South-east Queensland Forests Agreement: conservation outcomes for forest fauna
P. Norman, G. Smith, C.A. McAlpine, A. Borsboom, 2004. "South-east Queensland Forests Agreement: conservation outcomes for forest fauna", Conservation of Australia's Forest Fauna, Daniel Lunney
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South-east Queensland (SEQ) was the target of 1 of 10 joint Commonwealth-State Governments comprehensive regional assessments (CRAs) conducted in preparation for Regional Forests Agreements (RFAs) in Australia during the 1990s/early 2000s. Work towards a SEQ RFA commenced in 1993, a SEQ Forests Agreement (so called because it did not in the end involve the Commonwealth Government as a partner) was signed in 1999, and is presently being implemented. Forests of SEQ are ecologically significant with high levels of faunal species diversity and endemism. Human population is high, and growing rapidly, placing habitats and species under threat. Improved conservation of forest biodiversity is a major goal of the SEQFA, stated objectives of the process include a world-class conservation reserve system and ecologically sustainable management of forests.
The SEQFA has, on the face of it, achieved its goal. The total area of National Park in the Region has more than doubled with 425,000 hectares of forest changing tenure from State Forest immediately. Logging is no longer permitted in all publicly-owned (i.e. National Park, State Forest and leasehold land) rainforest and almost 100% of wet sclerophyll habitats. It is to be progressively excluded from the remainder of publicly-owned forest over the ensuing 25 years. A commitment to greatly increase the establishment of native species plantations also has some potential to provide additional habitat for native fauna.
However, some compromises were required to reach agreement. Dry sclerophyll habitats were under-represented in National Parks in SEQ prior to the Forest Agreement (at 9% of pre-European extent) and remain so relative to other habitat types (at 20% of pre-European extent). Timber harvesting had traditionally been practised using the relatively conservative single-tree and small-group selection approaches. The Agreement has accepted the adoption of more intense harvesting practices to maintain woodflows to industry from publicly-owned forests (i.e. State Forests) during the phase-out period. Dry sclerophyll forests that comprise the majority of the area where logging is permitted will bear the brunt of this logging with likely short and long-term consequences for habitat quality, especially for hollow-dependent fauna. Native forest habitats on freehold land, where environmental controls on harvesting are less rigorous, are also likely to suffer from increased pressure as the timber industry seeks to counter the declining quality, and ultimately quantity, of logs from publicly-owned native forests. Pressure to maximise timber production from plantations in compensation for declining access to timber from publicly-owned native forests will also negatively impact on the quality of habitat they are able to provide