ACADEMICS have again weighed into the tree clearing debate, saying forest retention targets should be built into Queensland’s vegetation management laws.
The University of Queensland researchers headed by Associate Professor Jonathan Rhodes say laws intended to protect Queensland’s most-threatened forests were failing.
“If the Queensland Government is serious about effective land-clearing laws, they should introduce targets for our most-threatened forests, beyond which no further forest loss is permitted,” he said.
“This has been implemented in other countries and could be combined with spatially targeted enforcement and incentive strategies.
“Negotiating environmental targets is difficult, but the alternative really is unthinkable.”
The academic commentary comes as the Palaszczuk government gears up its efforts to introduce controversial vegetation management laws, which were previously rejected by parliament in August 2016.
Now holding a majority in parliament, Labor is set to appease extreme green groups with a raft of controversial new vegetation management laws, which continue to be strongly opposed by farm groups.
AgForce president Grant Maudsley said the proposed new laws would limit the economic capacity of agriculture as well as leading to perverse environmental outcomes.
“The Palaszczuk government’s flawed laws are not just a step backwards for our industry, the proposed changes are a major threat to Queensland’s future growth and prosperity,” Mr Maudsley said.
“We need fair and balanced laws that will drive sustainable agricultural production and deliver good environmental outcomes for Queensland without strangling farmers in red tape.
Dr Rhodes said Queensland’s most threatened forests are being cleared at almost three times the rate of other forests.
He produced a seemingly confusing map to illustrate his claims.
“Our study found forests that have already lost 70 per cent or more of their original extent are being cleared 2.7 to 2.9 times faster than less-depleted forests,” he said.
“There is evidence government regulation helped lower clearing rates between 2000 and 2012, but the most at-risk forests are still not well protected.”
“The change of government in Queensland in 2012 made this worse, when regulations were eased and clearing increased dramatically.”
Dr Rhodes is a researcher at UQ’s School of Earth and Environmental Science.