Australia must boost biodiversity and threatened species protections, develop circular economies for forest products and improve carbon market frameworks to drive investment in the green economy.
That is according to three position statements published by Forestry Australia, the body representing 1,200 forest scientists, managers and growers who work in forests, plantations and environmental services.
Australia’s biodiversity is at risk amid concerns that the budget for threatened species recovery is just 15% of what is needed.
And according to Forestry Australia, it is among the world’s least funded for nature conservation, with the long-term investment required in monitoring, conservation, management and recovery programs.
The statement was the first of three released at the Australia and New Zealand Insitute of Foresters conference, attended by 475 delegates with addresses from 130 of Asia-Pacific’s “best and brightest forest scientists, agroforesters, and traditional owners.”
Covering Conservation of Threatened Species, Forest Carbon Markets and Thinning of Native Forests, the two-page statements inform policymakers, the media and the broader community about forest management issues.
Forestry Australia President Dr Michell Freeman said the statements “cut to the chase and provide clear information based on science, world’s best practice and evidence-based research.”
“Each Position Statement explains the context for the specific topic and presents Forestry Australia’s position, with supporting information,” Dr Freeman said.
It includes the highly contentious thinning of native forests – and the development of wood products from thinning operations.
Over the past 18 months, the WA and Victorian governments have accelerated the closure of State Forests, with native harvesting in public forests to cease from the end of this year.
However, Wood Central understands that both jurisdictions will continue to operate thinning operations. Forestry Australia recognises that “forest thinning is required to support the restoration of Country and to increase forest health and resilience through creating diverse and more open forest structures.”
It is pushing for greater engagement with Traditional Custodians “to heal Country, restore culturally recognisable forest structures, facilitate the re-introduction of cultural burning, or to generate wood products for community needs.”
“Thinning programs should be strategically planned and guided by clearly defined management objectives. In public native forests, this should include appropriate community consultation and consideration of aesthetic values,” the position statement said.
It can also produce large quantities of small-diameter woody material, “which can increase bushfire risk if left on the forest floor.”
To reduce fire risk and prevent waste, “it is essential to have a viable market for small-diameter timber.”
“Demand for bioenergy, bioplastics, reconstituted wood composites and innovative sawmilling technologies all present a range of opportunities to enable the utilisation of these small-diameter wood products”.
“Recovering and selling the wood byproducts of thinning can also offset management costs or provide a revenue stream to fund other important active and adaptive forest management activities, as well as monitoring and research.”
Forestry Australia says ecological thinning can enhance forest health, resilience and biodiversity.
“While there is relatively limited published research on the benefits of ecological thinning per se in Australia, there is a large body of evidence from monitoring, research and trials in the context of thinning for timber production,” according to the position statement.
“Evidence from Australian and international research also shows that when combined with prescribed burning to reduce fuel hazards, thinning of forests can significantly reduce wildfire risks and impacts in dry forests, when compared with no treatment or thinning alone.”
Last week, Wood Central reported that global investors look to forests and nature capital assets for “large-scale sustainable investment with compelling risk-adjusted returns.”
However, there are concerns that the Australian Government’s benchmarking criteria for financial investment has made ESG investments like foresty too risky for super funds.
Forestry Australia is calling on the Government to introduce carbon market frameworks that “incentivise best practice tree growing and forest management through crediting genuine additional emissions abatement and adapting to new information or identified approaches.”
It is pushing for targeted strategies to remove barriers to expanding the forest estate, “particularly for farmers and primary producers,” to help the Australian Government meet its net-zero target by 2050.
To achieve this, Forestry Australia said ongoing reforms to the carbon market frameworks must:
- protect and enhance the integrity of the carbon market; – broaden the range of sustainable forest establishment and management activities that are eligible for recognition;
- broaden the scope of methods for ecologically sustainable management of native forests; and
- work to increase the commercial viability of forest carbon projects and address barriers to participation for small-scale forest growers.
The record-breaking Australia and New Zealand Forestry Conference wrapped up last Thursday with the theme “Embracing Our Natural Capital: The Science, Technology and Art of Managing Forests For All Values.”
Among the Keynote Speakers at the Conference included nationally recognised identities, Dr Neil Byron and Dr Elizabeth Heagney,
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