Today the long overdue national State of the Environment report was released to the public by the new federal Minister for the Environment, the Hon Tanya Plibersek MP. The report shows the health of Australia’s environment is poor and has deteriorated over the past five years due to pressures of climate change, habitat loss, invasive species, pollution and mining.
That data shows half of Australia is now used for grazing and the areas turned over to logging have increased. More than 6.1m hectares of primary native forest (an area more than six times the size of suburban Melbourne) had been cleared since 1990. Over the five years to 2019 nearly 290,000 hectares of primary native forest and 343,000 hectares of native forest previously logged was cleared for a second or third time.
As a nation we have lost more mammal species than any other continent, and have one of the highest rates of species decline in the developed world. More than 100 Australian species have been listed as either extinct or extinct in the wild. The major causes of extinction are habitat destruction and clearing, and the impact of invasive plant and animal species.
The national report highlights just how little we know about the state of Tasmania’s environment as Tasmania’s last State of the Environment report was 13 years ago, and since then wide-spread environmental deregulation has occurred, while our forests continue to be logged and biodiversity is in rapid decline.
In Tasmania we have a number of endangered species – including the Tasmanian, masked owl, Spotted tail quoll, Tasmanian devil, Simsons stag beetle, wedge tailed eagles and Giant freshwater crayfish – all being actively threatened by deliberately ineffectual national and state environmental laws that allow destruction of their habitat through native forest logging and clearing
The deliberate knobbling of environmental protection laws involves a special carve out for native forest logging industries, in which the state based Regional Forest Agreement exempts native forest logging from federal Environmental Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act assessment. Permitting the broad-scale clearing of native forest habitat under a unique system created by the Tasmanian government, which regulates the government business enterprise Sustainable Timber Tasmania as the agency that logs our forests. Furthermore there is an ongoing failure to include climate impacts of native forests logging and burning, which leaves no capacity to account for carbon emissions.
We welcome Minster Plibersek's commitment to review the EPBCA, with the first fix that needs to be undertaken is to abolish the exemption of native forest logging from the federal laws. This is something that scientists, conservationists and legal experts have been calling for since 1997 when this loophole was created. Now is the time we can all put our voices to making this change happen, before we lose any more forests or threatened species.
Send Minister Plibersek ( firstname.lastname@example.org )a message to fix the broken laws that exempt native forest logging from environmental protection laws, and more importantly protect our remnant native forests from logging for their carbon values and biodiversity.
Our forests are worth more standing.