The Society's Save Our Bushland Campaign
Your donation to our tax deductible Bushland Conservation Fund, monies specially set aside for this activity, would be most appreciated. You may choose to download a pdf donation form, print it, and post it, or you may choose to pay electronically using a secure form.
The Society is a member of the Department of Main Roads' Roadside Conservation Committee, yet despite this membership and endless conversations, roadside clearing continues almost unabated.
We need to provide a strong public voice for community concerns about
bushland loss and the need for government action in the agricultural, rural
and urban areas of WA. This is particularly so with the recent release of
two relevant reports:
The Western Australian Auditor General's report of June 2009: Rich and Rare: Conservation of Threatened Species, and
the report on Regulation Review: Clearing of Native Vegetation, April 2009.
The objectives of the Society's Save Our Bushland Campaign are:
To raise community awareness about the natural heritage values of our unique bushland, particularly its outstanding biodiversity values, and its role in stabilising and sustaining ecological processes, and
To achieve a moratorium on land clearing in Western Australia.
From the Wildflower Society of Western Australia's perspective, trees and other vegetation are important, valuable and necessary to our very existence. Without them, we would not exist on this planet. Click here to read Eddy Wajon's article: Trees have an economic value.
The following information provides some background on sustainability issues associated with land clearing, the extent of land clearing in WA, State Government policies and some ideas about what you can do to become more involved in the campaign.
Land clearance in Australia
A recent Federal Government Biodiversity audit of Australia indicated that almost 3000 ecosystems are under threat with half damaged beyond repair, and the rate of land clearing accelerating in recent years to fifth highest worldwide in 19991
That's a rate of over 100 football fields destroyed every hour in Australia. Although most land clearing is occurring in Queensland, the national target for biodiversity conservation to reduce the net rate of land clearance to zero by 20012 is yet to be achieved in WA.
Land clearing and Sustainability
The effects of land clearing have far-reaching impacts on all aspects of sustainability - environmental, economic, and sociocultural.
Land clearing is the biggest threat to biodiversity conservation,3 and contributes to net Greenhouse gas emissions and human-induced climate change.4
In WA our knowledge of biodiversity is limited, many species have not been scientifically described or named, and their conservation and ecology is unknown.
Data on the genetic diversity of species is almost non-existent.5 The fragmentation of native vegetation from land clearing, into patches of remnant bush makes survival difficult for many species. Over time these species (sometimes called the 'living dead') gradually die out in the uncleared area.
This long time lag (or extinction debt) means it takes decades or even centuries before the full impacts of current clearing practices becomes apparent.
Conserving native bushland is a far better and cheaper way of conserving biodiversity than tree planting and revegetation projects. Healthy, complex native bushland communities are difficult, if not impossible to reconstruct once destroyed, and if achievable would be prohibitively expensive.
Land clearing is the major cause of dryland salinity and salinisation of inland waterways of WA6. Currently 10% (2,000,000ha) of the WA agricultural landscape is affected7 and recent estimates predict 25%-35% (6,109,000ha) could become salt affected by 2030.8
Dryland salinity threatens the economic and social basis of the State's agricultural sector. An estimated $2 billion is required over the next 30 years to implement a Salinity Management Strategy in the wheatbelt of Western Australia.9
Lost agricultural production in WA attributable to salinity now exceeds $130 million annually and potentially could rise to nearly $1billion/annum. In some areas salinity is reducing the life of roads by 75% and affecting rail lines and buildings from rising damp in at least 30towns. Infrastructure costs such as these are estimated to cost the community around $100 million/year.10
Land clearance in Western Australia
i) Agricultural area
The south west of WA is the only Australian area identified as one of twenty-five global "biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities.11"
Within the south west there are 8 or 9 nodes of species richness deserving recognition in their own right.
Despite its rich biodiversity heritage, 95% of the SW agricultural area has been cleared,12 substantially during the period 1945 to 1982.13
An average of 32,500ha/year was authorised for clearing during 1986-1992.14
By 1997/98 to 2000/01 the average had fallen to ~1,317 ha/year in the agricultural region of WA and on rural zoned land in the SW land division15.
However, this figure does not include other areas within the State typically associated with infrastructure (499ha in 2000/01), or illegal clearing (~2,500ha cleared July 2001-April 2002). Nevertheless this is a significant decline from previous years and at least part of this decline could be attributed to the Society's campaign for legislative reform.
ii) Metropolitan area
In the Perth metropolitan region there is still much room for improvement. Remnant vegetation on the Swan Coastal Plain was audited as part of the Bush Forever (BF) (2000) scheme and aims to secure 10% representation in all but 3 of the 26 vegetation complexes where past commitments and approvals reduce the area for conservation.16
During the period 199417 to 2003 an estimated 23% (121,900 ha) of the remnant vegetation on the Swan Coastal Plain was cleared. Some readers may be better able to relate to the severity of land clearing by considering the following statistic - the equivalent of 1040 football fields were cleared of remnant vegetation in 1998-2001.18
In addition, 70% of the original wetlands have been destroyed and the remaining 30% have been affected to some extent by drainage, filling or mining19.
Currently only ~28% of native vegetation remains on the Swan Coastal Plain portion of the Perth Metropolitan Region.20 This is 2% below the target set for National Objectives and Targets for Biodiversity Conservation 2001-2005 and by the Perth Biodiversity Project 2003 (30% representation of vegetation communities).
We are at a crucial time in history in determining the fate of our biodiversity heritage in the Perth Metropolitan Region.
There are 75,000ha of natural areas outside secure tenure (for conservation) within the Perth Metropolitan Region. Of this, 8-9,000ha are already 'upzoned' under the State Metropolitan Regional Scheme i.e. earmarked for future development over the next 30 years. This leaves another ~66,000 ha of natural areas at risk of clearing.21
An Urban Growth Boundary for Perth
As a response to widespread community concerns of ever continuing urban sprawl into pristine bushland, the Society have taken a novel but proactive approach to the future. The Save Our Bushland campaign developed a proposal for an Urban Growth Boundary and an associated Greenbelt for the Perth Metropolitan Region. A campaign map of the metropolitan region shows the urban growth boundary superimposed on current planning zones and native vegetation. It respects the natural assets of the landscape such as wetlands, bushland conservation areas, water supply catchments, (groundwater mounds as well as surface water catchment areas), soils and landforms suited to agricultural uses, and major landscape features such as the Darling Scarp and Hills forests. The Society believes that this proposal is readily achievable and would be acceptable to the people of Perth.
Dialogue with the City
The Department of Planning & Infrastructure's Dialogue with the City workshop held on 13th September 2003 was an important initiative for the public to assess the future direction of urban development in the Greater Perth Region. The Society's Urban Growth Boundary proposal was presented as one of the scenarios for consideration. Significantly, 70% of groups at the workshop agreed Perth should have a Growth Boundary. Furthermore, when asked the top five aspects worth keeping to make Perth "the world's most liveable city", the 1100 Dialogue participants gave priority to the natural environmental elements (i.e. rivers, bushland, forests, wetlands, beaches, foreshores, 'open space', and so on).
The profound ramifications of extensive native vegetation clearing in WA illustrate that historically biodiversity conservation measures in this State have been under-emphasised, largely ineffectual, and in some cases misguided22.
The most recent changes to land clearing policy was passed in the Legislative Assembly and Upper House in September 2003. The Environmental Protection Act 1986 (Act) is being revised and reformed by the Environmental Protection Amendment Bill 2002 (Bill). The Bill introduces a new offence for causing "Environmental Harm' under which unauthorised clearing is included.
The penalties for offences have been greatly increased and should further reduce unauthorised land clearing in WA. The new clearing regulations will remove any former loopholes and are a major step forward.
However, it is the exemptions and the degree of political will to end clearing across all lands which will dictate the success of outcomes.
What you can do.
We invite you to become more involved in the campaign in whatever way suits you. You could:
Make a tax-deductible donation to the Wildflower Society Bushland Conservation Fund. (See details below.)
Meet, phone or write to your local parliamentarian about your concerns about bushland clearing.
Talk to your friends about this campaign and the issues it raises.
The Wildflower Society Bushland Conservation Fund
This fund supports the Save Our Bushland Campaign which relies solely on donations for its continuation. The fund is managed by a committee of Wildflower Society of WA members, including members of the Society's Management Committee. Donations to this fund are tax deductible. If you really care, please make a donaion. You may choose to download a pdf donation form, print it, and post it, or you may choose to pay electronically using a secure form.
1 ABC News online Wednesday 23 April 2003
2 National Objectives and Targets for Biodiversity Conservation 2001-2005 (2001) Environment Australia, Canberra. p.7.
3 State of the Environment Advisory Council (1996) Australia: State of the Environment 1996, CSIRO, Collingwood.
4 National Objectives and Targets for Biodiversity Conservation 2001-2005 (2001) p.25.
5 Environment Western Australia (1997) Draft State of the Environment Report for Western Australia. Department of Environmental Protection, Government of Western Australia. p.55
6 State of the Environment Reference Group (1998) Environment Western Australia 1998: State of the Environment Report, Government of Western Australia, Perth.
7 & 10 G. Gallop (2002) Landcare and the Environment. Premier of WA. p.2.
8 & 9 Soil and Land Conservation Council and the Western Australian Water Resources Council (1995) Salinity - A Recommended Strategy for Western Australia. Agriculture WA, Perth, December. p.1 & p.13.
11 Myers et al. (2000) 'Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities' Nature. 403: 853-858.
12 Department of Environmental Protection (2002) Proposed Amendments to the Environmental Protection Act to Protect Native Vegetation in Western Australia. DEP Native Vegetation Working Group, October.
13 Saunders & Curry (1990) The impact of agricultural and pastoral industries on birds in the southern half of Western Australia: Past, present & future. In: D.A. Saunders, A.J.M. Hopkins, R.A.How (Eds) Australian Ecosystems: 200 years of Utilisation, Degradation and Reconstruction. Proceedings of a Symposium held in Geraldton, WA 28 Aug-2 Sept 1988. p.303.
14 Nabben (1992) Cited in: Native Vegetation Clearance, Habitat Loss and Biodiversity Decline. Biodiversity Series, Paper No.6 Biodiversity Unit, Commonwealth of Australia 1995. P.34.
15 Deputy Commissioner for Soil & Land Conservation, Agriculture WA. Meeting 30/01/2002.
16 Bush Forever (2000) Volume 1: Policies, Principles and Processes. The Government of Western Australia. Western Australian Planning Commission, Perth.
17 Dixon, J. Connell, S., Bailey,J. & Keenan, C. (1994) The Perth Environment Project and Inventory of Perth's Remnant Vegetation. In: A vision for a greener city: the role of vegetation in urban environments". Proceedings of the 1994 National Greening Australia Conference, Greening Australia Ltd. p.58.
18 Perth Biodiversity Project-Councils Caring for their Natural Communities (2002) Western Australian Local Government Association, National Heritage Trust & Department for Planning and Infrastructure. Booklet, p.5.
19 Government of Western Australia (1992) State of the Environment Report. Gov't of WA, Perth. p.109.
20 & 21 Del Marco, A., Miles, C., Taylor, R., Clarke, K. & Savage, K. (2003) Draft Local Government Biodiversity Planning Guidelines. Natural Protection and Management in the Perth Metropolitan Region. Perth Biodiversity Project. Western Australian Local Government Association. August 2003.
22 Verstegen, P. (2002) Sustainability and Biodiversity Conservation: Opportunities and Challenges for Western Australia. A background paper prepared for the State Sustainability Strategy. Integrated Sustainability Management (ISM) & Institute of Science and Technology Policy (ISTP), Murdoch University, p.3.