Why Farm Forestry / Multipurpose farm forestry makes common sense
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Multipurpose farm forestry makes common sense

Land degradation, low farm incomes, timber shortages, habitat loss, lack of shade and shelter, and society’s dependence on shallow-rooted agricultural crops are important issues in Australia today. Protecting remnant forests and planting new ones are rightly seen as means of solving many of these problems. As a result, the premise of most revegetation and conservation programs is that there is a particular problem that must be solved: i.e. farmers aren't growing enough trees to combat land degradation; industry hasn't access to enough timber to remain viable in a competitive international market; or, more forests must be grown to offset carbon emissions.

Different perspectives invariably lead to arguments about which problem is the most important. Interest groups compete for funding, legislative protection and electoral support arguing more needs to be done to solve their particular concern. The timber industry argues that large monoculture plantations are required for timber production, while environment groups seek greater funding for indigenous plantings for land protection and biodiversity.

Focusing on individual problems simply encourages advocates and analysts to evaluate forestry options against too narrow a range of criteria and recommend single-interest approaches: a "right answer" or "recipe for success". Whilst these may provide a solution to one particular problem they ignore the fact that forests impact on a wide range of economic, social and environmental values. The development of plantations for timber production cannot be viewed in isolation to land degradation, biodiversity, rural communities, agricultural production and other related issues.

The shortsightedness of establishing and managing forests for a single purpose when there are clearly other opportunities and impacts is rarely lost on farmers. For example, many farmers are clearly prepared to forgo some of the future timber value of a plantation if it means they can enhance its wildlife value or the benefits to stock from shelter.

Rather than viewing the current status of farming or forestry as a problem requiring a solution it is more appropriate to think of it as a ‘starting point’. Forests take many years to mature and over the years the original purpose or intent may change completely or become less important. There are 400 year old oak forests in Europe, originally planted for the production of wooden ship masts, which are just reaching maturity now. If we plant and manage our forests with a single purpose in mind we may well be foregoing future opportunities.

Rather than develop simplistic solutions, research and development should be focused on gaining an understanding of the underlying processes behind the problems and identifying the principles of farm forestry design that will allow farmers and policy makers to make the final decision as to the most appropriate course of action. Farm Forest Line is focused on providing assistance and support for all decision makers interested in farm forestry.

An alternative approach to farm forestry development

Elegant solutions: appropriate farm forestry designs

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