Bush needs funding, enforcement   

IN this week’s Speakers’ Corner environmental scientist MARY GRAY responds to recent coverage of the state government’s lack of a plan to protect native vegetation. Ms Gray was awarded an OAM for service to conservation and the environment in 2022. 

THE article “No plan for bushland” (Perth Voice, January 14, 2023) does not tell the whole story about protecting native vegetation in the Perth region.  

There is a conservation reserve system for the Swan Coastal Plain portion of the Perth Metropolitan Region called Bush Forever.

It is about “Keeping the Bush in the City”.

It was introduced as a whole of government plan and program in December 2000 with 287 Bush Forever Areas to be secured and protected for conservation in a representative system of protected areas.  

It was/is to protect an additional 17,800 hectares of bushland, and this is in addition to the 33,400 hectares which, in the year 2000, already had some protection through existing reservation and/or tenure arrangements.  

Thus Bush Forever identifies 51,000 hectares of regionally significant bushland for protection, covering 26 vegetation complexes.  Our Perth Bushland and wetlands are inherently rich in species of flora and fauna.

As stated in the Government’s Vision for Bush Forever (December 2000): “A general duty of care for future generations, partnerships and a sense of shared responsibility are essential ingredients of Bush Forever.  

The vision is the creation of a conservation estate of which Perth can be justly proud, so that everyone has their own ‘Kings Park’ within easy reach for present enjoyment and, as a legacy of our unique quality of life, to hand on to our children.”  

Now after more than 21 years of implementing Bush Forever, nearly all of these Bush Forever Areas are in government/public ownership as Crown reserves. Indeed in October 2022, a Bush Forever 21st Celebration event was held at the Herdsman’s Lake Wildlife Centre.  It was well-attended by many from government agencies and community bushcare groups. 

In addition, the WA Government has a Native Vegetation Policy which aims to increase the area of native vegetation. Also there are many listed endangered species and listed threatened ecological communities which are supposed to be protected with no further clearing of their habitat.  This however, is not being enforced by the government’s regulators and clearing of these habitats is continuing, patch by patch. 

Our iconic endangered species such as Carnaby’s cockatoo and our state fauna emblem the numbat are under increasing threat from clearing and burning of their habitat. 

Indeed most of the native vegetation (ie ‘bushland’) remaining on the Swan Coastal Plain is already part of this habitat for endangered species and vegetation communities. Thus there should be no more clearing in this already over-cleared region.

As Dr Brad Pettitt said in the January 14 article, our Swan Coastal Plain is within a global biodiversity hotspot. 

It is so listed “for conservation priority because it is under threat”, but it continues to be cleared. 

The state government is failing to enforce clearing controls to prevent loss of bushland that is supposed to be protected.

Also lacking is adequate capacity of conservation land managers, especially the Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions, to manage Perth’s conservation estate.

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