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Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Victoria's forests are among the best protected and best managed in the world under Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs), the Federal Environment Minister, Robert Hill, said today.
Welcoming the Prime Minister's announcement of the West Victoria and Gippsland RFAs between the State and Commonwealth governments today, Senator Hill said Victoria could be proud of its comprehensive, adequate and representative (CAR) reserve system, which now covers more than half of the public land in RFA regions.
"RFAs have also strengthened protection for rare and threatened species of flora and fauna, and will ensure that the entire native forest estate is managed sustainably," he said.
"The RFA process in Victoria has been outstandingly successful in finding a careful balance between unique environmental values and the many social, economic and cultural values of forests."
The West and Gippsland RFAs mark the completion of the RFA process in Victoria, with five agreements covering the State's commercially important native forests. The other three RFAs are for the East Gippsland, Central Highlands and North East regions.
Senator Hill welcomed the addition of over 278,000 hectares to reserves in the Gippsland region - a 55 per cent increase - and another 194,000 hectares to reserves in West Victoria. These additions to reserves with extra forest management measures have strengthened the protection for threatened species such as the Red-tailed black cockatoo, the Spot-tailed Quoll and powerful owl. He noted that meeting nationally agreed conservation targets had been a challenge in both regions, largely due to past clearing of private land for agriculture.
"These final two RFAs have not been easy, but they have achieved the best possible results for the protection of bioidiversity and old-growth values," he said. "Statewide, RFAs have ensured representative protection of the forest ecosystems that existed before European arrival, many above the minimum 15%, and have increased protection of the State's old-growth forest to 68 per cent in the five regions.
"Each RFA was based on a scientific comprehensive regional assessment of forest values which has greatly increased our understanding of forest ecosystems. The vast quantities of data amassed for the process will be useful to biologists, zoologists, botanists and environmental scientists generally for many years to come."
Senator Hill thanked the hundreds of experts, officials, stakeholder and community groups who have contributed their time and expertise to the RFA process.
Rod Bruem (Senator Hill) (02) 6277 7640 0419 258 364