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December, 2021

Forest Owners say Fish and Game barking up the wrong tree

The Forest Owners Association says Fish and Game’s criticism of exotic plantation forests doesn’t accord with reality.

“Fish and Game is, quite simply, barking up the wrong tree when it invents what it calls a ‘myriad of adverse impacts’ from exotic forests,” says Phil Taylor, the FOA President.

“It is true that forests moderate rainfall entering waterways – which reduces the risk of floods.  But that also applies to native trees – which Fish and Game wants a lot more of – as well as to exotics – which Fish and Game wants less of.”

“The same applies to water quality.  Water emerging out of forests is cleaner than that flowing off farmland – irrespective of the type of forest or type of farmland,” Phil Taylor says.

“Biodiversity is another issue with Fish and Game.  It is true that, by very definition, indigenous forests have more indigenous biodiversity than any other land cover.”

“But if you look at the facts, there is a higher level of indigenous biodiversity in New Zealand’s exotic forests, than there is on New Zealand farmland.  There’s more indigenous wildlife in any type of forest than there is in pastures,” Phil Taylor says.

“On top of that, there are the areas of mostly native bush in both exotic forests and pastureland.  It’s about 19 percent in our forest areas.  Beef + Lamb NZ estimate the same indigenous vegetation area on its farms is 13 percent.”

Phil Taylor’s strongest criticism of Fish and Game is its demand to switch to indigenous forests for carbon sequestration.

“We all love native trees.  They are a natural part of our landscape, culture and history.  Many of them have incredible wood qualities.  There’s 8 million hectares of native forests in the D0C estate.  But they lock up carbon very slowly.”

“So when Fish and Game, and the new Native Forest Coalition, start arguing that native trees are a much better means of meeting New Zealand’s greenhouse gas reduction targets than exotics, then that needs to be called out,” Phil Taylor says.

“Pine trees, the majority of the plantation estate, sequester carbon at a great rate, as well as providing an income from timber on a forest rotation.”

“The sequestration power of pine trees is so substantial that without at least another 380,000 hectares planted in the next 15 years, then even more drastic and rapid cuts would have to be made to both agriculture and transport to get to carbon zero by 2050.”

“Though exotic forests are vital to transition our economy, we agree such an expansion cannot go on indefinitely.  We would run out of land.”

“In the shorter term though, if the projected modest exotic forest expansion was stopped now, and replaced by native trees, it would need, to absorb the same amount of carbon by 2050, taking over more than two million hectares of farmland and the cost to taxpayers would be tens of billions of dollars.”

“I would think that both the land, and the taxpayers’ money, could be used in much better ways to fight climate change.”

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