Pseudo zoos and tokenistic gestures seem to be the vision for Australia's wildlife, says the National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) on the Commonwealth's new Threatened Species Strategy.
The strategy was announced by Environment Minister Greg Hunt at Australia's first Threatened Species summit, held in Melbourne last Thursday (16th July).
"It is telling that habitat protection does not even get a mention in the plan. Protecting habitat is the number one tool for conserving native species. This indicates that the federal government is raising the white flag when it comes to ensuring our unique wildlife can persist into the future," says Kevin Evans, CEO of National Parks Association.
"Establishing feral-free offshore islands is a smart approach and can deliver real conservation outcomes. But that's unfortunately where the positives end. Most of the rest is smoke and mirrors and a distraction from what is really needed."
"Funding of $6.6 million is a pittance in light of the Abbott government's $480 million cuts to the National Landcare Program. And over one third of this money will be spent establishing tiny feral-free enclosures which take the focus off meaningful landscape-scale conservation and risk confining species like bilbies and numbats to pseudo zoos," Mr Evans continues.
"And identifying Leadbeaters Possum for 'emergency intervention' while continuing to log its core habitat would be laughable if it weren't so sad."
NPA believes that there is an overemphasis on culling introduced feral animals in the new plan without the allocation of sufficient funds to address the problem nationally.
"We think this is a red herring. With limited resources there is no way that we can use feral control on a continental scale to protect our wildlife," says Dr Oisin Sweeney, NPA's Science Officer.
"Rewilding offers a genuine complimentary strategy: we need to urgently plan to allow dingoes to reclaim Australia to do cheap, full-time pest control for us, and ensure that there is protection in place for landholders in case of stock losses," he said.
"We face a choice: either we grasp the nettle and restore ecosystem function, or we have vast areas devoid of native mammals. It can be done: in the USA and Europe wolves are recolonising with dramatic benefits to nature. We just need to safeguard farmers and make sure they don't bear the cost of conservation alone," Dr Oisin concluded.
"What struck me about the new Threatened Species Strategy is that the Federal Government is seeking investment from the private sector to help fund their initiatives to reverse biodiversity decline. However, contradictions in environmental policy will deter many private funders. For example the government's continued support of native forest logging is completely at odds with the very aim of this strategy," says Mr Evans.
"Set against the background of a government that is failing on climate change, facilitating mining at any cost and burning our native forests for fuel, the plan looks like a cheap band aid," Dr Oisin concludes.
Kevin Evans, CEO National Parks Association of NSW, ph. 0457 787 977
Dr Oisin Sweeney, NPA Science Officer, ph. 0431 251 194