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International Year of Forests: we take the opportunity to highlight just a few of Australia's forest issues, protests and campaigns.

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Tasmania

"Provide protection for the last remaining areas of high conservation value native forests.

By Lindsay Hesketh, ACF

Last year, ACF was proud to be a participant in a major breakthrough in the long running dispute over Tasmania's forests.

Working with other Tasmanian environment groups we engaged with industry, union and timber community organisations to end the conflict and set a new direction for the state's forest industry, community and environment.

After eight months of intense talks a Statement of Principles was signed in October--the first step in resolving the conflict, protecting native forests and developing a strong sustainable timber industry.

A key element of the principles was a full moratorium on logging in high conservation forests, originally set to begin in March 2011. Disappointingly, this has since been delayed six months to September.

With the continued support of so many who care for our environment, we will campaign vigorously during 2011 for permanent protection of the last remaining areas of high conservation value native forests, and a planned withdrawal of industrial forestry from native forests.

We will urge the timber industry to begin restructuring, such as transitioning commodity wood production into well managed plantation forestry. Significant land use planning reforms will also be pursued.

Changes to the way our native forests are managed will not only ensure healthy country but will deliver real benefits in carbon storage and help meet carbon emission reduction targets.

www.acfonline.org.au/forests

Victoria

"Victoria's native forests have been identified as the most carbon-dense forests in the world.

By Lauren Caulfield, Friends of the Earth

In 2009, 45,000 hectares of old growth forests and icon areas received permanent protection as additions to East Gippsland's national parks.

The campaign to protect the remaining old growth and negligibly disturbed forests in the regioncontinues to grow as the equivalent of 13 football fields of forest continues to be logged in East Gippsland each day.

Tall montane forested catchments in Victoria's Central Highlands and Central Gippsland, containing the habitats of threatened species including the Leadbeater Possum and Sooty Owl, continue to be logged at an alarming rate.

Clearfell logging also continues in five of Melbourne's water supply catchments, including our largest catchment containing the Thomson Dam. These logging practices cause not only erosion and pollution, but subsequent regrowth forest reduce water flow into our dams by as much as half.

Reduced forest age has also made large areas immensely vulnerable to terminal wildfire events, destabilising the landscape. Victoria's native forests have been identified as the most carbondense forests in the world. Logging and post-logging burning releases vast quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Protecting Victoria's forests, by conserving existing old growth forests and allowing previously degraded forests to restore their lost carbon is vital to tackling climate change.

New South Wales

"Producing 'renewable energy' from irreplaceable native forests has triggered a major state campaign.

By Bev Smiles, National Parks Association of NSW

Significant outcomes have been achieved in western NSW to preserve high conservation values ecosystems from the impacts of native forest logging.

In 2005, 350,000 hectares of western woodlands in the Brigalow Belt South and Nandewar bioregions were protected in a new reserve system, including the Pilliga and Goonoo forests in central and north west of the state.

In 2010, 170,000 hectares of the iconic River Red Gum wetland forests along the Murray, Murrumbidgee and Lachlan rivers have been gazette as new reserves, including new Indigenous protected areas and joint management agreements for Traditional Owners. This outcome has protected the largest areas of River Red Gums in the world. A further 70,000 hectares of woodland and cypress forest was protected in south western NSW.

Meanwhile, in the coastal regions where Regional Forestry Agreements have been negotiated, there is an ongoing struggle with regulation and compliance of timber harvesting operations for threatened species protection. Both the north coast and south coast regions have experienced serious breaches of license conditions and poor management by Forest NSW.

The overly ambitious 20 year wood supply agreements have pushed harvesting activities into more remote and steeper areas causing major issues with roads, erosion and stream pollution.

The logging of critical koala habitat has become a recent conservation battle on the south coast, as well as a proposal to produce electricity from native timber. The greenwash of producing 'renewable energy' from irreplaceable native forests, as a means to maintain a market for low value woodchips, has triggered a major state campaign.

Key problems with the NSW Government Private Native Forestry regulations have revealed large areas of rainforest and old growth timber have been illegally logged and important remnants in heavily cleared landscapes are being threatened.

Recent actions to mark International Forest Day on March 21 demonstrated that forest activists in NSW are continuing to make their voices heard.

Queensland

"The struggle to save the rainforests from immediate threats saw the region's natural values celebrated.,te s protect its cultural values too,

By Andrew Picone, ACF

The Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (WHA) of far north Queensland is 22 years old and in some ways, it has come of age.

Back in the late 1980s, when Bjelke-Petersen's Queensland Government was trying to log, sell or sub-divide as much of the Wet Tropics as possible, the Commonwealth Government was weighing up its options on nominating the area for World Heritage listing. Beginning with the Bloomfield track, the controversial road linking Cape Tribulation with coastal communities such as Ayton, Bloomfield and Wujal Wujal, the nation's attention was drawn to the region with the slogan 'Save the Daintree'.

The struggle to save the rainforests from immediate threats saw the region's natural values celebrated. Ancient origins, endemic species, rare and endangered fluffy creatures like the White Lemuroid Ringtail Possum captured the publics' imagination and convinced the Hawke Government of the day to take a stance against the state and declare World Heritage listing of its natural values.

But that was only half the story. The Wet Tropics WHA includes part or all of the traditional homelands of more than 20 Aboriginal clans. Traditional Owners of the region continue to maintain strong cultural association to their country despite 200 odd years of European dispossession.

There is widespread recognition within the region today that Traditional Owners were not properly consulted during the World Heritage process. There has also been ongoing frustration that management authorities and regional organisations have been slow to include cultural values in management plans and engage with Traditional Owners on joint management arrangements.

Leah Talbot, a Yalanji person, the Traditional Owners around the Bloomfield River and ACF's Cape York campaigner explains: "Indigenous recognition and involvement in management of the Wet Tropics WHA remains outstanding. The Queensland Government needs to apply consistent recognition to Indigenous people and protected areas and expand the principles of joint management as it is currently doing on Cape York to the Wet Tropics. It's very important our landscapes are recognised for their cultural significance as well as their natural values. Such an icon like the Wet Tropics has had continuous Indigenous connections that need to be recognised."

The Commonwealth Government has set in motion a process to re-nominate the Wet Tropics WHA for its cultural values. This is in response to over 15 years of pressure from Traditional Owner groups from the Wet Tropics region with support from the conservation movement.

www.acfonline.org.au/nap

Western Australia

If the government fails to provide the necessary leadership then the commercial sector will continue to drive the change.

By Jess Beckerling, Western Australian Forest Alliance

The UN international Year of the Forest coincides with the 10 year anniversary of the protection of around 300,000 hectares of karri, jarrah and tingle forests in WA.

The spotlight this year is on what can again be achieved through community activism.

Conservationists' deepest fears were confirmed last year with the EPA's audit of the current Forest Management Plan (FMP). The report found that WA forests are under considerable ecological stress as a result of increased pressure from various threats including climate change, disease and decades of unsustainable logging and mining practices.

The EPA suggested continued logging jarrah forests would be ecologically unsustainable under current conditions. The Barnett Government hasn't allowed that to slow them down though, and logging and clearing have continued.

This is despite the fact that the native forest logging sector of the timber industry fails to provide any return to the state. We are funding the destruction of our irreplaceable forests. We are paying to push our endemic species like the red tail black cockatoo and numbat closer to the brink of extinction.

Change is inevitable. If the government fails to provide the necessary leadership then the commercial sector will continue to drive the change. When Gunns Ltd, the biggest buyer of native forest logs closed their last mill without having found a buyer in February this year it became self evident that the industry is no longer economically viable and restructure is essential.

The current FMP expires in two years. Conservation groups are united in the view that work on the next plan should begin immediately and that all logging, clearing and thinning of native forests should be ruled out in favour of management practices concerned with ecological restoration and biodiversity preservation.

We've come a long way in WA and in this International Year of the Forests we're determined to shine the light brightly on our magnificent forests and the creatures that live in them in the interests of their survival.

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Title Annotation:Forest appeal
Publication:Habitat Australia
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:May 1, 2011
Words:1590
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