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Why Queensland is still ground zero for Australian deforestation

Michelle Ward and James Watson write in The Conversation (27.1.23) about their research into Queensland’s high rates of broad-scale land clearing which, the authors point out, comes at a huge cost to our native animals and plants.

‘Five years ago, bulldozers with chains cleared forests and woodlands almost triple the size of the Australian Capital Territory in a single year.

‘Brazil? Indonesia? No – much closer: Queensland. In 2018-19, truly staggering land clearing, mostly by farmers and cattle graziers, saw around 680,000 hectares of habitat destroyed – more than the preceding 18 years. Even though the state Labor government tightened land clearing rules in 2015, the new rules were riddled with loopholes. If Queensland was a country, it would have been the ninth highest forest destroying nation globally in 2019 – just above China.

‘Clearing is slowing – but nowhere near fast enough. At the end of 2022, Queensland quietly released its latest figures, showing clearing rates in 2019-20 had fallen to under two Australian Capital Territories that year (around 418,000 hectares). The government celebrated it as a win, as did some farming groups. But it’s nothing to be celebrated.

‘Yes, it’s better than the worst year in the last two decades. But as our climate and extinction crises worsen and as the Great Barrier Reef teeters on the brink, clearing as usual is no longer good enough.’

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