Covid clearing

CLEARING native vegetation under the guise of Covid economic recovery has highlighted major gaps in WA’s regulatory systems, says the Wilderness Society.

The society says projects funded by Covid grants are pushing Perth’s urban sprawl further and faster, while senior campaigner Jenita Enevoldsen warns the problem is sending the entire state towards “catastrophe”.

“If transformative steps are not taken, then the ecological function of vast tracts of WA’s bioregions will be pushed towards a tipping point,” Ms Enevoldsen said.

One of the society’s biggest issue’s is WA’s piecemeal monitoring of land clearing.

According to a recent society report, more than 7.7 million hectares were bulldozed across the state through logging, mining and development since 2000, making it one of the planet’s most impacted landscapes.

Despite the size of the area being cleared, barely 7 per cent was referred to the federal government for assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act according to the Society for Conservation Biology. 

The Wilderness Society report says no one’s keeping an eye on what’s been happening on WA’s vast pastoral leases either, meaning “it would take 20 years to inspect each pastoral station once” to determine how much vegetation has been destroyed.

This estimate is underlined by 2007 report by WA’s auditor general, who found “the management is in disrepair with no consistent data monitoring of native vegetation”. 

However, despite the lack of accountability and available data, there’s no government framework to report on illegal land clearing in WA. 

In a 2016 report by the WA Environmental Protection Authority, land clearing was found to be “one of the biggest threats to WA’s biodiversity”, with concerns about the “cumulative impact of clearing in the Perth, Peel, Wheatbelt and Pilbara regions”.

“This really is a line in the sand moment, where we either accept a catastrophic status quo, or we get serious about protecting, monitoring and restoring our native vegetation,” Ms Enevoldsen said, noting February’s firestorms which destroyed 80 homes near Wooroloo.

The society has called on the McGowan government to put $10 million into this year’s surplused budget for a statewide biodiversity monitoring program.

by HARRY PENROSE

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