on State Forests, along with potential habitat within one kilometre, while further ground based assessments are undertaken to delineate the full extent these "highly significant" resident populations which, based on current records, are the highest priority for protection on public lands.
You can read the full review document here: Forestry_Logging_of_OEH_Koala_Hubs.pdf
Illegal logging of Koala habitat at Gibberagee State Forest prompted peaceful action as shown in the NEFA video below.
Dailan Pugh, North East Forest Alliance, March 2019.
The one survey relied upon by the timber industry to justify the ongoing logging of Koala habitat was undertaken by the forestry unit of the Department of Primary Industries, who are not independent and whose data do not justify their subjective conclusions.
There are far more robust studies that shows that Koalas are declining on State Forests and that this will be exasperated by the increased logging intensity, reduced retention of mature trees and reduced exclusions allowed by the new logging rules.
The DPI-Forestry1 survey used acoustic recorders to record male Koala calls for a week during the breeding season at 171 sites in modelled medium-high quality Koala habitat throughout northern NSW, recording one or more calls at 106 sites.
The biggest failing of the DPI-Forestry assessment is that it is based on extrapolation from just the calls of male Koalas somewhere within 300m (or more2) of the recorder, with no indication of whether other Koalas were present or whether it was just a transient male searching for a mate.
Forestry's current rules for identifying a high use Koala tree is that it has to have more than 20 Koala scats (faecal pellet) under it, and a Koala High Use Area has to have an additional 3 out of 10 trees searched with scats under them.
The only ground-truthing reported3 for Koala occupancy in the DPI-Forestry study were searches of 40 trees at each of 65 sites for Koala scats, with no scats found at 54 sites and just 1-2 scats found at 11 sites.
Koalas were recorded calling at 19 of the 65 ground-truthed sites, with no scats found at 16 sites and only single scats found at 3 sites. This indicates either a very low usage by Koalas or that the calling Koalas were outside the sampled area.
Half the sites recorded only1-3 calls over 7 nights in the breeding season, which does not indicate the presence of a breeding colony anywhere nearby.
It is particularly significant that any Koalas calling could have been hundreds of metres away or transient. Given that measurements of habitat variables were made within 50m of the recorders it means the variables measured (i.e. tree species, tree cover, stand structure, logging intensity) and used in analyses are not necessarily indicative of where Koalas live.
Both DPI-Forestry and the industry conveniently ignore other more robust research that has found Koalas prefer the larger trees targeted by loggers and that their populations are declining on State Forests.
A 2016 EPA study4 found that higher Koala activity was positively correlated with trees and forest structure of a more mature size class, and areas of least disturbance, concluding that once high quality Koala habitat in Clouds Creek and Maria River State Forests had been degraded and now have declining Koala populations.
A 2004 study5 by Dr. Andrew Smith of Pine Creek State Forest found that Koalas preferred structurally complex, uneven-aged forests with some mature and oldgrowth elements and a large basal area, concluding that modern high intensity harvesting practices that remove a high proportion of stand basal area and leave only small diameter stems (<50 cm diameter) are incompatible with koala conservation.
A 2013 Biolink6 study for Port Macquarie-Hastings Council found that State Forests had less than half the number of active Koala sites than nearby National Parks and concluded that logging had decimated the once substantive local Koala populations.
Whatever its shortcomings, the DPI-Forestry survey7 is based on past logging regimes where they attribute the persistence of Koalas near their sites to half the surrounding area being excluded from logging, including in riparian buffers, old growth and rainforest exclusion areas and Koala High Use Areas, as well as the retention of mature trees, habitat trees, recruitment trees and feed trees for other species in logged areas.
The NSW Government's new logging rules have doubled logging intensity, zoned 140,000 ha of coastal forests for clearfelling, removed the need to retain mature trees (including recruitment and most eucalypt feed trees), reduced the buffers on headwater streams and is intending to open up protected oldgrowth forest for logging. This will significantly increase impacts on Koalas.
Specifically for Koalas they are removing the need to look before they log and protect Koala High Use Areas, despite DPI-Forestry finding that Koala High Use Areas have 3 times the Koala call rate of recently logged forests.
In their submission to the new logging rules, the Office of Environment and Heritage8 complained in 2018 that the new Koala feed tree retention rates are less than half the number and of a smaller size than proposed by the Expert Fauna Panel, concluding that the increased logging intensity proposed under the new rules is expected to impact Koalas through diminished feed and shelter tree resources.
It is ironic that DPI-Forestry refer to a Forestry Corporation radio-tracking study2 in the early 1990s near Eden NSW to justify their claim that koala home ranges can comprise a mosaic of regrowth and unlogged habitat, as that population was extinct a few years later9.
Now history is repeating itself as the Forestry Corporation use dodgy science to deny impacts while introducing an Eden-style alternate coupe clearfelling regime into 140,000 ha of what they identify as the best Koala habitat on the north coast.
To download a copy of the document or to see the references click here.
NEFA President Dailan Pugh, OAM presentation at the Nature Conservation Council (NCC) Koala Forum in Lismore December 12th, 2018
You can find NCC's Koala campaign here: https://www.nature.org.au/koalas
Koalas and Logging of Public Lands
Koalas and Loggers prefer larger trees. Koalas preferentially select individual trees of preferred species for feeding. They prefer larger and older trees because they: provide more forage have less toxins are more stable and comfortable. You can read Dailan's powerpoint presentation here:
Koalas and Logging of Public Lands.
As a result of documents obtained under Freedom of Information it's now clear that the NSW Government ignored it's own scientist's advice when deciding on the koala reserves. Not only did it choose areas that were already protected and where there were few or no koala records...it DIDN'T choose the areas that have been identified as Koala 'Hubs'.
You can read an analysis of the information obtained in this new report by Dailan Pugh for NEFA. September 2018
Dailan Pugh, NEFA. June 2018
The NSW Government announced there would be 12 "new" Koala Reserves as a keystone of its Koala Strategy:Creating new reserves for koalas and protecting habitat corridors is a key pillar of the Strategy. More than 20,000 hectares of state forest on the Central Coast, Southern Highlands, North Coast, Hawkesbury and Hunter with koala habitat will be set aside as new koala reserves. Over 4000 hectares of native forest with koala habitat will be transferred to the national parks estate.
It is fraudulent for the NSW Government to pretend that these are new Koala Reserves. Ten of the 12 Koala Reserves are already protected as part of the informal reserve system (as FMZs 2 and 3). Four have no records of Koalas, and only 2 have "contemporary" records. Only 3 of the north-east reserves have high quality Koala habitat identified within them, and 2 of these have no "contemporary" records to substantiate the models... (View full PDF document)
If there is a genuine desire to stop the slide of NSWs Koalas into extinction then the primary requirement is for the current NSW Premier to direct her Ministers and their agencies to implement the intent of current legislation. We don't need to reinvent the wheel, we just need to make what we have work better.
She needs to direct that the agencies immediately identify and protect remaining core Koala habitat and habitat linkages across all tenures. This will require the allocation of significant resources to undertake the required mapping of core Koala habitat and to provide financial incentives to private landowners to conserve core Koala habitat in perpetuity. There is also a need to rehabilitate degraded habitat and to replant essential habitat linkages.
North East Forest Alliance, Revised March 2017
It is proposed to create the 2,100 ha Sandy Creek National Park in the headwaters of the Richmond River south-west of Casino. The proposal is comprised of two parts, including part of Royal Camp State Forest (compartments 13-16, 1,500ha) and the whole of Carwong State Forest (600ha). These forests are primarily proposed for protection for their exceptional importance for Koala conservation in an area where populations are in decline and in danger of extinction. The proposal is comprised of inadequately reserved ecosystems, includes 2 Endangered Ecological Communities, and incorporates the known habitat for the Critically Endangered Regent Honeyeater, 3 Endangered plants, one Vulnerable plant, and 17 Vulnerable animals. There is the potential to improve its long term integrity by voluntarily acquiring intervening freehold land which has also been assessed as being of high value for Koalas... (View full PDF document)
Clearing our Koalas Away is a damning new report by Dailan Pugh that puts together intensive logging maps recently obtained via Freedom of Information, and the EPAs new koala habitat model.
The principal findings of this review are that:
Within the 103 State Forest compartments currently being actively logged on public land in north east NSW there are 4,663 ha of modelled high quality Koala habitat and 357 Koala records.
The identified protection for Koalas in current logging entails 2 Koala High Use Areas totalling 1.2ha from which logging is excluded and the identification of 15% of the high quality habitat as "Intermediate Use Habitat" where 5 feed trees of any size are required to be retained per hectare. This is mere tokenism.
Thirteen of the 20 current logging areas with >17% high quality Koala habitat are being targeted for logging intensities (regeneration and heavy Single Tree Selection) involving up to 60-86% basal area removal in blatant contravention of the Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (IFOA's) limit of 40% basal area removal.
During the period when it was practiced from 2000-2010 over 10,000ha of forests in the Lower North East region were allocated to Australian Group Selection patch clearfelling, incorporating 6,460ha of high quality Koala habitat, despite a prohibition on the use of AGS in "intermediate" Koala habitat.
Since 2006 in the Lower North East region. the Forestry Corporation have subjected 74,906 ha to the unlawful logging practices of 'medium', 'heavy' and 'regeneration' Single Tree Selection involving 41-100% basal area removal. This is comprised of 23,742 ha (32%) of high quality Koala habitat and 717 Koala records.
Of the unlawfully logged area, 23,340 ha has been subjected to 'heavy' and 'regeneration' STS, comprised of 39% high quality Koala habitat, in what amounts to clearing and conversion to quasi plantations.
Over the past 10 years the Forestry Corporation have progressively and unlawfuly converted half of the logging area of the proposed North Coast Intensive Zone in the Lower North East Region to "quasi plantations", with the proposed zoning to give retrospective approval.
There have been no records of Koalas from 41% of the current logging areas encompassing high quality Koala habitat, and no records for at least the past 9 years in 12% of the areas. Records over the past 20 years indicate that Koalas are in decline across State Forests.
There needs to be an urgent intervention to stop the accelerating degradation of Koala habitat in north-east NSW. Surveys need to be urgently undertaken to identify all areas containing remnant Koala populations. Identified areas, along with sufficient additional areas of potential Koala high quality habitat and habitat linkages, need to be fully protected to establish viable populations across the landscape.
Authorised by Daniel Peterson for the North East Forest Alliance at 115 Molesworth Street, Lismore, 2480
Forests are the lungs of the earth. They play a vital role in sequestering and storing carbon. Carbon storage has been significantly diminished in vast areas of NSW’s forests due to logging. As trees grow their carbon storage increases. By simply stopping logging of regrowth forests will allow trees to mature and increase their carbon storage. (See: Sequestering and Storing Carbon in Forests)
Protecting degraded forests is part of the solution to climate change, continued logging is part of the problem. Allowing regrowth forests to mature will avoid significant releases of CO2 and allow carbon to be sequestered and stored in the tree trunks and soils of the regenerating forests. The regenerating forests will continue to store carbon in ever increasing volumes as they mature over decades and centuries.
Climate change represents a significant environmental, economic and social cost to the people of NSW. Increasing carbon storage in forests and avoiding emissions represents a significant economic benefit to all people in NSW.
State Forests are part of the public estate effectively controlled by the will of the people of NSW.. Along with National Parks, Nature Reserves and State Conservation Areas, and numerous schools, hospitals, sporting, camping and recreation areas, State forests are Crown lands. State forests are public lands that have been allocated for timber production under the control of the Forestry Corporation.
The community has the right and responsibility to ensure that State forests are managed in the community’s best interests. The community has repeatedly identified that they place a very high value on native forests for wildlife, beauty, water and recreation, compared to a relatively low value for logging, mining and shooting. For example the Community Attitude survey for the Upper North East Comprehensive Regional Assessment (McGregor et. al. 1997a) established that the priorities respondents gave to “various activities with relation to public forests” were;
protecting native plants and animals (100%),
maintaining sites of natural beauty (99%),
maintaining water quality (96%),
aboriginal sites (89%),
protecting wilderness (87%),
camping (79%), and
Exploitative uses of public lands received a lot less support (timber production 24%, woodchipping 7% and mining 13%), with the highest opposition being to mining (72%), hunting (70%) and woodchipping (65%).
In response to the question “what is it about forests that you value?”, those values ranked highest were aesthetic (80%), conservation reasons (46%), spiritual (25%), intergenerational equity (14%) and recreation (10%) as compared to relatively low values for economic/employment (6%) and economic goods and use (5%).
While State Forests have been allocated for timber production, the Forestry Act 2012 requires that they be managed in compliance with the principles of ecologically sustainable development, with timber supply environmentally sustainable, and with regard to the interests of the community.
Large areas of State Forests are still required to be added to the reserve system to satisfy the national reserve targets and protect viable fauna populations (see CAR Reserves), logging is being undertaken at an unsustainable rate (see Over-logging ), and they are not being managed in an ecologically sustainable manner (see Bell Miner Associated Dieback), (Logging Prescriptions). NEFA therefore maintains that they are not being managed in the community’s best interests.
McGregor, A., Gibson, C., Miller, F. and Sharma, K. (1997a) Thinking About Forests, community attitudes towards forests in the Upper North East CRA region. Unpublished report prepared Department of Geography, University of Sydney, for the NSW CRA/RFA process.
Forests are key components of the earth's water cycle. Forests do not just respond to rainfall, they actively generate their own. They recycle water from the soil back into the atmosphere by transpiration, create the updrafts that facilitate condensation as the warm air rises and cools, create pressure gradients that draw moist air in from afar, and, just to be sure, release the atmospheric particles which are the nuclei around which raindrops form.
Forests have been described as 'biotic pumps' driving regional rainfall because their high rates of transpiration return large volumes of moisture to the atmosphere and suck in moisture laden air from afar.
While most of our rain originates from evaporation of the oceans, it is estimated that 40% of the rain that falls on land comes from evaporation from the land and, most importantly, from transpiration by vegetation. Recycled water vapour becomes increasingly important for inland rainfall.
Having created and attracted the water vapour, the plants then make it rain. Plants emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as plant scents and the blue haze characteristic of eucalypt forests. They play an important role in communication between plants, and messages from plants to animals, and also between plants and moisture-laden air. They oxidise in the air to form the cloud condensation nuclei around which waterdrops form.
The transpiration of vegetation also results in evaporative cooling whereby the surface heat is transferred to the atmosphere in water vapour. The resultant clouds also help shade and cool the surface.
Forests store water in their tissues, in the soil amongst their roots and in the protected microclimate beneath their canopies, releasing it over time to the atmosphere by evapotranspiration and to streams through the groundwater system. Forests are a vital component of our hydrological cycle and due to their roles in attracting and recycling rainfall, reducing temperatures and regulating runoff they provide immense economic benefits to human societies. Their importance will become increasingly significant as climate change results in more erratic rainfalls and intense dry periods.
There is abundant scientific evidence that deforestation and degradation of vegetation causes significant reductions in rainfall by:
reducing the recycling of rainfall to the atmosphere by transpiration
reducing the drawing in of moist coastal air
reducing updrafts of moist air
reducing rooting depth and the recycling of deep soil moisture
increasing loss of water from the land by runoff
reducing the organic aerosols necessary for the condensation of rain drops.
The overwhelming evidence from around the world is that land-clearing has directly caused a significant reduction in regional rainfalls and an increase in land temperatures (See: Clearing Our Rainfall Away). These impacts have been compounded through the release of stored CO2, with land clearing contributing around a third of our CO2 emissions in the past two centuries.
Across drier areas of Australia the removal of deep rooted forests and woodlands has caused water tables to rise, allowing long-buried saline ground-waters to rise towards the surface, with the resultant dryland salinity affecting millions of hectares.
Logging has the opposite effect, with increased transpiration by the regrowth lowering water tables. The generalised pattern following logging of an oldgrowth forest is for there to be an initial increase in runoff peaking after 1 or 2 years and persisting for a few years. Water yields then begin to decline below that of the oldgrowth as the regrowth can consume 50% more water than oldgrowth. Water yields are likely to reach a minimum after 20-30 years before slowly increasing towards pre-logging levels in line with forest maturity. It can take over 150 years to restore the original water yields. (See: How Forests Regulate Streamflows)
Reductions in water yields are dependent upon the rainfall and the amount of water used by the vegetation. When rainfall is low the regrowth can consume most of the water, leaving little surplus for streams. In areas experiencing high rainfalls regrowth has been found to depress annual water yields by some 50%, though with low rainfalls there may be little water left for streams surplus to the requirements of the regrowth.
With declining rainfalls due to clearing, the increased demand for water by the regrowth can dry catchments, cause water stress and kill trees.
Allowing regrowth forests to mature results in significantly increased water yields to surrounding streams and dams. Water yields will go on increasing for many decades. The increase in water yields from maturing forests represents a significant economic benefit to all downstream users, particularly during dry periods.
Fig. 1 from Speer et. al. (2011): Map of Australia highlighting the decline in annual rainfall (mm/10 years) around Australia from, 1950–2007.
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.
Public land is a highly valued resource, providing the only natural areas for recreation for many local residents. Natural environments are also important components of the recreation and tourism industry and contribute significantly to attracting tourists to north east NSW in order to experience their landscapes and wildlife. Nature-based outdoor recreation is increasingly in demand as urbanisation continues around the world.
You know that exercise is good for you, but did you know its health benefits are greatly magnified if undertaken in a forest? Just standing in a forest taking in the view can improve your mood and cognitive function. Even sitting in a chair looking at a photo of the view is good for you.
And it is not just seeing nature that is beneficial, hearing it helps and smelling it is a form of aromatherapy that has been attributed with improving vascular health, regulating hormones, strengthening immunity, fighting cancer and reducing blood sugars.
Natural settings also provide opportunities for spiritual experiences, enhancing self-esteem, facilitating socialisation and encouraging optimal development in children.
A walk in the bush is not a cure all, but it is good for you in many ways (see Natural Effects).
National Parks make a significant contribution to regional economies and to nearby towns through direct tourist expenditure. The direct expenditure also leads to indirect impacts resulting from purchases from other sectors and induced impacts when workers spend income on goods and services. If tourism is appropriately managed the economic returns generated can be maintained over a long period of time for the benefit of a broad range of local businesses and residents.
As at 2010 the visitation to National Parks and reserves in north east NSW was estimated from a variety of sources as 9.4-10.8 million visits per year. This is an increase of over 250% in visitation since the Forest Reform process started in 1997. Expenditure associated with this visitation has been conservatively assessed as generating a business turnover of some $416-476 million and some 2,642-3,026 direct and indirect jobs in the regional economy. (see: Identifying the Recreational Value of Reserves)
The benefits to visitors can be measured in terms of consumer surplus,. which is how much a visitor is willing to pay above the price currently determined by market forces The consumer surplus of north east NSW’s National Parks is estimated as some $348-399 million.
It is evident that the creation of reserves in the Forest Reform process provides significant health and economic benefits to the residents of north-east NSW.
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