Deforestation & land clearing in Queensland

Deforestation & land clearing in Queensland

Deforestation in Australia has now reached globally significant levels, driven largely by land clearing in Queensland.

The latest land clearing data released by the Queensland government shows that deforestation in the state is still rampant, damaging the health of the Great Barrier Reef, destroying biodiversity and worsening climate change.

Deforestation in Australia driven by Queensland

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.

With deforestation comes extinction: Australia is the worst offending country for mammal extinctions. Over roughly the last 20 years, koalas numbers have declined by almost 50% across Queensland and they have continued to do so. Deforestation—the reduction or complete removal of native forest and bushland—has escalated over the recent years to reach globally significant levels.

Eastern Australia is now a recognised global deforestation hotspot, alongside places including the Amazon, the Congo and Borneo. And the state leading this destructive charge is Queensland.

Image: Brian Coulter

How do we know deforestation is a big problem in Queensland?

The Queensland government's own data shows what a massive problem deforestation is in the state. Over Christmas 2021, it tried to sneak out its land clearing data, the Statewide Landcover and Trees Study (SLATS), for 2018-2019. And it’s not good news for nature.

The latest Queensland government’s SLATS figures for the year 2018-19 shows:

  • 668,208 hectares of forest and bushland was bulldozed in one year
  • 32% was in Great Barrier Reef catchments
  • 28% was remnant—mature and fully functioning ecosystems
  • Over 92,718 hectares of koala habitat was cleared in Queensland in just one year. And around 73,285ha of that—or a whopping 80%—was destroyed for beef production.

This most recent 2018-19 data was released on 30 December 2021. It's clear that the destruction of forest and bushland across Queensland continues to be the biggest contributor to Australia's terrible deforestation record.

    Around 668,208 hectares of Queensland’s forest and bushland was destroyed through deforestation and land clearing in 2018-19 alone. That’s an area of forest and bushland the size of the Gabba stadium lost every 91 seconds.

    Cows grazing on cleared, barren land, devastated by deforestation.

    So why is this destruction happening?

    Our analysis found that shockingly, 92,718 hectares of the 668,208 hectares was koala habitat. With clearing on this scale, no wonder they were recently declared endangered in Queensland, NSW and the ACT.

    And around 73,285ha of that—or a whopping 80%—was destroyed for beef production.

    Koala habitat is being trashed to grow more pasture for cattle.

    This continued destruction is devastating for the environment and wildlife. Tens of millions of native animals are killed annually by this scale of clearing. Sediments and chemicals run off cleared areas into waterways that flow out to the Great Barrier Reef—smothering this already struggling icon. Bulldozing trees worsens climate change—carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere when the fallen trees are left to burn or rot.

    Big buyers of Australian beef must go deforestation-free

    The beef industry must show leadership and urgently change its practices to stop selling beef linked to deforestation. This change is needed throughout the whole supply chain, from producers through to retailers, such as supermarkets and fast food restaurants.

    Major retailers could, and as good corporate citizens should, chose to only buy deforestation-free beef. If this happened, the whole industry would need to clean up its act. But currently, none of the big supermarkets and fast food chains can guarantee that the beef they source and sell is free of deforestation.

    Image: Kerry Trapnell.

    We need to make this an issue they can’t ignore, so that Queensland's spectacular forests and bushland, home to some of the most iconic animals in the world, remain intact and healthy.

    Our analysis of the Queensland government's own land clearing data 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 has to stop.

    With your support, the Wilderness Society recently launched a billboard campaign highlighting deforestation rates across Queensland, and the harm this causes to wildlife.

    Image: Goa

    The series of billboards across Brisbane drew attention to the devastating effects that deforestation and land clearing have on wildlife across Queensland.