16 Dec 2022
QUEENSLAND REMAINS THE LAND CLEARING CAPITAL OF AUSTRALIA
The World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia said land is still being cleared in Queensland at an alarming rate, following the release of the SLATS report which revealed 418,656 hectares were bulldozed in 2019-20.
“That’s the equivalent of 567 MCG’s per day. Queensland is still the land clearing capital of Australia and that’s got to stop,” said WWF-Australia Project Manager, Towards Two Billion Trees, Vanessa Keogh.
Of the amount cleared more than 50% – 216,335 hectares – was older than 15 years, with the more mature forests often rich with wildlife, providing homes for threatened species and acting as a major carbon store.
Sadly, this shows land clearing in Queensland continues to result in a net loss for vegetation, particularly for forests older than 15 years, with 216,335 ha lost and only 8,503 hectares of regrowth reported.
“Queensland Government has world class data and vegetation scientists. The data shows that clearing is not just immature regrowth. There is a deforestation issue in Queensland, and now is the time to work together to address it,” Ms Keogh said.
The concerning level of clearing comes as Queensland populations of two forest-dependent species, koalas and greater gliders, were both uplisted to endangered with extinction this year. Habitat destruction is a major cause of decline in both species.
WWF-Australia is calling for loopholes in regulations to be closed, improved incentives to support livestock producers to become deforestation-free and zero carbon, and more transparency surrounding the data.
“Many farmers are doing the right thing and retaining trees on their land. There is growing interest from national and international markets in deforestation-free products."
“These farmers are likely to have a growing market advantage. However, the actions of a few are damaging the reputation of all farmers – Queensland farmers are being tarred with the same brush."
“The Government could play a key role in improving the performance of the whole industry through targeted tightening of regulation and improved incentives."
There are also concerns over continued clearing in Great Barrier Reef catchments, with Australia battling to stop this global icon being declared world heritage “in danger”.
The latest figures showed 182,904 hectares were bulldozed in these catchments, potentially worsening erosion and increasing the amount of sediment flowing onto coral and seagrass.
Last month the report of UNESCO’s Reef monitoring mission called for strengthened laws to protect forests and woodlands in Reef catchments and a review of sites where clearing is currently allowed without permits (Category X).
“There are so many wins in retaining trees on farms. Wins for farmers in accessing markets and diversifying incomes through carbon markets, wins for koalas, greater gliders and other threatened species, wins for climate and wins for the Reef."
Lastly, Ms Keogh predicted some may argue there is now more forest than in previous years, given the amount of regrowth.
“That’s based on data that gives scrubby regrowth the same value as forest hundreds of years old. Tree hollows, essential for many Australian species, can take over 200 years to form, the clearing of these habitats must stop” she said.
WWF is working with other conservation organisations as part of the Queensland Forest Alliance to develop and advocate a pathway for Queensland to end deforestation and degradation of high conservation value forest and woodland by 2030.