Everything you need to know about the deforestation crisis taking place across Australia.
What’s a tree worth? That’s the misunderstanding driving our country’s deforestation crisis. Today, bare land is worth more than the intact ecosystems that support our lives. It’s an old colonial idea. And a bad one.
Bulldozers destroy over 740,000 ha of forest and bush every year. It stuffs our soil and water, suffocates the Reef, kills wildlife, drains our carbon budget—and leaves our towns and suburbs hotter and less liveable.
On 11/02/22 the government officially listed the koala as Endangered in Queensland, NSW and the ACT. For species like the koala, we know the biggest problem is the destruction of their forest homes.
The most recent land-clearing data from Queensland for 2019-20 reveals a dire state of affairs in this state alone with:
418,656 hectares of forest and bushland was bulldozed between 2019/20;
85% of the deforestation and land clearing in Queensland was to make space for pasture;
More than 180,000 ha was destroyed in Great Barrier Reef catchments, placing further serious stress on the natural wonder.
Over roughly the last 20 years, koalas numbers have declined by almost 50% across Queensland alone. If we want to protect Australia's remarkable biodiversity, including its most iconic animals, we must protect habitat.
Deforestation in Australia has to stop.
Without a liveable climate, the vulnerable ecosystems that sustain us, won’t. Deforestation is Australia’s hidden emitter—like adding 10 million cars to our roads.
Australia is a global deforestation front, alongside Borneo, the Amazon and the Congo. It’s primarily driven by agriculture (mostly for beef production), mining and urban development.
Bulldozers drag thick chains through the landscape, snapping trees like matchsticks. This wood isn’t used for anything—it’s burned or left to rot. Carbon once stored in trees and soil goes back into the atmosphere. This wastes up to 10% of Australia’s carbon budget.
Historically, deforestation was considered best practice. In the 60s and 70s, agriculturalists in Queensland’s Brigalow Belt were actually fined for letting their land regenerate. This was rooted in some flawed ideas about the biology of soils and the resilience of our landscapes. It means just 50% of Australia’s forest and bushland remains—much of it degraded.
While the majority of landholders are eager to embrace new ways to look after their land, scattered rogue operators are holding us back.
As the only developed country with a deforestation front, it's no surprise Australia’s mammal extinction rates are the highest in the world. Even iconic native species, like the koala and the greater glider, are on the road to extinction.
In the last 20 years, Queensland’s koala population has declined by almost 50%.
On the Koala Coast, numbers are down by 80%. In New South Wales, 99% of koala habitat on private land is not protected from clearing.
With the support of people like you, the Wilderness Society recently launched a billboard campaign highlighting deforestation rates across Queensland, and the harm this causes to wildlife.
The series of billboards across Brisbane drew attention to the devastating effects that deforestation and land clearing have on wildlife across Queensland.
As important catchment zones are stripped bare, the Great Barrier Reef is exposed to a deadly cocktail of silt, animal faeces and industrial fertilisers. This threatens a tourism industry worth $6 billion to Australia.
Western Australia's forests, woodlands and outback native vegetation play a critical role in preserving biodiversity, providing a home for threatened species and storing huge quantities of carbon. Read our WA native vegetation report detailing 7 ways to protect WA's most valuable natural asset.
Almost two-thirds of NSW native forests burned during the Black Summer Bushfires, devastating huge swathes of threatened species habitat. Despite a range of reports recommending the urgent protection of unburnt patches to limit species decline, the NSW government continues to allow industrial logging at a rate of around 14,000 hectares per year—even in “extreme risk” areas!
While there is increasing community support for the protection of forests, NSW laws explicitly reduce the right of communities to have a say about what happens to the state’s forests.
Communities need a real voice in environmental decision-making to have an effective say on the future of NSW forests.
If we want to protect our climate, and the ecosystems that make our lives possible, there’s no role for deforestation in Australia’s future.
In the climate crisis, there’s economic opportunity for landholders. By incentivising them to rehabilitate bulldozed land, we can make our soils, wildlife and landscapes more resilient to climate change. We can even reverse our emissions in the process.
That’s life support in action.