Forest facts

Australian Forest Facts, as at September 2010

  • Remaining old growth forests - just eight percent of Australia's original old growth forests remain today. Half of these are unprotected and targeted for intensive logging and woodchipping.
  • Total remaining forest - Since European settlement half Australia's forests have been cleared, so that now only five percent of the country has any forest cover at all
  • We don't get to vote on forests - Australians do not get to vote on forests, or for major parties that have differing policies on forests.  Both the Labor party and the Coalition support ongoing logging of native forests at state level (NSW, Victoria and Tasmania) and at the federal level
  • Land clearing - Australia's woodlands are being cleared at the rate of five thousand square kilometres per year, and our forests logged at the rate of two thousand square kilometres per year.
  • Burning forests for power - The Howard Government has enacted legislation (Commonwealth Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000) to allow the burning of forests for power generation - as part of Australia's greenhouse gas abatement program!  This was and still is supported by Federal Labor as well. 
  • RFAs are a failure - the Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) process has seen a dramatic increase in the volume of native forest woodchip exports, particularly in Tasmania and Victoria, and a significant decrease in associated jobs
  • Woodchip export volumes - current annual native forest woodchip exports are:  NSW 500,000 tonnes, VIC 2 million tonnes, TAS 4 million tonnes
  • Clearing native forests for plantations - In Tasmania, forests are being cleared at the rate of 15,000ha a year for plantation establishment, using Commonwealth Government funds. Proportionally, Tasmania has the highest rate of land clearing in Australia. It is the only state that still allows rainforest logging and clearing.
  • Species extinctions - "There are localised extinctions occurring due to current forestry practices and there is a significant risk of future global extinctions." Professor Tony Norton, RMIT; Professor Hugh Possingham, University of Adelaide; Professor Harry F. Recher, Edith Cowan University
  • Species threatened by logging include the Koala, Sooty Owl, Glossy Black Cockatoo, Yellow-bellied Glider, Chuditch, Numbat, Leadbeater's Possum, Mount Baw Baw Frog, Tasmanian Wedge-tailed Eagle, the Spot-tailed Quoll and the Long footed Potoroo.
  • Hollows don't start to form in trees until they are between 100 and 150 years old.  These hollows are essential for the survival of many animal species, including birds and marsupials.  Current logging rotations of 30 to 50 years mean that logged forests do not regain this critical habitat.
  • Wildlife is often poisoned with 1080 to stop them eating seedlings during regrowth of logged areas
  • Fires in forests - Clearfelling a forest does not mimic the impact of natural fires. Logged areas ("coops") are burnt with very hot fires, sometimes started with napalm, to prepare a "seed bed" for growth of commercial timber species.  Rainforest species are destroyed and eliminated in the process.
  • Plantation resource is available - we already have enough softwood and hardwood plantations to meet all our domestic timber needs; to immediately stop logging our old growth forests
Plantation management

While plantations can and should provide a sustainable resource for wood products, there are many examples of poor, environmentally destructive plantation establishment and management practices such as:
  • Clearing native forests and woodlands
  • Use of pesticides and fertilisers
  • Failure to protect streams and water catchments
  • Soil erosion on steep slopes
  • Use of genetically modified trees
East Gippsland
  • In 1994 only 20% of East Gippsland old growth forest remained.  Half of it was protected in National Parks   A study of the old growth forests of East Gippsland , 1994, Woodgate, Peel et al
  • There are highly questionable Department of Sustainabilty and Enviroment (DSE) definitions about what is old growth, what is protected, and what is "signficant".
  • In 2010, the Supreme Court of Victoria determined that at Brown Mountain the Victorian Government and VicForests were not ensuring that surveys for threatened species that were required by law.
  • Over 80% of timber taken from East Gippsland forests ends up as woodchips.  About 2% of timber is classified as furniture grade.
Logging is entering end-game; nearly all remaining HCV forest is gone or is targeted.

Water Catchments

  • Water catchments are sill being logged (Armstrongs Creek, Cement Creek, and Marysville)
  • Logging in water catchments reduces quantity and quality of water (which then requires chlorine treatment)

  • In 2002, an estimated 6.5 million tonnes of woodchips was produced, with 88% coming from the destruction of native forest. This is more than 80% of Australia's total woodchip exports and about 95% of the hardwood chips.
See also