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Joint Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

&
WA Minister for Environment and Heritage
Judy Edwards

4 September 2001

UNIQUE LAND PRESERVED FOR WESTERN AUSTRALIA'S FUTURE


An historic Commonwealth and State initiative will see stunning new properties amounting to more than 2.7 million hectares join Western Australia's conservation reserve system.

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill and WA Environment and Heritage Minister Judy Edwards today announced the $5.7 million purchase of land in the Gascoyne Murchison region to ensure long-term protection for thousands of plants, reptiles and other creatures.

Senator Hill said the Commonwealth Government contributed $3.6 million towards buying the 13 pastoral leases and parts of 10 other leases to ensure this unique landscape would be protected under the national reserve system.

"The 57 million hectare Gascoyne Murchison region has an incredible level of biodiversity - researchers have found so many species in this area that some have not even been named scientifically yet. Yet despite this vast diversity of plants, reptiles, spiders and even scorpions, the area's existing protection has been severely inadequate," Senator Hill said.

"A key priority of the National Reserve System is to ensure adequate representation of the nation's land managed for the conservation of biological diversity. This latest purchase is filling the gaps in Western Australia - in the past four years we have seen conservation areas in the Gascoyne Murchison region under this initiative more than treble," Senator Hill said.

"The pastoral leases acquired include the 182 743 hectare Muggon, which contains a chain of wetlands supporting 88 bird species and contains 15 vegetation types. Seven of these vegetation types are poorly represented and eight not represented at all in the reserve system. Others, such as the 149 317 ha Lake Mason, the 243 992 ha Lorna Glenn and the 402 467 ha Mooloogool, all supported various ecosystems and vegetation types that were poorly represented or not represented at all."

The land acquisitions were funded jointly by the Federal Government's National Reserve System Program, under the Natural Heritage Trust, and by the State as part of the WA Gascoyne Murchison Rangelands Strategy.

Dr Edwards said the additions to the conservation estate would provide a significant boost to regional Western Australia.

"The aim of the Gascoyne Murchison Rangelands Strategy is to address the environmental, economic and social needs of this pastoral rangelands region," she said.

"Under the GMS it is envisaged that at least 15 per cent of the region will be in conservation reserves ensuring greater representation of the region's diverse flora and fauna. At the beginning of the GMS program there were approximately one million hectares of land already within the conservation reserve system representing two per cent of the region. Now, the total area of land managed for the conservation of biodiversity within the GMS region is about 3.8 million hectares or about 6.6 per cent.

"Of the 251 vegetation types occurring within the Gascoyne Murchison region, 90 (35 per cent) are protected within the reserve system and of these 40 are new to the reserve system and 37 have greater than 10 per cent of the original area now represented. Thirty vegetation types are represented in the reserve system at a level higher than 15% of their original area."

Dr Edwards said the land acquisitions have also brought economic benefits to the region through cash injections for pastoralists who sell leases but remain on the land as contract managers.

"Many have also pursued other interests and earnings from a rapidly growing nature-based tourism industry."

Dr Edwards said the Department of Conservation and Land Management would be progressively pursuing the formal creation of national parks, conservation parks and nature reserves over the newly acquired areas.

"The Department will continue to consult with a wide range of stakeholders as areas of land are acquired, including pastoralists, their representative organisations, the Gascoyne Murchison Strategy Board, the Pastoral Lands Board, Aboriginal groups, local government, conservation groups, the mining and tourism industries and other government agencies."

September 4, 2001

Media contacts:
(Senator Hill): Belinda Huppatz 02 6277 7640 or 0419 258 364
(Dr Edwards): John Carey on 9220 5050

Print quality images of the event (jpg format) can be emailed upon request, contact: public.affairs@environment.gov.au.

Commonwealth of Australia