A radical plan to turn 21,000ha of pine plantation in the Imbil State Forest into rainforest has been pitched to the State Government.
A radical plan to turn 21,000ha of pine plantation in the Imbil State Forest into rainforest has been pitched to the State Government. Craig Warhurst

Radical plan for 21,000ha near Imbil

A RADICAL proposal to turn 21,000ha of prime pine logging plantation in the Imbil State Forest into subtropical rainforest has been made to the State Government - but not everyone likes the idea.

Under the proposal made by journalist and naturalist Greg Roberts last week, leases to the hoop pine plantations would be revoked and the plantations allowed to regenerate.

They would then be allowed to regenerate as subtropical lowland rainforest, a category listed by the Federal Government in 2011 as critically endangered.

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The proposal has support from some conservationists.

Australian Wildlife Conservancy's land management officer Peter Stanton has called it "a great idea and quite achievable".

 

The Imbil State Forest 1
Part of the Imbil State Forest. Google Maps

"If you want to rehabilitate a rainforest, the best place to start is with hoop pine and that's already there in the plantations."

Birdlife Australia Sunshine Coast convenor Ken Cross was similarly supportive.

"We have lost too much of this habitat already and it may not be good enough in the long term just to protect the area that is left," he said.

It has opposition in the form of forest scientist Dr Gary Bacon who labelled it "unsound" and a "thought bubble".

Dr Bacon, a 40-year forestry veteran who has served as CEO of Queensland Forestry, said the plan would hurt an environmentally and economically sustainable industry.

"These forests were planted onwards from the 1920s to provide networked employment and raw materials for decentralised communities and industries," he said.

 

14/04/07          165299cPine plantation Photo Warren Lynam
Hoop pine. WARREN LYNAM/165299c

"They have proved to be environmentally and economically sustainable and forestry is the most carbon positive activity that can be undertaken."

He estimated about one million tonnes of carbon is "locked up in that plantation forest", and new growing trees absorbed more carbon dioxide than old ones.

Then there was the issue of lost income and the land's spiral into "a weed, pest and fire haven junk heap" which follows, he said. "I think this is an absolute no-no."

Other conservation groups like Sunshine Coast Hinterland Bush Links said the proposal risked another plan to link Conondale National Park to Wrattens National Park by adding 20,000ha of forest patches to create the new Yabba National Park.

 

Queensland Minister Leeanne Enoch
Minister Leeanne Enoch. Contributed

Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the proposal was received last Wednesday and "under consideration", but it was not a decision the State would make on its own.

"In relation to Imbil, I understand any proposal to convert all or part of this plantation to protected area status would need the agreement of HQ Plantations," she said.

"The Queensland Government is always open to considering suitable state land for its conservation value, including as protected area. The Government is currently developing a new Protected Area Strategy, which will help evaluate where lands may be available to grow Queensland's protected area estate."