The good, the bad and the ugly: science, process and politics in forestry reform and the implications for conservation of forest fauna in north-east New South Wales
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Carmel Flint, Dailan Pugh, Daniel Beaver, 2004. "The good, the bad and the ugly: science, process and politics in forestry reform and the implications for conservation of forest fauna in north-east New South Wales", Conservation of Australia's Forest Fauna, Daniel Lunney
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The most recent round of the forestry reform process in north-east NSW began in 1995 and resulted in the direct reservation of 737,602 hectares of forest as National Parks estate in north-east NSW, the exclusion of logging from all mapped oldgrowth forest (greater than 25 hectares) and rainforest in remaining State Forests, and the provision of 20 year, binding wood supply agreements to the timber industry in the region at 50% of 1995 levels. The forestry reform process is reviewed and a qualitative assessment of its impact on forest fauna conducted. The process was successful in using comprehensive spatial information on fauna distributions in the form of quantitative habitat models, in applying a rigorous method to set fauna reservation targets, and in employing recognised conservation planning software in reserve selection with fauna as one of the key parameters that determined reserve placement. These all represented important positive developments for the conservation of forest fauna in north-east NSW, which ensured that many of the areas identified for reservation were high priority areas for fauna conservation. However, the forestry reform process also included aspects that resulted in significant negative outcomes for forest fauna including; the use of timber commitments rather than fauna needs to determine the overall scale of reserves, the provision of long-term wood supply agreements to the timber industry at demonstrably unsustainable levels, the development of a substandard set of requirements for management on remaining State Forest areas, and the drastic weakening of legislative controls on logging operations which allow for increased intensification over time.
Reservation targets set during the forestry reform process were used to provide an empirical assessment of reserve adequacy for fauna in the region. The assessment indicates that only 29% of priority fauna populations have fully achieved reservation targets in north-east NSW, and that across all populations, mean target achievement is only 49%. Therefore, the scale of the reserve outcome does not satisfy the national reserve criteria for forests and is considered to be inadequate to ensure the survival of priority species in north-east NSW. The target assessment indicates that the most poorly reserved habitats are dry coastal and dry tablelands sclerophyll forests, and habitat for species with large home ranges and species most vulnerable to threatening processes. While additional gains in reservation target achievement can still be made through the reservation of public lands, the large gains in habitat protection now required will have to be made on private land in the region. Future conservation efforts for fauna in the region should include; making full use of the current knowledge of fauna distributions and reservation status through appropriate publication and distribution of existing information; improving and refining the priority fauna habitat models, reservation targets and conservation requirements; and providing strong legislative protection for priority fauna habitat, as depicted by quantitative fauna models, across all land tenures. A clear lesson from the forestry reform process in north-east NSW is that independent (i.e. non-Government) scientific involvement is crucial to the scientific integrity of conservation outcomes and assessments conducted by Governments via bureaucratic processes. Increased involvement by independent scientists in an active and direct way into the political process is also required to lessen the divide between science and politics into the future.