29. The wilderness assessment was carried out using the Commonwealth reserve criteria benchmark of 90% or more where practicable of high quality wilderness exceeding the national minimum threshold level of 8,000 hectares.
30. No wilderness areas within the forest zone were identified which met this threshold. The largest areas of high wilderness quality are all already in reserves.
31. The National Estate places in the Southern Forests Region of Western Australia have been identified through a joint AHC/CALM Regional Assessment conducted in 1992. For the remainder of the DFA region, ie Central and Swan regions, existing national estate areas have been identified through ad hoc nomination and assessment.
32. The national estate values relating to old growth forest, wilderness and biodiversity of vegetation communities will be fully protected for the period of the DFA, and in turn will enable the Commonwealth to meet its reserve criteria levels, if the State enters into the Agreement proposed by the Commonwealth.
33. The Western Australian Government has given an undertaking not to log in places in the Register or Interim List of the National Estate during 1996. The Commonwealth has requested that WA extend this undertaking to preclude logging of National Estate places and including the Jane and Giblett blocks and the excision within the Sharp block, until the end of 1997 or until an RFA is completed if that is earlier. In this way the full suite of National Estate values, as well as old growth necessary to meet the Commonwealth's minimum standards, and reserve design options will be fully protected.
34. Threatened species distributed in forested habitats have management procedures, practices and recovery plans in place which address the requirements of the Commonwealth Endangered Species Protection Act 1992.
Social and economic impacts
35. In the southern forest region, there will be minimal social or economic impacts of the DFA given that rescheduling has been possible and there has been no removal of resource (in quality or quantity). The DFA identified in the northern region is outside current planned harvesting areas and hence there will be no rescheduling required or social or economic impacts in that region.
Background to Deferred Forest Assessment 1. Introduction
The competing demands of conservation and industry in Australia's forests have been a contentious and long standing issue. The National Forest Policy Statement (NFPS ) agreed by the Commonwealth and all States and Territories provides the framework on which to realise the vision of ecologically sustainable management of Australia's forest, including a range of sustainable forest based industries.
An integral component of the NFPS is a process of joint Comprehensive Regional Assessments (CRAs) leading to the negotiation of Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) between State and Commonwealth governments, including a review of the existing reserve system and forest management to ensure that Australia has in place a national Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative (CAR) forest reserve system and ecologically sustainable management of the forest estate. In some regions finalisation of RFAs may take some time, given the level of assessments envisaged under the CRA process, in others it is expected that RFAs could be rapidly completed given the extent of existing information and previous assessments of the forests. In the interim the Commonwealth, in a position paper released in March 1995 sought agreement of States to a process to identify, on a regional basis, those forest areas in current wood production tenures that may need to be set aside from logging so as not to foreclose options for their possible inclusion in a Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative (CAR) reserve system.
In Western Australia's case, these areas are known as Deferred Forest Areas (DFAs). The process is an interim one, designed primarily to ensure that sufficient reservation options are available at the completion of the detailed CRA studies that will lead to the establishment of RFAs. These interim arrangements will enable the 1996 woodchip licences to be considered in a regional context pending the establishment of a CAR reserve system.
The assessments were undertaken on the best information that was available and accessible. The DFA took account of the Commonwealth and JANIS draft position papers on CAR reserve criteria. The two sets of criteria differ in some respects, notably where quantiative benchmarks were applied, however, the deferred forest assessment always ensured that the higher reservation benchmark could be met from the deferred areas. High priority was given to ensuring that the needs of endangered and threatened species could be met. Wherever possible, qualitative reservation criteria were applied, such as representativeness criteria and reserve design considerations, although the application was, of necessity limited. The process did not propose specific reserve inclusions, but ensured that there were sufficient options to add more areas to the existing reserve system if this were to be an outcome of the detailed assessment to be undertaken in the RFA process.
This report provides details of the results of the Deferred Forest Assessment review conducted in Western Australia as a joint State-Commonwealth exercise.
Several meetings were held with stakeholder groups (WA Conservation Council, Forest Protection Society, Forest Industries Federation of Australia, Alcoa and Worsley Alumina and the Australian Workers Union) during the early stages of Deferred Forest Assessment to determine major issues that needed to be addressed.
The draft Western Australian Deferred Forest Assessment report was released by the State for a three week comment period. As a result of the high level of response to the draft document this period was extended by a further two weeks. The consultation process was initiated with a series of briefings for national stakeholder groups, followed by meetings in Perth for state stakeholder groups. The joint Commonwealth and WA technical discussions and negotiations continued during the consultation period and key stakeholders were advised of joint outcomes toward the end of the process.
During the comment period, detailed information, assembled and developed for use in the Deferred Forest Assessment including maps, was provided to stakeholders to assist in the provision of a combined response to the draft Deferred Forest Assessment document.
Comment was sought on the appropriate application of the reserve criteria and the extent that relevant information had been taken into account. Comments on the Commonwealth criteria had been sought and taken into account during their development earlier in 1995 and comments on the draft JANIS document were being sought through a separate process.
The Commonwealth provided limited funds to representatives of peak State conservation groups, Forest Protection Society (community group) and unions in each of the relevant States. This funding was to assist groups to consult with members, travel to meetings with the Commonwealth, or to engage consultants to provide expert advice.
The Deferred Forest Assessment process and report has been improved by the input received from stakeholder groups during consultation on the draft. Issues raised during the consultation process are addressed in the relevant sections of this report. Responses to the issues have included reference to the WA technical group for further analysis and amendments where required. Some issues were referred to the Commonwealth Scientific Advisory Group (SAG). The relevant responses have been incorporated in this report. Issues raised that are beyond the scope of the Deferred Forest Assessment will be incorporated into the next stage of forest assessments (CRA/RFA). Over 500 submissions were received nationally with 82 specific to Western Australia. A list of submitters is provided at Appendix 5.