Federal government raises the white flag for Australia’s threatened species  (Biodiversity Conservation News)

Pseudo zoos and tokenistic gestures seem to be the vision for Australia’s wildlife, says the National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) on the Commonwealth’s new Threatened Species Strategy.

The strategy was announced by Environment Minister Greg Hunt at Australia’s first Threatened Species summit, held in Melbourne last Thursday (16th July).

“It is telling that habitat protection does not even get a mention in the plan. Protecting habitat is the number one tool for conserving native species. This indicates that the federal government is raising the white flag when it comes to ensuring our unique wildlife can persist into the future,” says Kevin Evans, CEO of National Parks Association.

“Establishing feral-free offshore islands is a smart approach and can deliver real conservation outcomes. But that’s unfortunately where the positives end. Most of the rest is smoke and mirrors and a distraction from what is really needed.”

“Funding of $6.6 million is a pittance in light of the Abbott government’s $480 million cuts to the National Landcare Program. And over one third of this money will be spent establishing tiny feral-free enclosures which take the focus off meaningful landscape-scale conservation and risk confining species like bilbies and numbats to pseudo zoos,” Mr Evans continues.

“And identifying Leadbeaters Possum for ’emergency intervention’ while continuing to log its core habitat would be laughable if it weren’t so sad.”

NPA believes that there is an overemphasis on culling introduced feral animals in the new plan without the allocation of sufficient funds to address the problem nationally.

“We think this is a red herring. With limited resources there is no way that we can use feral control on a continental scale to protect our wildlife,” says Dr Oisin Sweeney, NPA’s Science Officer.

“Rewilding offers a genuine complimentary strategy: we need to urgently plan to allow dingoes to reclaim Australia to do cheap, full-time pest control for us, and ensure that there is protection in place for landholders in case of stock losses,” he said.

“We face a choice: either we grasp the nettle and restore ecosystem function, or we have vast areas devoid of native mammals. It can be done: in the USA and Europe wolves are recolonising with dramatic benefits to nature. We just need to safeguard farmers and make sure they don’t bear the cost of conservation alone,” Dr Oisin concluded.

“What struck me about the new Threatened Species Strategy is that the Federal Government is seeking investment from the private sector to help fund their initiatives to reverse biodiversity decline. However, contradictions in environmental policy will deter many private funders. For example the government’s continued support of native forest logging is completely at odds with the very aim of this strategy,” says Mr Evans.

“Set against the background of a government that is failing on climate change, facilitating mining at any cost and burning our native forests for fuel, the plan looks like a cheap band aid,” Dr Oisin concludes.

The National Parks Australia Council Policy Officer position available  (Park Protection News)

The National Parks Australia Council Inc (NPAC) is the peak organisation for national parks and protected area advocacy in Australia. NPAC represents organisations from Australian States and Territories with a particular interest in national parks.

The Policy Officer will assist the National Parks Australia Council to campaign for national parks and nature conservation in the lead up to the upcoming federal election. The Policy Officer will assist with policy development and communication with decision makers, policy makers and influencers.

The role will involve research and monitoring for key nature conservation and protected area issues, identifying opportunities and strategies for advocacy and communication with politicians and public servants.

To apply for the position click here.

Further information and instructions for applicants available in the position description.

A future for native forests means leisure, not logging  (Park Protection News)

Magnificent places under threat
Think about it. Huge tracts of spectacularly forested hills. Panoramic ocean views periodically peek through the canopy. Creeks lined with lush rainforest trickle down gullies providing pure, clear water to downstream anglers and oyster farmers. Breakfast in the eco-lodge is peaceful and relaxing. But for those seeking more energetic pursuits, the relaxation doesn’t last long! This is perfect terrain for mountain biking, orienteering, climbing, canyoning and adventure racing. An ancient landscape, not too steep like across the Tasman, but constantly undulating and changing form. Spectacular places to spend a weekend.

These are NSWs’ State Forests. Two million hectares of public land, the majority found between Bega and Ballina east of the Great Divide. Forests that contain the best landscapes outside National Parks. But native forest logging shuts us out of these forests and prevents us from maximising their public benefit. Sure, Forestry Corporation will claim that recreation is allowed in State Forests and that’s true. Until logging starts. At which point it’s everyone out. And, sorry about this, but your bike track now runs through carnage.

Historically, most logs went to sawmills for wood chipping. Now there is a push to allow ‘wood waste’ from native forests to be classed as renewable energy under the Renewable Energy Target (as recent articles in Wild have outlined). Opponents of logging believe this is designed to prop up an unprofitable industry. A recent open letter to the Australian Parliament from 40 concerned scientists strongly opposed native forest biomass being defined as renewable1.

A convergence of interests
We could have it so much better. There is another model for State Forests that is infinitely more equitable, sustainable and….fun! We can use our State Forests to dramatically expand high quality outdoor recreation, nature-based tourism and nature conservation. Despite having some of the finest landscapes for outdoor sports we lag far behind other countries. Anyone who has taken a trip to New Zealand will know how true that is. Here’s how it could work. But first, a disclosure:

I’m an ecologist and passionate about the conservation of Australia’s unique flora and fauna. I want my kids to be able to see the wonders that I have. This is my primary motivation to end native forest logging. But I also love hiking, mountain biking and cross country running. Most people in our organisation, the National Parks Association of NSW (NPA), love the outdoors almost as much as they dislike logging. That’s the joy of this idea: conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts share a common interest!

A win for the environment…
From the NPA’s point of view, National Parks are under siege. Everyone wants a piece of them because they are the most intact large landscapes left. But using them for recreation such as horse riding, mountain biking and large running events compromises conservation outcomes, spreads weeds and damages fragile species and ecosystems. Focusing these activities in lower conservation value State Forests would buffer National Parks while simultaneously expanding outdoor recreation opportunities. Talk about a win-win!

Some State Forests would become National Parks under this model. Primarily these would be areas that contain forest ecosystems that are under-represented in the National Parks network. Others may be particularly important for iconic threatened species like koalas or quolls. But in light of the fact that the reserve network is heavily biased to upland areas2,3, it’s likely that many of outstanding ecosystems will be those on the coastal lowlands. Or, to put it another way, those that are flat and boring and not so much fun for recreation. Another win-win perhaps.

And a win for the community!
The remaining forests could be classified according to their attributes: those close to large towns and future urban growth areas which have suitable terrain could be prioritised for higher impact recreation. Those linking to National Parks could be prioritised for connectivity and low impact recreation. This would allow people maximum opportunities to get out and play and cater for the needs of a growing population, while still preserving important natural values. It may even help to prise kids away from screens.

There’s no catch!
But what about wood? What about jobs? Well, the startling fact is, 80% of NSW’s wood is produced from plantations4. In the last decade plantation wood production has steadily grown while native timber output has crashed. The once-mighty timber company Gunns went bankrupt, mills have closed all over the state. Forestry Corporation lost $85 million between 2009 and 20125. $85 million paid for by the citizens of NSW. And their workforce has steadily declined to 596 in 20146. In contrast, tourism directly employs 159,000 people across the state and is growing7. It’s pretty clear on which side our bread is buttered.

We pay these huge sums of money for the privilege of driving our most iconic species to extinction8, stimulating forest dieback9, creating the only global deforestation front found in a developed nation10 and fuelling social conflict8. Temperate eucalypt forests are also some of the most carbon dense in the world11: logging releases this carbon, which drives climate change which in turn is predicted to increase extreme weather events12 in a country of extremes. Smart.

We could have it so much better. We could allow these remarkable forests to do what they do best: provide homes for wildlife and services to humans. And we could profit from it too. Investing resources into ecotourism will give NSW a future competitive advantage as our natural assets are the envy of billions of people worldwide. Grab a map. Have a look. It’s almost possible to travel from the Victorian border to Nowra without leaving a state forest! It’s not much different between Ballina and Port Macquarie.

How can we pay for this?
The reality is we are already paying for forest management via treasury grants to pay for fire management and feral animal control. Weeds are rife and a pain for neighbours. Forestry Corporation’s business model doesn’t account for these basic management requirements.

One funding model could see initial investment by government to provide infrastructure to support and encourage private tourism investors. A portion of their profits would pay for forest management and tourism infrastructure. New Zealand successfully operates such a model. Another option would be a user pays principle, much as the successful recreational fishing licence is currently operated, where forest recreational users pay a fee which goes toward the maintenance of infrastructure.

We must act right now
We have the chance of a generation right now. The Regional Forest Agreements expire in 2017-18. The commonwealth government wants to continue to prop up this ailing industry. Right now they’re attempting to make sure our forests can be fed into furnaces to produce power, locking in deforestation and the demise of forest species.

But NSW doesn’t have to play ball. We can become a world leader in outdoor adventure instead, opening up new tourism opportunities for regional areas. Conservationists, horse riders, mountain bikers, walkers, four-wheel drivers and all other outdoor fans need to work together to take this opportunity to end logging and take our forests back. It can be done. A conservative government in New Zealand managed it back in 1989. Together we are a formidable section of the population and together we can make this happen. Leisure, not logging, is the future.


1 Australian Forests and Climate Alliance. Open letter to the Australian Parliament, (2015).
2 Joppa, L. N. & Pfaff, A. High and Far: Biases in the Location of Protected Areas. PLoS ONE 4, e8273, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0008273 (2009).
3 Pressey, R. L., Whish, G. L., Barrett, T. W. & Watts, M. E. Effectiveness of protected areas in north-eastern New South Wales: recent trends in six measures. Biological Conservation 106, 57-69, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0006-3207(01)00229-4 (2002).
4 Ajani, J. Key information for NSW forest policy today, (2013).
5 Macintosh, A. The Australian native forest sector: causes of the decline and prospects for the future. Technical Brief No. 21. The Australia Institute (2013).
6 Forestry Corporation. Annual Report 2013-14, (2014).
7 Destination NSW. NSW tourism performance scorecard YE June 2014, (2014).
8 Feehely, J., Hammond-Deakin, N. & Millner, F. One Stop Chop: How Regional Forest Agreements streamline environmental destruction. (Lawyers for Forests, Melbourne, 2013).
9 Wardell-Johnson, G., Stone, C., Recher, H. F. & Lynch, J. J. Bell Miner Associated Dieback (BMAD) Independent Scientific Literature Review: A review of eucalypt dieback associated with Bell miner habitat in north-eastern New South Wales, Australia. DEC NSW Occassional Paper DEC 2006/116, (2006).
10 WWF. WWF Living Forests Report: Chapter 5. Saving Forests at Risk, (2015).
11 Keith, H., Mackey, B. G. & Lindenmayer, D. B. Re-evaluation of forest biomass carbon stocks and lessons from the world’s most carbon-dense forests. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106, 11635-11640, doi:10.1073/pnas.0901970106 (2009).
12 CSIRO. Climate Change in Australia, (2015).