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

2 August 1999

AUSTRALIANS CALLED TO COMMENT ON TREE CLEARING


A first for Australia, a national native vegetation strategy was released today in draft form for public consultation.

Speaking at the Australian National Botanical Gardens, Dr Sharman Stone MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Environment and Heritage, said the draft National Framework for the Management and Monitoring of Australia's Native Vegetation aimed to reverse the long-term decline in the quality and extent of Australia's native vegetation coverage by June 2001.

"In a unique cooperative commitment, all states and territories, in partnership with the commonwealth, have signed-up to the Framework's June 2001 target. For the next month we want all those interested in vegetation conservation to examine this draft to see how we can best achieve this 'no net loss' goal."

Australians are still clearing around 310,000 hectares per annum from regional areas and suburban fringes, but we are only replanting 100,000 hectares per annum. That is the equivalent of 500 Melbourne Cricket Grounds every day.

Almost 70% of Australia's native vegetation has been cleared or thinned out, most in the last 50 years. The effects on Australia's animals, birds and insect habitats have been devastating. 20 different mammal, 9 bird and 97 plant species are now extinct.

But as well dry-land salinity, a result of inappropriate clearing, has affected some 2.5 million hectares of land, costing the country around $240 million in lost agricultural production and $100 million in damage to roads and buildings throughout regional centres.

"It is vital that all Australian's understand what is at stake if we continue to clear at current rates," Dr Stone said.

"Country and city people, families, service clubs, farmers, business, individuals and community groups can all help through a variety of ways, such as volunteering to work on a Bushcare project, collecting native seeds, fencing out a remnant patch of bushland or hosting a team of Green Corps volunteers," Dr Stone said.

"Planting more native trees will help Australia reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet its international obligations in the Kyoto Protocol."

Dr Stone said a nationally consistent vegetation framework was necessary because of different land clearing controls in different state and territories

For example, some states have established legislative or regulatory controls; some have detailed mapping, planning or management systems, while some protect public or leasehold land from inappropriate clearing but not private freehold land.

"The development of a nationally consistent framework should mean northern Australia communities do not repeat the mistakes of earlier settled south regions where trees were cleared without any understanding of the long-term consequences. We cannot afford to see history repeat itself."

The draft National Vegetation Framework identifies essential measures, including:

"Native vegetation protection is often described as an 'alternative land use' or an opportunity lost, when nothing could be further from the truth. Native vegetation retention is an investment in our natural capital. It is an investment in our collective future," Dr Stone said.

Copies of the draft framework are available from the What's New index of Environment Australia's website at http://www.environment.gov.au/ or from the National Heritage Trust freecall hotline on 1800 803 772. Submissions close on 3 September 1999.

For further information please contact:
Nicole Johnston, Assistant Adviser, 0419 219 415 or 02 6277 2016

Commonwealth of Australia