Dr. April Reside
Fixing the problem of broad scale land clearing across Queensland
Updated: Jul 11, 2018
After robust, extended debate in Queensland's parliament, a bill has thankfully passed amending land clearing laws that environmentalists view as a bona fide step in the right direction to halting large-scale removal of vegetation in the state. In a marathon vote that broke down into traditionally left-wing, right-wing quarters, Labor described the revised laws as striking the right balance between environmental and farming interests, whereas hard-line conservatives moved to present the changes as unreasonably restrictive to agricultural interests. Unfortunately, for conservationists, the end result was far from perfect. As remarked by the sitting Greens MP:
Berkman said the legislation left loopholes that would leave 23m hectares of high-value vegetation unprotected. These loopholes were so big you could “literally drive a bulldozer through”.
Conservation groups nevertheless see the changes as a considerable milestone. We must keep up the pressure on behalf of our precious flora and fauna that suffered so greatly under the previous political regime.
Read more in The Guardian: Queensland passes land-clearing laws after gruelling three-day debate
It seems that I am often the harbinger of doom. I find myself reporting more terrible news about species declining towards extinction, increasing risk of heat waves to people and ecosystems, and governments signing off more and more destruction. All this bad news is overwhelming.
So I’m very happy to report that there is good news for Queensland! The Queensland Government are proposing a new Bill, the “Vegetation Management and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018”, which would bring back many of the tighter regulations around vegetation management (aka land clearing), removing self-assessable codes which do not provide adequate protection for threatened ecological communities or species. [We covered this in a recent article in The Conversation, and in a recent blog post.]
These reintroduced regulations are sorely needed. Colleagues here at the University of Queensland have shown that for many bioregions across Queensland, ‘Endangered’ and ‘Of Concern’ Regional Ecosystems are being cleared faster than those that are ‘Least Concern’.
In short: we are losing the threatened vegetation communities faster than those that aren’t threatened.
I’m currently working on a paper showing habitat loss of Black-throated Finches which has happened under the current legislation … stay tuned for that one.
Today I got to speak as a scientific witness at the public hearing for this proposed Bill. I sat alongside ecological legends Leonie Seabrook and Jen Silcock, providing evidence for why these amendments are needed. I’m excited by the great people who are working towards better vegetation regulations, and the political will to make it happen. I hope that this good news turns into fantastic news – that the Bill will be passed.
On this topic – another colleague here Blake Simmons’ paper on “Spatial and temporal patterns of land clearing during policy change” just hit the decks and worth a look!
Right: Photo by Eric Vanderduys
Find more excellent articles by Dr. April Reside https://aprilreside.wixsite.com/conservation