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.
With deforestation comes extinction.
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.
New analysis of the Queensland government's most recent land clearing data conducted by the Wilderness Society reveals that approximately 92,718 ha of likely or known koala habitat was destroyed across Queensland in one year alone between 2018 and 2019. Of that, around 73,825 ha, or 80%, was bulldozed for beef production.
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.
The threat to life
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.
Why is deforestation still happening?
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.
“Australia’s greatest animal welfare crisis.”—RSPCA
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.
There’s a simple fix—big business can choose to only source and sell products free from deforestation.
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.
A threat to our Reef
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.
Deforestation isn’t just deadly. It’s an extreme economic liability.
Western Australia's globally unique flora is under threat
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 report detailing 7 ways to protect WA's most valuable natural asset.
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.
What we’re doing:
- Calling on big business to source and sell products free from deforestation.
- Advocating for new laws that support the life our lives depend on.
- Building a case for rehabilitation funding as a climate solution.
- Undertaking research to blow the lid off this hidden crisis.
- Monitoring satellite imagery and recording suspicious clearing.
- Organising a grassroots national movement for lasting change.
- Educating Australians on the benefits of intact ecosystems.