Federal Government cuts to university environmental studies short sighted

21 October 2020

The professional association representing some 1,000 forest scientists, researchers and professional forest managers, the Institute of Foresters (IFA/AFG) have highlighted a near one third cut to university funding of environmental studies courses as being short sighted.

IFA/AFG President Bob Gordon said at a time when the nation needs more students and money invested in understanding our forests, particularly given the impacts of climate change and bushfire, now is not the time to cut university courses.

“This decision in the Federal Budget to include a 29 per cent cut to university funding of environmental studies courses will have a negative impact on the environment and the economy and we are disappointed that governments are de-prioritising such critical education,” Mr Gordon said. This cut comes on top of challenges created by an exodus of international students and the failure of the government to provide JobKeeper support to universities.

“We need a greater focus, not less, on forestry education to ensure Australia has enough well-trained graduates to effectively manage our forests and our forested landscapes into the future,” Mr Gordon said. Mr Gordon said the funding cuts came on the back of a catastrophic 2019-2020 bushfire season which highlighted the need for better and more informed forest management to combat climate change and further natural disasters.

“Now more than ever, we need to invest in and improve forest and environmental education, for the future health and resilience of our forests and the many services they provide – including wildlife habitat, catchment protection and climate services,” Mr Gordon said.

“This includes up-to-date training for forest scientists, managers and decision makers and a greater priority on the quality and availability of forest education. These additional funding cuts have placed pressure on existing forestry courses. The inability for universities to offer these courses will have significant and very long term consequences. Mr Gordon said the IFA/AFG wants more opportunities for informal training and better public understanding of forests as well as continuing education for forest communities as well as forest owners and businesses.

“This includes providing easy access to information on forest education and to learning materials, through web-based platforms as well as targeting schools and young people to reinforce learning about the role of forests and their importance in combatting climate change and contributing to food security, lives and livelihoods,” Mr Gordon said.

Mr Gordon said if forest education remained insufficient and undervalued, we would struggle to keep pace with the changing demands on forests and increasing pressures on forest resources and forested environments.

“We need to prepare current and future generations to do a better job of protecting land and water resources, biodiversity and our livelihoods,” he said.


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