3 June 2019

One football field of forest lost every five minutes and the worst is yet to come

The Berejiklian government must release up-to-date deforestation data so the public understands the full impact of environmental laws it weakened in 2017.

Data obtained under freedom of information laws by the Sydney Morning Herald shows deforestation rates ramped up massively in the two years before land-clearing laws were scrapped, making it easier to bulldoze native bushland and clear-fell native forest.

Based on these data, forest and woodland was lost at a rate of about one football field every five minutes during the 2016 and 2017 financial years. 

Key findings -

  • 79% increase in total deforestation (excluding fire) - up from 33,300ha to 59,700ha.
  • 108% increase in deforestation for crops and pasture - up from 9,700 to 20,200ha.
  • 80% increase in canopy loss from forestry and logging - up from 18,600ha to 33,500ha.
  • 66% of deforestation in NSW occurred in five local government area:
  • Cobar – 5,279ha (Cobar)
  • Wentworth – 4,722ha (lower murray - Mildura)
  • Walgett - 3,504ha (northwest NSW)
  • Bogan - 3,204ha (Nyngan - Central West NSW)

NSW Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said: “This is more damning evidence that under Premier Berejiklian deforestation and land clearing are out of control and rapidly rising, with dire consequences for threatened species like koalas.

“The scariest thing about this data is that it only represents the two years prior to new land-clearing laws introduced at the end of 2017.

“This was just large agribusinesses warming up their bulldozers and chainsaws in anticipation of the new relaxed regime, safe in the knowledge they wouldn’t be held to account for their destruction.

“Deforestation and climate change are driving hundreds of species to the brink of extinction in NSW. It is time for Premier Berejikilian to show some leadership and introduce strong protections for our native forests and animals.”

National Parks Association Senior Ecologist Oisín Sweeney said: “It’s worrying that the sharp increase in canopy loss to logging in coastal LGAs has come even before the impacts of new logging laws passed in late 2018 are apparent.

“These laws provide for a much greater intensity of logging - including in areas that have been protected for decades. It’s therefore highly likely that the impact of logging will become even greater in subsequent report cards.

“EPA data shows that, on average, 20% of logged areas fail to regenerate. So the more forest we log, the more forest we lose. 

“Given the context of dual nature and climate crises, the figures again highlight how we urgently need to transition away from industrialised logging and protect our forests to prevent extinctions and store carbon.”

Deforestation Data - FY2012-FY2017

Spot 5 and Sentinel 2

2011-12

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

2015-16

2016-17

% increase FY15 v FY17

Crop, pasture, thinning

8,500

9,100

9,200

9,700

13,100

20,200

108

Forestry #

20,700

21,500

20,200

18,600

21,800

33,500

80

Infrastructure

4,400

3,900

4,800

5,000

4,100

6,000

20

Fire

6,900

71,400

71,900

6,700

10,100

22,300

233

Total

40,500

105,900

106,100

40,000

49,100

82,000

105

Total without fire

33,600

34,500

34,200

33,300

39,000

59,700

79

Source: NSW Native Vegetation Data Spreadsheet - Obtained under Freedom of Information

# The data appear to conflate plantation forestry with native forest logging, though this is hard to confirm. However, the sharp increases in canopy loss due to logging in coastal LGAs are unlikely to be explained by plantation forestry as native forest logging is the dominant form of forestry in many of these areas.

 

 

    

 

 

Tags

Forests and wildlife

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