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RFA Have Your Say by 30th June


The Victorian and Australian Governments are accepting submissions about the "Modernisation of the Victorian Regional Forest Agreements" at https://engage.vic.gov.au/future-of-our-forests/rfa-consultation-paper


It would be great to have local voices heard in this process before the closing date of 30th June. Sarah from Friends of the Earth Forest Collective has drafted some example responses to assist as follows -


The Victorian government is doing a public survey to assess future forest

management. There is a danger that industry lobbying may result in a further 20 years of

unsustainable logging for paper (75%) and timber (25% of logs, industry figures), if

communities fail to speak out. An Independent Consultation Paper by Dr W Jackson is available for the public consultation process. This paper, and the survey about forests, is on the website shown below. We have matched the survey questions with responses (IN BOLD), as a guide in case you are concerned, like us, that too much forest has been

destroyed already. Of course it is better if you respond to the survey in your own words, with your own opinion.


THIS IS JUST A GUIDE


This consultation is under way until the end of June.


Find it online at:

engage.vic.gov.au/future-of-our-forests/rfa-consultation-paper

Public consultation via the survey closes Sunday 30 June 2019 midnight


Survey

1. What changes have you seen in the RFA regions?

Sawmills closed, river and creek water levels down, farmers worried.


2. What should the Victorian RFAs aim to achieve over the next 20 years?

The RFAs should be allowed to lapse, to expire at the end of their current extended term,

meaning a full transition away from native forest logging.


3. What are the potential improvements you think should be made?

- During transition, remove the RFA exemption from the Commonwealth Environment

Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act), unique to the logging industry, to

put it on the same basis as any other industry that could impact EPBC listed species.

- Discontinue extraction of pulplogs from native forest in the transition period, referred to

in RFAs as residual logs. This erroneously suggests such logs remain after a greater

quantity has gone to sawlogs, but under the RFAs the amount of pulplogs has increased

about seventy times beyond the 1937 residual amount (5000 cu.m.), and sawlogs are

downgraded to meet pulplog quotas.

- Meet the commitment for 350,000 cu.m./year pulplogs to Australian Paper until 30 June

2030 from sources outside native forest or else terminate the contract (if there is a

problem with availability).


4. How could the potential improvements in the consultation paper help modernise the Victorian RFAs?

Manage forests for conservation, water supply, tourism, other economic & social

opportunities, and accept that wood production, export woodchipping and paper pulp

have depleted our forest at unsustainable levels.

Any further development of the wood & paper products industry should use plantation

sources, which will be more economically viable when not competing with a subsidised

logging industry in public native forests.


5. Do you have any views on which potential improvements are most important?

In the face of the current climate emergency, maintaining intact native forests as a

carbon sink is the best course of action for the public estate.


THEME ONE: ECOLOGICALLY SUSTAINABLE FOREST MANAGEMENT

The Independent Consultation Paper suggests that:

Whilst the vision of Australia's National Forest Policy Statement included a 'holistic' approach to managing forests for all their values and uses, so as to optimise benefits to the community, the Victorian RFAs have tended to focus on conservation of forest biodiversity and timber

production. ...


6. How do you use forests in your region?

Regularly visiting the forest, bearing witness to biodiversity loss, saddened by threatened species decline.


7. How could the RFAs better provide for multiple forest uses (i.e. recreation, conservation,

livelihood and economy)?

By terminating the unsustainable native forest logging industry and lapsing the RFAs.


1.2 CONSERVE FOREST DIVERSITY AND MAINTAIN ECOSYSTEM HEALTH

The Independent Consultation Paper suggests that:

Two decades ago, the RFA process supported the expansion of the Comprehensive, Adequate & Representative (CAR) reserve system and included a focus on threatened species. However, despite these efforts, biodiversity continues to be lost from Victoria and further effort is needed to halt and reverse the decline. ...


8. What are your views on existing environmental protections afforded across the entire forest estate (including parks, reserves and State forests) through the RFAs?

Environmental protections are woefully inadequate, connectivity is lacking, limiting re-

colonisation of Cool Temperate Rainforest and Cool Temperate Mixed Forest (both listed Threatened Communities in Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act) into areas where they

previously occurred. With climate impacts increasing, the State Government has a duty

of care to maintain forest integrity, especially in areas of Wet Sclerophyll forest

containing Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans), the tallest of all flowering trees.


9. How could the environmental protections be improved?

As noted above, remove the RFA exemption from the EPBC Act, which is unique to the

logging industry, like any other industry that could impact EPBC listed species.

Transition jobs away from public native forest, adopt longer rotations for trees in

plantations for future timber supply, not just for paper.

Establish new plantations on suitable land to enhance connectivity between forest areas.


1.3 PROMOTE TRADITIONAL OWNER RIGHTS AND PARTNERSHIP

The Independent Consultation Paper suggests that:

DELWP has already committed to building collaborative relationships and working partnerships with Victorian Traditional Owner groups. This includes increasing the involvement of Traditional Owner groups in the management of country. ...


10. What opportunities could the RFAs provide to support access to and traditional use of

forests by Traditional Owners and Aboriginal people?

Get logging out of native forest so there are still some values intact on country for

traditional custodians.


11. How could the RFAs enable the legal rights of Traditional Owners to partner in land

management and seek economic and cultural opportunities to be realised in future forest

management?

Create opportunities for first nation stakeholder groups to have custodianship restored

within a multiple purpose reserve system.


THEME TWO: THE LONG-TERM STABILITY OF FORESTS AND FOREST INDUSTRIES


2.1 ADDRESS CLIMATE CHANGE AND OTHER LARGE SCALE DISTURBANCES

The Independent Consultation Paper suggests that:

Climate change and other large-scale disturbances, including landscape-level fires and invasive species, are threats to Victoria's forest biodiversity, forest-dependent industries and the communities that live near forests. ...


12. How could the RFAs consider climate change and other large-scale natural disturbances

(including bushfires)?

Accept scientific reports linking logged forest areas (for timber and paper production) to

dryer landscapes, loss of rainforest understorey species and consequently an increased

fire-risk.

Regeneration burns after logging further add to this risk, and do not meet the same

regulatory standards that are imposed on other industries for incineration of waste.

Restoration of Cool Temperate and Warm Temperate rainforest species reduces fire risk.


2.2 SUPPORT THE DEVELOPMENT OF FOREST DEPENDENT INDUSTRIES

The Independent Consultation Paper suggests that:

The Victorian RFAs have not achieved long-term stability of supply for the timber industry.

Without certainty of supply, it is difficult for the timber industry to invest with confidence, to

develop value added approaches to processing wood products or to support efforts to reduce

greenhouse gas emissions using low embodied energy building materials ...


13. How could the RFAs better address industry sustainability?

Funding for plantations set up and managed on longer rotations so they can supply

timber not just paper.


14. How could the RFAs encourage investment and new market opportunities for forest-based industries (including the forests and wood products industry, tourism, apiary and emerging markets such as carbon)?

Carbon sequestration is the most important investment for the future, as it is critical to

achieving emission reduction targets. Other viable uses and industries (water security,

beekeeping, seed supply for plant nurseries) are compatible where forest is retained.

Supply of water from the de-salination plant is equal to the loss of catchment water yield

after logging.


THEME THREE: GOVERNANCE AND MANAGEMENT OF VICTORIA'S FORESTS


3.1 SUPPORT THE VICTORIAN GOVERNMENT EFFORTS TO IMPROVE FOREST

MANAGEMENT PLANNING

The Independent Consultation Paper suggests that:

Victoria's approach to forest management planning has served the State well, but forest

management plans now require renewal. The Victorian Government has indicated an intention to update forest management plans and it is important that this happens. ...


15. How can the RFAs support the adaptive management of Victoria's forests in response to

emerging issues (e.g. major bushfires) and opportunities (e.g. emerging industries)?

There should be no experimentation at the expense of threatened species habitat, under

any guise. Ecologically sustainable forest management (ESFM) is best evaluated away

from public native forest, with plantations for timber & paper, using accounting &

inventory systems realistic for a viable future resource.


3.2 IDENTIFY RESEARCH PRIORITIES

The Independent Consultation Paper suggests that:

The Australian and Victorian Governments recognise that continuing research can contribute to improved outcomes for adaptive management and continual improvement in forest

management, as well as in the management of Matters of National Environmental Significance, social impacts and benefits, and industry development. ...


16. What areas of research would better equip us to sustainably manage Victoria's forests?

Current research is adequate to show that the forest has been managed unsustainably

under the RFAs, & needs the opportunity to recover.

Continued degradation of threatened species habitat, and diminished areas for species

survival is the result. Research should focus on ways to best achieve a recovery of lost

forest values so that further extinctions can be avoided. To restore the forest to its

former condition will take hundreds of years.


3.3 IMPROVE MONITORING AND REPORTING

The Independent Consultation Paper suggests that:

Forest management needs to be based on robust data and systematically monitoring,

evaluating and reporting on the objectives of forest management . ...


17. How could RFA monitoring, review (including five-yearly reviews) and reporting

arrangements be improved?

The RFA process to date has failed on all reporting milestones.

There has been a culture of forest degradation, and there is no point in continuation of

this trend.

When the Victorian RFAs expire, they should be allowed to lapse, and transition to new

goals implemented.

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