Nature a hostage to ideology

Media report shows that even modest efforts to protect nature are sacrificed at the altar of ideology.

The National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) is calling for urgent political efforts to reach bipartisanship on protecting nature for future generations after this morning’s revelations in the Sydney Morning Herald.

According to the report, plans from former Environment Minister Mark Speakman—drawn up under Mike Baird’s Premiership—to add economically unproductive state forests to the reserve network were first adjusted to exclude National Party electorates, then scuppered completely in Premier Berejiklian’s cabinet.

“Assuming these reports are true, it reflects just how far we have fallen in protection of NSW’s fantastic wildlife and landscapes”, said NPA CEO, Alix Goodwin.

“If it’s too much for some in government to even add economically unproductive forests to the reserve network, what hope do we have of seeing the government take tough decisions to protect nature when there are economic trade-offs to consider?

“With some notable exceptions, national parks have always been put in uneconomic places, where there is no demand for logging or agriculture. That’s why we’re still seeing wildlife declines, because the areas most at risk often go unprotected due to competing vested interests.

“If we’re serious about reversing declines and avoiding more extinctions, we need to make decisions to protect land that nature needs, not where it’s convenient for politicians.

“NPA’s Great Koala National Park is a good example: a recent analysis shows that it’s the most important area of public land in NSW for koalas. Yet, instead of making the park, the government is proposing to include many of these forests in an ‘intensive harvesting zone’ where forests will be systematically clearfelled to prop up unsustainable wood contracts.

“Koala populations on the north coast have fallen by 50% in the last 20 years, and the forests of the north coast are one of just 36 global biodiversity hotspots – the most important places on Earth!

”But this report suggests that we can expect little action from the government to protect these extraordinary areas.

“That’s is despite polling in Lismore and Ballina showing 90% community support for protecting forests for wildlife, water, carbon and recreation and 70% support for new national parks to protect koalas.

“It’s a sad state of affairs when ideology, rather than evidence and community consultation, is driving environment policy. We urgently need bipartisanship to protect the common good.”

ENDS. Media contact: Dr Oisin Sweeney, Senior Ecologist, 9299 0000

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