Methods in the madness – filling the data gap

The third ‘Australian Forests & Climate Forum‘, this time with a focus on the Southern Forestry Region, including here, is being held today in Canberra.  Among the various presentations is one titled – Logging or carbon credits. Comparing the financial returns from forest-based activities in NSW’s Southern Forestry Region.

A detailed argument is put forward in support of the financial benefits stopping logging could provide. However, a major limitation was ” Due to the absence of reliable data on non-market items — e.g. biodiversity and heritage values — the analysis was confined to financial flows and did not consider net economic benefits. In other words, it was a financial rather than economic analysis.”

While native forest logging has always been a financial basket case, this situation needs to be considered within the NSW government’s broader failure to comply with the Regional Forest Agreements. Hence, a lack of data on either market items, like trees, or non market items, like kangaroos, that may spend time in State Forests or the back yard, means a credible economic, or any other analysis, is not possible.

BYroos

Regrettably, making decisions despite a lack of data isn’t constrained to the NSW government, as indicated in the community driven Final Eurobodalla (Shire) Koala Recovery Strategy.

The proponents continue their support for re-locating koalas into the Shire and provide lists of trees, unsupported by any data, they think are suitable for koalas. Incredibly, the list is more extensive than indicated in the State Government’s recovery plan.

There are several uncertainties with this approach and a few stand out.

First, the original data and report on koala tree species preferences was produced in 1997, as a result of community koala surveys. Second, outcomes from the subsequent, hugely expensive and prolonged NSW government surveys have not added to this knowledge. Third, the NSW government’s recovery plan hasn’t been updated to include their own survey results. And fourth, also due to community input, the methods being employed in the long-term government surveys have the same utility as those FCNSW were supposed to undertake, as part of the RFAs.

With changes being made to the OE&H and FCNSW, it would be reassuring to know the conservation movement were supportive of, and insistent on, maximising the utility of survey methods, to produce credible data.

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