“Increased funding to ensure the survival of the states 970 threatened species is always welcome,” NSW National Parks Association CEO Kevin Evans said.

“The NSW Government’s Save Our Species model is starting to provide a holistic framework for species recovery planning and will hopefully improve conservation outcomes.

“It must be pointed out, however, that the biggest cause of species decline continues to be habitat loss.

“It has been 13 years since the NSW Government introduced the Native Vegetation Act, with the support of the NSW Farmers Association.

“The Act has achieved its core purpose of reducing broad scale clearing and protecting native vegetation of high conservation value, and has led to substantial reductions in native wildlife deaths from land clearing.

“We fear the government may use today’s announcement as a smokescreen to slip through plans to repeal the Native Vegetation Act in the closing days before the state election.

“Scrapping the Native Vegetation Act would undermine the benefits of the Coalition’s promised $100 million investment in threatened species recovery.

“In Queensland, where native vegetation clearing rules were significantly weakened in 2014, 275,000 hectares were cleared from Queensland in the last financial year, which was a tripling of land clearing rates since 20101.

“This should send alarm bells ringing to what we can expect in NSW if the Native Vegetation Act is repealed. “There are other issues to consider, too. For yellow-bellied gliders and other species dependent on large tree hollows, it doesn’t matter how much money is spent if hollows continue to vanish from the landscape as a result of land clearing.

“The government’s proposal for addressing these underlying threats is just as important as allocating funds.

“Protected areas are the most effective tool we have for conserving species and ecosystems, and on this score the government’s record is poor.

“What will the government do when a recovery plan for a threatened species identifies preservation of habitat as a key action? “Will habitat be preserved in a protected area, or will we continue as normal and treat this as an optional extra?”

NSW Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said: “We always welcome critical investment to prevent extinctions, but the Coalition must ensure it takes a holistic approach to protect threatened species and their habitat. “If nothing changes, the list of animal and plant species facing extinction in NSW is on track to reach 1000 by 2020. “Even a species as iconic and beloved as the koala is at great risk of extinction in parts of the state if urgent action is not taken to reduce threats to its survival.”

REFERENCES

[1] The Conversation. Land clearing in Queensland triples after policy ping pong, http://theconversation.com/land-clearing-in-queensland-triples-after-policy-ping-pong-38279

[2] Coetzee, B. W. T., Gaston, K. J. & Chown, S. L. Local Scale Comparisons of Biodiversity as a Test for Global Protected Area Ecological Performance: A Meta-Analysis. PLoS ONE 9, e105824, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0105824 (2014).

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