WWF-Australia today said the nation’s remaining bushland and forests must be better protected rather than destroyed by bulldozers as is happening at a growing pace.
The conservation organisation was responding to the Productivity Commission Draft Report
on Regulation of Australian Agriculture which states: “Native vegetation and biodiversity conservation regulations need fundamental change…”
“Australia has the worst mammal extinction rate in the world and land clearing is one of the major reasons we hold that shameful record,” said WWF-Australia Conservation scientist Dr Martin Taylor.
Land clearing has already tripled in Queensland from 78,378 hectares cleared in 2009-10 to 296,324 hectares in 2013-14 and scientists fear changes in New South Wales will lead to greatly increased rates of clearing.
Eastern Australia is one of 11 world regions highlighted by WWF as a global deforestation front and the only one in a developed country.
There are serious concerns that koalas in Queensland and NSW are on a path to extinction due to land clearing and breakup of habitat.
Land clearing also increases the sediment and nutrients that flow to and damage the Great Barrier Reef, which contributes $6 billion to Australia’s economy.
“Australia also faces a ridiculous situation where hundreds of millions of dollars spent on carbon abatement are wiped out by land clearing,” Dr Taylor said.
“In what is turning out to be the warmest year on record - the year that hot water killed a quarter of the Reef in one blow - it's no time to be talking about making it easier to knock down trees,” he said.
Earlier this month 400 scientists and four scientific societies signed a declaration
warning that “Australia’s land clearing rate is once again among the highest in the world…imperilling 60% of Australia’s more than 1,700 threatened species”.
Dr Taylor said the Productivity Commission failed to quantify the productivity benefits of retaining trees.
“Protecting trees prevents woodlands and forests from turning into deserts, prevents soil salinity, and conserves beneficial species,. That’s a massive productivity benefit to agriculture itself,” he said.
WWF-Australia Media Contact:
Mark Symons, Senior Media Officer, 0400 985 571, firstname.lastname@example.org