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Incentives the key to managing private forests


30 August 2006
Providing cash incentives to landholders to manage native forests on their own land is part of a new proposal by a group of scientists, conservationists and industry representatives.

The Southern Cross Group has put forward the proposal as an alternative to the NSW Government’s Draft Code of Practice for Private Native Forestry, which has drawn strong criticism from the forestry industry, farmers and environmentalists.

The NSW Government announced last week it would restart consultations on the draft code.

Professor Jerry Vanclay, Chair of Forestry at Southern Cross University, is a key member of the group which also includes the World Wildlife Fund’s Jeff Sayer, World Conservation Union chief scientist Jeff McNeely, farmers and forestry industry representatives.

“One of the weaknesses of the recently-rejected Draft Code of Practice for Private Native Forestry is that it was highly prescriptive and overly punitive. We believe that a formative approach based on incentives would be more effective,” Professor Vanclay said.

“We are proposing that the Government pays landholders to provide environmental services. We would be paying them for the trees that are there and to keep the forests on their property.”

Under the two-tier proposal, an annual cash payment would be given to landholders for progress toward specific outcomes. The first tier would provide an incentive payment per square metre to encourage more forest and bigger trees on private land. The second tier would encourage stewardship of endangered species and ecological communities.

Professor Vanclay said the cost of the scheme - estimated to be around $200 million a year - would not be any greater than the cost of policing a more punitive approach.

“Anyone who has raised children or trained pets knows that incentives are more effective than punishment. We need to work with people who are prepared to find common ground, and to build solutions on that common ground,” he said.

About a third of the 27 million hectares of native forest in New South Wales is on private land. The private forests contribute 60 per cent of the log supply in some regions in NSW and play an important role in conservation and wildlife habitat.

Professor Vanclay said forests should be seen as core business for farmers, both as part of their income stream and part of their environmental stewardship responsibilities.

“Current market forces and existing regulations do not send helpful signals for private native forestry in Australia,” he said.

“The challenge is to devise an equitable scheme that sends the right signals for forest management, is cost-effective to administer and represents a worthwhile investment in terms of the public good generated.”

Photo: Professor Jerry Vanclay.

Media contact: Brigid Veale SCU communications manager 02 66593006 or 0439 680 748.