A 2020 Vision for the Forests

By Jess Beckerling, Campaign Director, Forests For Life; Convener, WA Forest Alliance

Forest conservation has long been viewed as something that exists in conflict with timber production, and the overall narrative is presented as being inherently combative. The stories on the TV news invariably start with ‘forest debate’ or even ‘forest wars’ and unless the story has conflict at the heart of it, good luck trying to get that into the papers.

While government policy is hamstrung by fear of alienating one side or the other, no progress is made, and the status quo continues to favour short-termism and a view of the forests as a ‘resource’ that an ailing industry is entitled to ‘harvest’, as if it were something grown for that purpose.

Forests For Life is a project that says: we can do better than this; let’s have a coherent and lasting approach that delivers social, economic and ecological benefits on forest matters and beyond, into agriculture, riparian zone restoration, carbon sequestration, and just transition. It is a 2020 vision for the forests.

Forests For Life has three major aims: to protect forests from threatening processes; to develop a world-class farm forestry sector in south-west Western Australia; and to meaningfully account for the critical role forests play in the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change.

It would see high conservation value forests protected in secure reserves; a new land category called ‘Future Forests’, created for degraded forest ecosystems where they can draw down and store carbon and recover their ecological values over time; and the development of the Forests For Life Farm Forestry and Landcare Program.

 Farm Forestry and Landcare have a long history in south-west WA, and Forests For Life has drawn on advice and detailed input from experts. It has been supported by key organisations and individuals and, thanks to the State’s Natural Resource Management Office and Koorabup Trust, we have been able to engage consultants to conduct a financial feasibility assessment and prepare a business plan.

The program plans to grow 40,000 hectares of high value hardwood tree crops in association with cropping and grazing in two zones: the South West, centring on Greenbushes, and the Great Southern, centring on Albany. The zones are designed around transport distances to future processing centres and projected rainfall. It will also see a minimum of 4,000 hectares of permanent landcare work carried out on participating farms, with a focus on riparian restoration, connecting remnant vegetation, restoring corridors, and biodiversity and salinity management. There is more information available at forestsforlife.org.au.

The next step for Forests For Life is finding a team of people who will focus on project management, investment and securing land use agreements. We’re welcoming new people and encourage you to get in touch through the website.

[Opinions expressed are those of the author and not official policy of Greens WA]