Forestry leaders: ‘Audit management of all reserves and parks, not just production forests’

Philip Hopkins

RESPONSIBLE Wood has welcomed a suggestion by forestry leaders that all forests, including parks and reserves, should be certified to find out how well they are being managed.

Simon Dorries, chief executive of Responsible Wood – the Australian arm of the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, the world’s largest certification system – said the certification standard was designed not only for production areas, but also for reserved areas.

About half of Australia’s forests are in conservation reserves, while the small proportion of production forests is certified by Responsible Wood.

“The idea of bringing national parks under a sustainable forest management standard means the environmental and social aspects of the standard would apply to it,” he said.

“It would provide a way for the land manager – national parks or state government – to demonstrate that the forests are well managed,” he said.

“It would include the monitoring and management of biodiversity, the appropriate management of fire, the handling of invasive pest species.

“There are a lot of very positive things that could be done much better in a formalised system.

“You don’t have to manage just for timber production.

“There are the economic and social aspects, the provision of employment for local communities, public access where appropriate and making sure those processes are managed.”

His comments follow calls from consultant Rob de Fegeley AM and Ric Sinclair, managing director of Forest and Wood Products Australia, that all forest management in Australia, including conservation reserves and small forest holdings, should be independently certified under internationally recognised sustainability criteria.

This would include PE FC and the Forest Stewardship Council, which has already certified production in native forests and plantations in Australia and around the world.

Mr Sinclair was speaking in a private capacity, and not as a representative of Forest and Wood Products Australia.

Mr Dorries said certifying parks and reserves would be far less complex than production forestry.

“You would not have to worry about calculating sustainable yield and those type of things,” he said.

“It would be a matter of identifying the values in that type of forest that need to be monitored and managed.

“It would come under a verified audited process.

“The land manager then could demonstrate to the Australian community that the management is sound and best practice.”

Mr Dorries acknowledged that cost would be a factor.

“It would not be low cost, but would mean that national parks may have to do things they are not doing at the moment or maybe do them better,” he said.

This had to be considered against the cost of bushfires.

“Maintaining fire trail access – that is controversial itself,” Mr Dorries said.

“The downside is you lose rare and endangered species through lack of management.

“That is not a good outcome.”

Mr Dorries said there were about five or six certification bodies qualified for auditing forest management systems, including SI R Global, the British Standards Institute and Global Mark.

“They have individual employees, accredited through the Australian-New Zealand accreditation body and verified to their competence,” he said.

“A pool of auditors would go out and do the audits.”

FSC Australia chief executive Damian Paull said he had raised the certification issue with the FSC chair, but would not comment on the proposal.

Mr de Fegely said more was known about production forestry than about the forest area outside production.

Certification would inform a whole-of-landscape approach that would include water quality and catchment, biodiversity, invasive pests, weed and disease risk, and the potential effects of future climate and fire regimes.

“There is a general acceptance that once a national park is declared, then everything is OK, but without some form of monitoring, no-one can tell,” he said.

“It is about questioning – are our parks working to protect threatened species?

“Certification would assist as it would then set some key performance indicators for parks to be measured by in the same way that production forests are measured.”

The Australian Conservation Foundation said it did not have anyone available to examine and comment on the proposal.

The World Wide Fund for Nature welcomed the opportunity to comment, but said its conservation team was working on other priorities at the moment and could not help with a statement on the proposal.

Neither the Victorian National Parks Association nor the Wilderness Society replied to requests for a comment.

A Victorian parliamentary inquiry three years ago found that invasive animals were expanding in number and distribution across the state.

Parks Victoria manages a system of more than 100 parks totalling about 3.4 million hectares.

The inquiry said the invasive animals – feral cats, foxes, dogs, horses, rabbits, goats and pigs – were damaging the environment, hurting agriculture and reducing liveability.

Evidence suggested these problems were becoming worse in many parts of Victoria Victoria’s Legislative Council Environment and Planning Committee is now conducting an inquiry into ecosystem decline in Victoria.

It is looking at the decline of Victoria’s biodiversity and ways to restore habitats and populations of threatened and endangered species.

Submissions have now closed and the report date has been extended from October 30 until April 30 next year.