Blog Post from AgForce Vegetation Management Policy Committee Chair John te Kloot

The Management of Vegetation in Queensland
By AgForce Vegetation Management Committee Chair John te Kloot

Vegetation management in Queensland is divisive and debilitating to both landholders involved in land management and to the environment. Only those whose enterprise depends on pitting landholders against the sustainable management of natural resources stand to gain from the current standoff. A better way that will stand the test of time needs to be found.

The stated purpose of the Vegetation Management Act, 1999, (VMA) is to regulate the clearing of vegetation. Media representations would have you believe the VMA is regulating dozers and chains clear felling trees all over the State, despite the fact that under the Act broadscale clearing of remnant vegetation was phased out by 31st December 2006. Since that date the removal of vegetation is only permissible if done for a prescribed purpose under the Act.

From the late 18th century the intervention of urbanization, tillage and grazing commenced on the landscape, and has been going on ever since. It is not the landscape of 230 years ago, and because of the impact of European intervention, the landscape must continue to be managed to avoid degrading landscapes.

There is a need to manage vegetation, and a need for good, constructive legislation to permit vegetation management in a planned and ordered way. A sustainable balance must be struck between biodiversity and environmental considerations, thus conserving nature and heritage, and the need to maintain land productivity to support profitable farming.

 AgForce policy initiatives create what should be, and needs to be, a sustainable balance between the aspirations of financially sound farmers with the up to date environmental aspirations of today’s society.

So if you are a landholder or developer who wishes to fell every tree on land under your control you will find no support in AgForce. If you are an extreme green advocate who is quite comfortable to see productive land degenerate and biodiversity imbalances develop as vegetation growth degrades land you will find no support in AgForce.

Vegetation management is the oversite, maintenance and control of the canopy cover to ground cover balance, so as to promote and maintain land productivity and to enhance established biodiversity balances. This definition is not inconsistent with the definition of vegetation management under the VMA, but, additionally, it does encapsulate the need to address land productivity.

If land productivity cannot be at least maintained, and at best improved on, then a farming enterprise is unsustainable, leading to degradation of the landscape through feral vegetation growth and expansion; weed growth and proliferation; and the onset of soil erosion.

Biodiversity can be defined as the variety of plant and animal life in a particular habitat, a high level of which is usually considered to be important and desirable*. 

Farming practices have an impact on biodiversity and the ecosystems supporting that biodiversity, so with changing land use (including urban development) and changing farming methods, good vegetation management practices will preserve biodiversity balances.

Good legislation is legislation that sensible people are happy to comply with.  Good legislation to describe vegetation management, not to describe tree clearing, is needed to promote both farming and the preservation of the environment.  Well drafted legislation which is even handed and fair will result in better compliance which in turn results in better outcomes on both sides of the vegetation ideology divide.

The innovative Baseline Area Management Plan (BAMP) concept developed by AgForce is a methodology to manage vegetation that, critically, predefines the outcome of the management activity on a landscape scale.

The outcome of the vegetation management regimen is predefined by selecting photographic/ satellite imagery, or other means, to depict the land in its healthiest and most productive state.  The landholder takes out a PMAV to adjust Regional Ecosystem mapping to lock in that landscape.

Under the BAMP process an Area Management Plan is then established to define the processes and actions required to achieve the productivity/biodiversity balance outlined in the PMAV.

In proposed 10-year renewable cycles, there is total transparency in the outcome of the vegetation management activities of land managers.  Long term productivity through responsible development, and environmental gains can be planned well into the future with confidence and certainty.  Moreover, the current endemic suspicion derived from uncertainty in vegetation management can be eliminated to the benefit of the environment and for the benefit of all concerned.

*Oxford English Dictionary

Click here to view the 'Healthy Environment, Healthy Agriculture' policy proposal.

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