Queensland deforestation crisis building to a “tsunami”, conservationists warn


The koala has recently been listed as vulnerable to extinction in Queensland due to habitat destruction Photo: Flickr/cuatrok77

New figures show that deforestation in Queensland jumped 33% in 2015-16, due in part to the failure of the federal government to crack down on illegal clearing, according to a government Minister.

Furthermore, since July 2016, more than one million hectares (ha) of forest across 1,608 farms have been approved for clearing, mainly for agriculture and ranching. This is a 30% increase on the previous three-year average.

“There’s a tsunami of deforestation hitting Queensland,” Wilderness Society Queensland campaign manager Gemma Plesman told The Guardian.

Queensland has experienced a spike in clearances since the Liberal National Party stripped back restrictions in 2013. 

The sharp rise in planned deforestation has been interpreted as a sign of “panic clearing” by cattle ranchers before a promised crackdown should the Australian Labor Party be re-elected.

The Queensland Environment Minister, Steve Miles, warned that recent increases have been exacerbated by the failure of the federal government to investigate allegations of illegal clearing in north Queensland.

“The Turnbull government have failed to show any interest in assisting Queensland to protect our forests,” he said.

Read Earthsight’s coverage of 130ha of unauthorised clearance on a cattle ranch in Cape York, Queensland here

In total, 396,000ha of forest were cleared in 2015-16, according to the latest Statewide Land-Cover and Trees Study. As well as releasing 45 million tonnes of greenhouse gases, the clearances threaten the sustainability of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. 

They are concentrated in the woodland catchments that feed the reef, which experienced a 45 percent jump in deforestation. Such catchment losses transfer sediment into the ocean, suffocating life on the reef.

WWF Australia has estimated that 45 million animals were killed in the clearances, making Australia the second-worst country in the world for species loss

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