According to a recent report on forests by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) there are eleven deforestation hotspots in the world including the Amazon, Borneo, Sumatra, the Congo Basin and East Africa. At current rates of deforestation 80% of global forests could be lost by 2030.
Eastern Australia is one of these hotspots. About 70% of the forests of eastern Australia have already been cleared or disturbed and only 18% of forests are under some form of protection. Forest loss in Australia is primarily the result of clearing for agriculture/grazing and mining as well as unsustainable logging.
According to the report between three million and six million hectares of rainforest and temperate forest could be lost mainly across NSW and Queensland between 2010 and 2030.
In relation to Queensland, WWF pointed out that the watering down of environmental protections by the former LNP (Liberal-National Party) government led to a sharp rise in land clearing, with 275,000 hectares cleared in the past financial year - a tripling of vegetation loss since 2010.
The NSW government plans to amend land clearing protections – a promise made several days before the March 28 election. This means a watering down of protection which does not appear to be consistent with a $100 million pledge to protect the state’s threatened plants and animals.
Dermot O’Gorman, chief executive of WWF Australia, says WWF is deeply concerned about NSW. He says the existing laws have been shown to have been effective in saving hundreds of thousands of animals and that effective protection of biodiversity needs to be continued.
“Maintaining forest protections is vital at a state level. We’ve lost the large majority of the eastern Australia forest, which means the remaining forests are even more important to maintain,” Mr O’Gorman said.
“If business as usual continues, we will see more Australian species disappear, as well as the continuing decline of our water, topsoil and local and regional climate.”
The NSW Government needs to think very carefully before it waters down laws which are helping to protect the health of the natural world which provides important services to humanity.
- Leonie Blain
This post was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on May 11, 2015.