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The Hon Dr Sharman Stone MP
Federal Member for Murray
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister
for the Environment and Heritage

2 February 2000


Gunbower Forest, an internationally recognised wildlife sanctuary, is one of Australia's reasons for celebrating World Wetland Day, Sharman Stone MP, Federal Member for Murray, said today.

"Australia currently has 53 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance under the Convention, covering a total area of over five million hectares. Three of these - Barmah Forest, Gunbower Forest and Kerang Wetlands - are part of the Federal Electorate of Murray's unique landscape," Sharman Stone said.

Gunbower Forest, listed as a RAMSAR site in 1982, is the second largest Red Gum forest in Victoria, behind Barmah Forest. Covering some 19,931 hectares, it is an important breeding ground for waterbirds including Egrets.

The Forest is a popular recreational area for fishing, hunting and camping. 230 hectares has been set aside for conservation education.

World Wetlands Day is celebrated on 2 February each year and marks the date of the signing of the International Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar.

Dr Stone said the Federal Government had boosted Wetlands protection with passage of the new Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999.

"For the first time, matters of national environmental significance, including RAMSAR wetlands, will be subject to Commonwealth overview," Sharman Stone said.

The Federal Government also provides funding through the $1.5 billion Natural Heritage Trust to promote the conservation, repair and wise use of wetlands across Australia.

"This year's round of NHT applications (2000-2001) are now open. I would encourage CMA's, councils and community groups in the area to nominate projects to help Gunbower Forest maintain their unique character," Sharman Stone said.

To obtain a Guide to New Applicants telephone freecall 1800 065 823 or on-line at Applications close on 25 February 2000.

Media Inquiries:
Nicole Johnston, Assistant Adviser, 02 6277 2016 or 0419 219 415

Commonwealth of Australia