It was damaging activities occurring in the Queensland tropical rainforests that led Aila Keto and Keith Scott to form the Rainforest Conservation Society in 1982. Logging was expanding into highly significant areas and roads were being pushed into new areas.
In 1984, ARCS was commissioned by the Australian Heritage Commission to prepare a report on the conservation values of the rainforests of North-East Queensland. After favourable reviews by a host of eminent international and national scientists, the report was published by the Commission and became the foundation for a campaign to protect the area.
ARCS spearheaded the national campaign to protect the rainforests and was successful in persuading the Federal Government to nominate the area for World Heritage Listing. ARCS was commissioned to prepare the nomination. The Commonwealth introduced a regulation to ban all logging in the nominated area.
The then National Party Government of Queensland, led by Sir Joh Bjelke Petersen, vehemently opposed World Heritage listing, sent Cabinet Ministers around the world to lobby members of the World Heritage Committee and challenged the Commonwealth’s actions in the High Court. They lost the case and despite their lobbying, 900,000 hectares of rainforest and other forests were listed as the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area in 1988. Aila Keto acted as advisor to the Commonwealth.
ARCS played a major role in developing the management structure and the Wet Tropics Plan which gives the area protection. Aila Keto served on the inaugural Management Board for six years.