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Threatened Species Scientific Committee Annual Report 2000-2001

Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2001

The Threatened Species Scientific Committee was established under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). Under this legislation the Committee is required to undertake a number of tasks which include advising the Minister for the Environment and Heritage on the amendment and updating of national lists for threatened species, threatened ecological communities, and key threatening processes, together with the making or adoption of recovery plans and threat abatement plans.

The Minister agreed to the membership, transitional arrangements, and framework for operation of the Committee in February 2000. Members were selected by the Minister for their expertise across the field of environmental management, though it was also recognised that the Committee should take a landscape perspective and call on additional expert opinion as required. Invitations were sent to prospective members in March 2000, and the Committee was formally appointed on 16 July 2000, when the Act commenced, with individual members appointed for the term of 3 years.

Meetings

Before formal appointment the Committee met twice in Canberra (April and June 2000) to begin developing guidelines and procedures for operation under the EPBC Act and Regulations.

Since formal appointment a further 5 meetings have been held, in August, October and December 2000, and February and April 2001. Four of these meetings were in Canberra and one in Brisbane. Highlights include:

Key Documents

The Committee has produced the following key documents in the last year:

A general TSSC Procedures Manual is under development. This will provide details of the Committee's role, copies of the guidelines for nominations and recovery plans, and outline the processes for listing amendments, registering critical habitat and adopting plans.

In addition the Secretariat has developed an internal procedure manual for Administration of the TSSC, and a web page on the Department of the Environment and Heritage Website describing the role and members - www.deh.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/committee/index.html

The Committee has considered funding priorities under the Natural Heritage Trust and advice is being prepared for the Minister addressing issues such as multi-year funding, community involvement, threatened species issues and the maintenance of project values.

Advice on the amendment and updating of the lists of threatened species, threatened ecological communities, and key threatening processes

The Committee has to date provided advice to the Minister on nominations for 23 species, 26 ecological communities and 7 threatening processes. This has resulted in 26 amendments: 17 to the list of threatened species (including one delisting), 5 to the list of threatened ecological communities, and 4 to the list of key threatening processes:

Group Listed at 16/7/00 Nominations Prelim Advice to TSSC* Listing advice Minister decisions List Change Listed at 30/6/01
Pre-EPBC~ EPBC Other # Draft (EA) Final agreed to Min
Fish 30 0 3 34 1 4 0 0 0 0 30
Frogs 31 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 31
Reptiles 49 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 50
Birds 117 2 1 121 1 2 2 2 2 2 119
Mammals 101 12 1 5 1 17 16 15 13 13 110
Other Animals 4 4 13 0 17 4 4 4 0 0 4
All Animals 332 19 18 160 20 28 23 22 16 16 344
Plants 1236 2 48 0 34 49 4 1 1 1 1237
Species 1566 21 66 160 54 77 27 23 17 17 1581
Ecological Communities 22 40 16 >500 18 38 37 26 26 5 27
KTP 6 9 9 0 8 17 14 7 6 4 10

~ Nominations received prior to implementation of the EPBC Act
* Preliminary Advice added to assessment process after January 2001
# from Action Plans, Minister or State Lists

A substantial number of the nominations which have been considered by the Committee were submitted under the Endangered Species Protection Act 1982, and required re-working before assessment under the EPBC Act and Regulations

The Committee has agreed to consider species included in Action Plans for listing in the appropriate categories. Lists of threatened ecological communities from New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Western Australia and Tasmania were gazetted on 1/11/2000. Under s185(2) of the EPBC Act these communities must be reviewed for potential national listing.

Advice on the making and adoption of recovery plans and threat abatement plans

To date the Committee has considered 98 draft Recovery Plans for 158 species and one draft Threat Abatement Plan. It has provided advice to the Minister on:

This has resulted in the adoption of 56 Recovery Plans and the decision to develop a Threat Abatement Plan for one key threatening process.

Advice will shortly be provided to the Minister on: the adoption of one Threat Abatement Plan; the making of a Recovery Plan; and the advisability of developing a further Threat Abatement Plan.

Strategic Relationships

The Threatened Species Scientific Committee is committed to taking a consultative and educative approach to its role and responsibilities. The Committee is building relationships with State Agencies, Threatened Species Committees, individuals and organisations which provide expertise to the listing process, and those affected by or interested in listing decisions, such as non-government organisations, community and industry groups.

All State Agencies and Committees have been contacted and provided with information regarding the role of the Threatened Species Scientific Committee, and will also be sent the revised guidelines and procedures manual. The April 2001 Committee meeting was held in Brisbane, in order to liaise with representatives of Queensland State agencies, non-government organisations and other stakeholders. The roles, procedures and the potential for stakeholder involvement was discussed as part of this meeting. Further interstate meetings are planned.

In addition to individual liaison on the procedures and priorities of the Committee, members have been involved in meetings with representatives of Queensland groups affected by recent listings, including State agencies, agricultural industry and conservation groups.