Protecting our Forest Environment

​​​​Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) safeguard biodiversity, old-growth forests, wilderness and other natural and cultural values. They achieve this through the Comprehensive Adequate and Representative (CAR) reserve system and through ecologically sustainable forest management outside of reserves.

Nationally Agreed Criteria for the Establishment of a CAR reserve system for forests in Australia

One of the key achievements of the RFAs was the establishment of a CAR reserve system, based on nationally agreed criteria, also known as the ‘JANIS’ criteria. The ‘JANIS’ criteria is set out in the report:

The CAR reserve system is based on three principles:

  • including the full range of vegetation communities (comprehensive)
  • ensuring the level of reservation is large enough to maintain species diversity (adequate)
  • conserving the diversity within each vegetation community, including genetic diversity (representative).

The ‘JANIS’ criteria set out targets for the conservation of ecosystems:

  • 15 per cent of the pre-1750 distribution of each forest type
  • 60 per cent of the existing distribution of each forest type if vulnerable
  • 60 per cent of the existing old-growth forest
  • 90 per cent, or more, of high quality wilderness forests, and
  • all remaining occurrences of rare and endangered forest ecosystems including rare old-growth.

This level of protection in RFA regions is very high by world standards.

The CAR reserve system is made up of dedicated reserves, informal reserves and areas within production forests where values are protected by prescription. Dedicated or formal reserves are set aside for conservation, through areas such as national parks. Informal reserves are areas set aside for conservation purposes in forests that are otherwise production forests, such as special protection zones in State forests. Areas where values are protected by prescription within production forests are those that cannot be practically protected by formal or informal reservation, for example riparian vegetation or rare and dispersed values.

Protecting old growth forests

The RFA process also made considerable advances in the identification and protection of old-growth forests. Governments developed a nationally agreed definition of old-growth forests. Comprehensive regional assessments of old-growth forest delivered, for the first time, a thorough knowledge of their extent and distribution in RFA regions.

The ‘JANIS criteria’ included specific targets for old-growth forests for each forest ecosystem. Reservation can occur above this level in certain situations identified on a case by case basis for each ecosystem. The criteria provided for 100 per cent reservation of old-growth forests that are rare or depleted.