End of broadscale clearing in Queensland

McGrath, Christopher J. (2007) End of broadscale clearing in Queensland. Environment and Planning Law Journal, 24(1), pp. 5-13.

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Midnight on 31 December 2006 marked a watershed for environmental law and nature conservation in Australia: the end of broadscale clearing of remnant vegetation for agriculture in Queensland. A brief explanation of the environmental significance of tree clearing, land clearing or "vegetation management" (as it is now termed under Queensland law) and an overview of its regulation in Queensland help explain the significance of this event. The social and economic impacts of the end of broadscale clearing are significant but beyond the intended scope of the discussion here.1
Technically, the end of "broadscale clearing" in Queensland is not limited to agriculture and some clearing of remnant vegetation for agricultural purposes, such as fodder harvesting, will still be allowed.2 However, in practice, the clearing of remnant vegetation to create pastures for agriculture is the principal activity that has been stopped and which previously accounted for the vast majority of land clearing. For this reason the discussion here will focus on "the end of broadscale clearing of remnant vegetation for agriculture" as the effective category of clearing that has been stopped. Another key point to understand from the outset is that the end of broadscale clearing applies only to "remnant vegetation" and clearing of "non-remnant" or "regrowth" vegetation on previously cleared land will continue. A popular, evocative term for remnant vegetation in rainforests and other tall forests is "old growth forest" but it is given a more precise and widely applicable definition under Queensland law. "Remnant vegetation" is defined in the Vegetation Management Act 1999 (Qld) (VMA) as vegetation, part of which forms the predominant canopy of the vegetation:3 • covering more than 50% of the undisturbed predominant canopy; • averaging more than 70% of the vegetation's undisturbed height; and • composed of species characteristic of the vegetation's undisturbed predominant canopy.

Remnant vegetation has been extensively mapped in Queensland based on its definition in the VMA and for areas covered by a regional ecosystem (RE) map or remnant map its extent is defined by what is depicted on the map. The success and utility of RE mapping is another feature of the Queensland vegetation management system that will be discussed after considering the environmental significance of the end of broadscale clearing of remnant vegetation.

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ID Code: 19336
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
ISSN: 0813-300X
Deposited On: 31 Mar 2009 05:29
Last Modified: 10 Aug 2011 16:03

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