Far South Coast forests a carbon economy game changer

With the controversial Regional Forest Agreements set to expire between 2019 and 2021, the National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) is ramping up its campaign on the Far South Coast to end native forest logging and position State Forests to help Australia transition to a low-carbon economy.

The Great Southern Forest is a new approach to forest management that involves ending logging, planning a transition away from the loss-making wood chipping sector, and using carbon funding to create regional jobs in tourism, wildlife protection and forest management.

“We welcome the Government’s recent announcement of the Murrah Flora Reserves, but there are still over 400 000 ha under threat from logging in the southern forest region­. The new reserves are significant, particularly in terms of protecting our remnant koala population, but they are just a small piece in a large jigsaw,” says Kim Taysom, Vice-President of NPA Far South Coast Branch.

“The creation of the flora reserves is a clear admission by the Government that logging is not compatible with conservation. We urge the Government to not stop here.”

“Koalas are not the only species under threat. Our forests are home to a multitude of other native animals like Spotted-tailed Quolls, Powerful Owls and Yellow-bellied Gliders. In fact, logging is even worse for some of these species as they are hollow-dependent and the short rotation lengths are resulting in these vital habitat features being drastically reduced. These species are on borrowed time,” says Dr Oisín Sweeney, NPA Senior Ecologist.

“The native forest logging sector is a millstone around Forestry Corporation’s neck. The profitable plantation industry continually cross-subsidies the native sector. And that’s on top of the generous public subsidies—about $15m per year—doled out by Treasury,” says Mr Taysom.

“It doesn’t make sense for our Government to continue to pour millions in subsidies into the redundant native forest logging sector when there are far more economically viable and sustainable options for our forests.”

“The eucalypt forests of south-east NSW contain some of the highest carbon stores on the planet. By logging these areas we not only release carbon immediately, but we’re are missing out on the opportunity to avoid over one million tonnes of emissions every year,” says Mr Taysom.

“The carbon credits that would be generated from conserving these forests is massive – $15.6 – $19.5 million a year at current prices. A similar amount of tax payer dollars as those currently being lost down the forestry sinkhole. This is a viable alternative funding model for native forest management,” says Dr Sweeney.

“Both the state and federal governments are ignoring the carbon reduction potential of our native forests, despite the federal government spending over $670m on land-based carbon projects via the emissions reduction fund.”

The Great Southern Forest includes the Shoalhaven and Eurobodalla, Bega Valley, and Tumut Shires, whose economies could benefit from the expanded nature-based tourism opportunities provided by unlogged State Forests.

“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transition these biodiverse and carbon rich forests from loss making, environmentally destructive activities to a more sustainable and rewarding future for our forests, wildlife and local communities,” says Mr Taysom.

More information on NPA’s Great Southern Forest campaign can be found at www.greatsouthernforest.org.au

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