New drone footage has exposed shocking land clearing of ‘likely’ koala habitat in north Queensland, as a new report reveals more than 1 million hectares of forest was cleared for beef from 2014-2019.

What’s at Steak, a new report released today highlights deforestation is occurring across Queensland with almost all clearing being to develop livestock pasture, including more than 1 million hectares of forest cleared for beef from 2014-2019.

According to the report by Queensland Conservation Council, the Wilderness Society, GIS analyst Rachel Fletcher and researcher Dr Martin Taylor, land clearing and deforestation is widespread, with almost all being for livestock, in particular for pasture expansion for beef.

The report reveals that over the five year study period:

  • Of all deforestation of endangered regional ecosystems, 78% was for pasture development on beef properties;

  • Deforestation for beef pastures destroyed habitats for 388 nationally threatened species and 14 threatened ecological communities;

  • Deforestation for beef accounted for 73% of deforestation of koala habitat while 83% of brigalow belt clearing was for beef;

  • 93% of forests and bushland bulldozed was for livestock pasture development of which 73% was for pastures on beef properties;

  • 60% was deforestation of either mature forests or “high value regrowth” forests (more than 15 years old).

The report coincides with the discovery of approximately 110 hectares of clearing of high value regrowth forest (known as Category C vegetation).

Natalie Frost, Nature Campaigner for the Queensland Conservation Council said, “Sadly, the shocking clearing is not an isolated incident. Hundreds of thousands of hectares of native forest are cleared every year, much of it home to some of Australia’s most iconic endangered species.

Much of this clearing is because of gaping loopholes in the state’s Vegetation Management Act, which is long overdue for reform. Unless the Government closes these loopholes and invests in incentives for landholders to manage the land in ways that work for nature and their businesses, we’re going to continue to see swathes of Queensland’s forests and bushland bulldozed for beef.

“There is a growing wave of producers who farm in a way that protects nature, while also improving the future productivity of their land. We’d like to see those sustainable farming practices urgently embraced by the whole industry.”

Hannah Schuch, Queensland Campaigns Manager for the Wilderness Society said, “Queensland is a global deforestation hotspot, with out-of-control land clearing for beef putting endangered species like the koala on the fast track to extinction.

“Aussies are horrified when they find out that their burgers and snags were produced from bulldozing vast swathes of forests and bushlands that kills koalas, trashes rivers and the Great Barrier Reef and contributes to dangerous climate change.

“Corporations have a social and financial responsibility to remove deforestation from their beef supply chains. While there is growing demand, internationally and domestically, for deforestation-free beef, Queensland’s big beef buyers like supermarkets and fast food chains should be ahead of the pack with strong deforestation-free commitments and taking steps to actually implementing them.”

The report outlines that “ongoing widespread deforestation for livestock production in Queensland is a serious barrier to the ability of Queensland’s red meat industry to meet growing market demand for deforestation-free products” and “larger companies should act as a flagship of marketing for deforestation-free beef in Queensland.”

The Queensland Conservation Council and The Wilderness Society have joined with WWF-Australia and the Australian Conservation Foundation to form the Queensland Forests Alliance with a bold vision to protect Queensland’s forests and bushlands and reverse deforestation.

Further Details:
  • Of 2.1 million ha of all woody vegetation cleared in Queensland over a five year study period 2014/15 to 2018/19 (the latest year for which government clearing data have been published):-

    • 93% was for livestock pasture development, of which 73% was for pastures on beef properties;

    • 71% was clearing of forests of any age and 60% was clearing of either remnant (intact or mature) forests or “high value regrowth” forests (more than 15 years old)

  • Almost all clearing of ‘high value regrowth’ forests over 15 years of age (over 760,000ha over the 5 year study period) had previously been “locked in” as exempt on property maps of assessable vegetation (PMAVs) and so could be cleared without restraints.

  • 78% was for pasture development on beef properties. Of all deforestation for

  • on beef properties 24% was of regional ecosystems deemed endangered due to past land clearing and another 24% of those deemed as of-concern under the Vegetation Management Act in Queensland.

  • The then vulnerable, now endangered Koala lost 0.65% of its entire “likely-to-occur” habitat to beef pasture deforestation over the five year study period, representing 73% of all Koala habitat deforestation statewide.

  • The endangered Brigalow ecological community lost 2.34% of its entire “likely-to-occur” habitat to beef pasture deforestation over the five year study period, representing 83% of all Brigalow deforestation statewide.

Report: link