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Land and forest management is the constitutional responsibility of State and Territory Governments. Each State has a forest authority responsible for the management and control of publicly owned forests, in accordance with the relevant Forestry Acts and Regulations.
Regional Forest Agreements (RFA)
The Commonwealth signed 10 RFAs with four State Governments between 1997 and 2001. The 20-year agreements in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia cover regions where commercial timber production is a major forest use. They seek to provide a balance of the full suite of environmental, social, economic and heritage values that forests can provide for current and future generations.
The agreements set out to establish a world-class forest conservation reserve system of nearly 10.4 million ha. that is comprehensive, adequate and representative. The RFAs also provide certainty for forest industries and for continuous improvement in ecologically sustainable management of the entire forest estate. More than 8.5 million ha. are within formal dedicated conservation reserves.
The RFAs provide for Commonwealth Government and the State Governments to report against milestones each year and to conduct a major performance review every five years. The reviews, which begin in 2002, will be undertaken with reference to the 'Montreal Process Indicators', nationally and internationally agreed criteria and indicators for measuring the sustainability of forest management, and other relevant criteria and indicators.
Forestry Industry Structural Adjustment Program (FISAP)
FISAP was established in 1996-97 to assist businesses and workers involved in native forest industries to adjust to changes associated with Regional Forest Agreements. Under matching funding arrangements with the States, $60m were committed to NSW, $18.8m to Victoria, $5m to Queensland and $15m to Western Australia. With the RFAs now in place, the focus of funding is primarily towards leveraging private sector investment and employment generation in the native hardwood industry.
National Forest Inventory (NFI)
Australia’s NFI collects and communicates information on Australia’s forests. It is a partnership between the Commonwealth and all State and Territory Governments, and is based in Canberra at the Bureau of Rural Sciences, a research bureau of AFFA. The NFI databases contain information on native and plantation forests and a wide range of forest characteristics, including extent, type, age and tenure of Australia’s forests. A State of the Forests Report (SOFR) produced by the NFI was released in late 1998. This comprehensive publication includes a description of the public, private, native and plantation forest estate, including use and management, and examination of the social attitudes framing public opinion on forest issues. Preparation is underway for the next SOFR, to be produced in 2003. Information from the NFI is used to meet Australia’s national and international forest-related reporting requirements.
National Plantation Inventory (NPI)
The NPI is a component of the National Forest Inventory, established in 1993 to provide up-to-date quantitative reporting of Australia’s plantation resource. The NPI reports annually and includes information on plantation areas, the year of establishment, and species planted. Every 5 years the NPI produces a comprehensive report that also includes plantation locations and aggregated regional woodflow estimates.
National Farm Forest Inventory (NFFI)
The NFFI is a 3-year project funded by the Farm Forestry Program and managed under the National Forest Inventory to facilitate the collection of farm forest resource data. The NFFI works with an extensive network of regional and State farm forestry groups in order to facilitate and encourage data collection on farm forest plantations. The NFFI has facilitated data collection by establishing a consistent framework and standards for data collection across Australia. The NFFI reports on basic resource information such as species, area, location and age of small grower plantations. This work is undertaken in full coordination with the NPI, which focuses data collection on larger scale, industrial plantations.
Forest and Wood Products Research and Development Corporation
The Forest and Wood Products Research and Development Corporation was established in 1994 as a key initiative under the National Forest Policy Statement, to assist the forest industries to improve their international competitiveness and to realise their growth potential. The Corporation is jointly funded by industry and the Commonwealth.
Sustainable Forest Management (SFM)
Australia is promoting its SFM interests in a number of international forums and mechanisms. They include the United Nations Forum on Forests, the International Tropical Timber Organisation and the Montreal Process. Australia's initiatives, including the publication of a summary of internationally agreed forest actions, are regarded as providing practical solutions for advancing SFM.
Australia's Montreal Process Implementation Group began drafting a progress report on implementing criteria and indicators of SFM in 2000-01, using as the basis Australia’s Framework of regional criteria and indicators for assessing progress towards SFM. The Framework is based on the internationally agreed Montreal Process criteria and indicators. Joint projects with the States and Territories have also improved the Commonwealth's SFM reporting capacity. This work will lead to the preparation of Australia’s country report to the Montreal Process, and Australia’s 2nd State of the Forest Report, both of which will be published in 2003.
Another key activity is the development of an Australian Forestry Standard as an objective benchmark for forest management. The standard will enable Australia to compete in the international market place.
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)
Research for the Forestry, Wood and Paper Industries Sector addresses the sustainable management of eucalypt and softwood plantations and of native forests, tree breeding and genetics, wood properties and quality, forest assessment, and wood and fibre processing and products.
Most of the work for the sector is conducted by CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products which operates from five sites strategically located across Australia. Other CSIRO Divisions that contribute to the sector include Entomology, Plant Industry and Sustainable Ecosystems. Close links with other CSIRO Sectors, such as Biodiversity, Land and Water, Energy, Climate and Atmosphere, and Built Environment, facilitate coordinated action on broad community and economic issues including landscape degradation, conservation of biodiversity, water quality, renewable energy, greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration, and new product options such as novel composites and environmentally benign preservation methods.
CSIRO also contributes to the forestry and forest products industries through its active participation in four Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs): Sustainable Production Forestry, Greenhouse Accounting, Functional Communication Surfaces, and Plant-based Management of Dryland Salinity.
CSIRO research has delivered significant benefits to Australia’s forestry, wood and paper industries. Recent examples include the SilviScan technology for rapid, low-cost assessment of wood properties, guidelines for effluent irrigation of forest plantations, the domestication and improvement of Australian native tree species by the Australian Tree Seed Centre, contributions to national policy and program development including the Regional Forest Agreements, and support to industry for the growing, management and processing of young eucalypts.