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WWF confused over deforestation in Australia claims IFA

Bob Gordon

The World Wildlife Fund’s claims linking deforestation and forestry in Australia have been challenged by the Institute of Foresters. Source: Timberbiz

“Land clearing or land-use change is when forests are converted for example to urban development and agriculture,” IFA President Bob Gordon said.

“It is important that land clearing or deforestation that converts forests to other land uses should not be confused with sustainable forestry – they are two very different activities.”

And Tasmanian Forest Products Association CEO Nick Steel said it was wrong to link Tasmania’s forest industry to deforestation and he wants the WFF to correct the record.

Nick Steel

The WWF identified Australia in a report as the only developed nation on the list of the world’s deforestation hotspots.

Among the 24 countries also named are Brazil, Indonesia, Colombia and Cameroon.

“Nearly a million hectares of forest has been cleared just in Queensland and New South Wales and just in the hotspot areas,” Dr Martin Taylor, Senior Scientist with WWF Australia, said.

New deforestation and land clearing hotspots also emerged in Tasmania since 2015, according to new analysis by WWF Australia.

According to his Pervasive Inaction report, expansion of commercial agriculture and tree plantations are the biggest drivers of deforestation around the world. Mining and building of town infrastructure like roads or commercial buildings are other drivers.

But Mr Gordon said that sustainable harvesting in Australia’s forests had a very small footprint and Australia’s sustainable forest management saw replanting as well as reestablishment of forests after a har-vest operation.

“The WWF report in question incorrectly labels timber harvesting and private native forestry as contributing factors of deforestation and degradation,” he said.

“Timber production involves harvesting and then regenerating areas of forest and so does not cause permanent removal of tree cover – there-fore it cannot be classed as deforestation as per the internationally accepted definition of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)* of the United Nations.”

Mr Gordon said informed ecological forest management would ensure the benefits provided by Australia’s forest could continue to be enjoyed for years to come.

“Australia’s Regional Forest Agreements are a legal agreement developed 20 years ago to conserve our forests, forest biodiversity and pro-vide Australians with a sustainable and ethical timber supply,” Mr Gordon said.

“This is why we are calling for Australians to plant more trees, improve the management of our forests across all tenures as well as adopt active forest management throughout the nation to respond to our changing climate and bushfire threat.

“If implemented, these initiatives, along with ecological forest manage-ment will ensure that our vulnerable forest flora and fauna is pre-served, for all Australians to enjoy,” Mr Gordon said.

Mr Steele said that Tasmania’s forest industry was the ultimate renew-able.

“It replants for the future according to a long-term plan; it helps tackle climate change by taking carbon dioxide out of the air and storing it (a fact acknowledged by the IPCC); and it supports more than 5700 direct and indirect jobs in our state,” he said.

“For every tree harvested in Tasmania another one is planted, ensuring generations to come can continue to benefit from the highly valuable resource forestry provides.

“Since the Tasmanian Forest deal was repealed in 2014 there hasn’t been a single additional hectare made available for harvesting as result of the agreement ending,” Mr Steele said.

“Quite frankly it’s scandalous an organisation with supposed scientific credibility can suggest otherwise in the public sphere with such a throwaway comment, without supporting evidence.”

*The FAO defines deforestation as follows:

FAO 2001: The conversion of forest to another land use or the long-term reduction of the tree canopy cover below the minimum 10% threshold.

Explanatory note:

  1. Deforestation implies the long-term or permanent loss of forest cover and implies transformation into another land use. Such a loss can only be caused and maintained by a continued human-induced or natural perturbation.
  2. It includes areas of forest converted to agriculture, pasture, water reservoirs and urban areas.
  3. The term specifically excludes areas where the trees have been re-moved as a result of harvesting or logging, and where the forest is expected to regenerate naturally or with the aid of silvicultural measures.