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The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

Minister announces priority assessment list

Media release
27 August 2008
PG/126

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The Tasmanian devil has been included in a list of 27 animals, plants and important habitat areas to be assessed as a priority for their conservation status under the Australian Government environmental legislation.

Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett has today announced this year's finalised priority assessment list, following advice from the Threatened Species Scientific Committee.

"This year, 20 species, seven ecological communities and two key threatening processes have been included for priority assessment. They will now be thoroughly assessed to determine their national conservation status," Mr Garrett said.

"The decision of what needs to be included in this list is based on a strategic national approach and puts a focus on the highest priority nominations.

"Those assessed as threatened will be listed as matters of national environmental significance under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, which will give them increased protection and the chance to be considered for conservation and recovery programs."

The Tasmanian devil has been included in this year's list for a review of its threatened status. It is currently listed as vulnerable under the EPBC Act. It was recently uplisted in Tasmania to endangered.

Mr Garrett said this Australian Government had already committed $10 million over five years to the Save the Tasmanian Devil program under Caring for Our Country.

"This will help research into disease transmission and treatment, and will support captive and wild populations," he said.

"In addition to this, its inclusion on this list means it will be assessed as a priority and if necessary, its status will be upgraded, increasing its protection under the EPBC Act."

The koala has also made the finalised priority assessment list and will be included in the next round of assessments.

Mr Garrett said his department was also reviewing the National Koala Conservation Strategy with the Australian Koala Foundation and the states and territories.

"The koala is one of our greatest and most loved national icons and the Government is committed to ensuring its ongoing conservation," Mr Garrett said.

"Two years ago koalas were assessed and did not, at that stage, meet the criteria for listing under the Act. However, I've made a commitment to reassess the koala for listing and its conservation status will be thoroughly assessed.

"The review of the national strategy will provide input to the assessment of the koala. The assessment will be thorough - it cannot be rushed and could take up to two years."

Mr Garrett said he had also accepted the committee's advice to nominate the Murray River and associated wetlands, floodplains and groundwater systems from the junction of the Darling River to the sea, including the Coorong.

This assessment will provide important ecological information for the longer-term management of the Murray River below the Darling junction, and so will complement the work already being undertaken to address the critical problems of the Lower Murray.

Also included in the list was the Patagonian toothfish, the grey-headed albatross, Don's spider orchid, Kuranda tree frog, three woodlands and several aquatic ecological communities.

Mr Garrett said the process to finalise the priority list was a rigorous and transparent process.

"In developing this list, a wide range of views from the community and expert scientific opinion are taken into consideration.

"The public has an opportunity to nominate the species, ecological communities and key threatening processes it would like to have considered for the list. Then an independent body of experts, the Threatened Species Scientific Committee, assesses those nominations before recommending the final list to me."

The 2008 Finalised Priority Assessment List can be found at http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/index.html

Commonwealth of Australia