Federal and state governments are about to renew Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) to prolong industrial logging across 2 million hectares of New South Wales native forests. It is expected that an additional 100,000 hectares of native forest will be re-zoned for clear felling.
RFA renewals and burning native forests for energy is will mean the end of native forests.
The past 20 years of industrial logging has put the Mountain Ash forests in Victoria on the brink of ecological collapse, while the South and North Coast forests of NSW have changed from biodiverse habitat to what locals call “stick forests”.
The concept of catchment protection has been violated, heavy machinery is going to within five metres of the most remote drainage lines and soil erosion is rife. There is a loss of hollows across the forests as fewer than only five habitat trees per hectare are required to be retained. The forests’ capacity to sequester and store carbon is being destroyed.
The NSW government held six small public information sessions in February, but none are planned for Sydney. If this agreement is signed, industrial logging of threatened species habitat and catchments will be entrenched for two more decades. There will be no end date due to self-renewing contracts and the clauses that remove third party rights to legally contest impact will be retained.
The final insult is allowing the burning of wood from native forests as “renewable energy” and exporting timber for the international wood biomass trade.
In 2015 the federal government declared burning biomass from native forests in power stations is “carbon neutral”. Threatened species’ forest habitat is trucked from the NSW north coast and burnt with coal at Vales Point power station. Three forest furnaces are mooted by the Department of Primary Industries for the north coast.
Whole logs are sent to Shanghai in containers as Asia gears up to join the international wood biomass burning scam that pretends burning wood instead of coal is a clean energy substitute.
If the RFAs are renewed we can say goodbye to our carbon sink, one of the best in the world. Intact south-east Australian eucalypt forests can store more carbon per hectare than equatorial rainforests.
We can only mourn our creatures, as Australia is already a world leader in mammal extinction. Our forest-dependent marsupials, owls, a plethora of reptiles, amphibians, birds and invertebrates will simply have no habitat. We will lose soil, the hydrological function of forests and a place to just “be”.
[Join the Australian Forests and Climate Alliance contingent to protest against the destruction of NSW native forests at the Time2Choose rally in Sydney on March 24. RFA renewals and burning native forests for energy is will mean the end for native forests. For details see the Facebook event.]