Deforestation and the Role of Indigenous Peoples in Sustainable Forest Management
(Excerpt from graduate school position paper. June 4, 2004)
Proposed Solutions: Strong Foundation for Improvement
As seen previously, Australia developed extensive and detailed policy statements and legislation to deal with the issue of deforestation in the country, including a Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) that specifically focuses on the Tarkine Region in Tasmania. This legislation, partially an outgrowth of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, focuses on developing sustainable forest practices that emphasize the multiple benefits and cultural significance of both new- and old-growth forests. The level of detail in these policies and the forward-thinking of the Australian government appear to provide an optimum solution to the stripping of ancient forests by individuals and industries. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
According to the 2003 Forest Practices Board Annual Report, Tasmania’s native forests remain at approximately 97.5% of the 1996 levels. At first glance, this number appears impressive, but its only significance is that the decline in the total forest area has been minimized. It does not, however, highlight the tremendous loss in native forest that occurred prior to 1996. Nor does it take into account the multiple indicators—such as biodiversity and watershed health—that provide a more accurate representation of sustainable forest practices.
Given the preponderance of innovative ideas in Australia for sustainable forest practices along with a strong governmental organization for implementing those ideas, our proposed solutions for combating deforestation in the Tarkine Region of Tasmania build upon current regulations and governmental structure rather than recreating a system that is already in place. Future management of the Tasmanian forests needs to be designed with an emphasis on sustainability, nurturing over the long-term rather than reaping only immediate short-term benefits. Such a solution, termed “sustainable forest management” (SFM) is already in place to some extent in the current regulatory practices in Australia, including the National Forest Policy Statement, the Australia Forestry Standard, and the Plantations 2020 Vision.
Our solutions would extend these practices to include a more holistic view of the forest. McDonald and Lane stated in 2004 that SFM should “conserve biological diversity, maintain the health and productive capacity of forest ecosystems and their role in watersheds and the global carbon cycle, and that SFM should maximize the long-term multiple social and economic benefits of forest use.” SFM emphasizes the recognition of the multiple uses and benefits of forests: ecological, economical, and social.
Photo by cafuego.