Australia’s natural heritage held hostage by farmers
Recent threats from farmers to cut down trees because of a perceived ‘conspiracy’ between State and Federal governments to destroy farmlands (through climate change programs and vegetation clearing laws) should be sounding loud alarm bells throughout the country. They indicate just how precarious is the continued survival of vast swathes of our remaining natural resources, which can evidently be destroyed at the apparent whim of those who suggest they care for them.
Farmers from Queensland, NSW and Victoria have threatened to cut down one tree on 1st July, two on 2nd July, and so on, to protest a perceived joint government conspiracy against farmers (Sydney Morning Herald, 5th June 2007).
Only last month the Federal Government announced a $50 million dollar environmental stewardship programme specifically aimed at rewarding farmers who take conservation action ‘over and above their duty of care’. This programme falls far short of HSI’s requested biodiversity conservation programme of $10 billion, but was welcomed wholeheartedly by the National Farmer’s Federation as ‘recognising farmers as Australia’s frontline environmental managers’. “This is a distressing about-turn. In one month farmers have gone from projecting themselves as responsible environmental stewards to becoming environmental vandals holding Australia’s national heritage hostage to demands for yet more Government money,” said Mr. Kennedy, Humane Society International (HSI) Director.
Globally and within Australia, the most significant threat to the natural world and the diversity of life, and a major contributor to climate change is the clearing of native vegetation. “Land clearing is restricted by law in order to limit the devastating effects that it has on our unique natural heritage. Hundreds of species are found in Australia and nowhere else on the planet, and with attitudes such as these displayed by our farmers, it is not surprising that we are still losing species at astonishing rates – not to mention the increased release of greenhouse gases,” added Mr. Kennedy.
“Native landscapes provide a vast range of benefits far beyond simply being a sink for carbon, not only to the landowner but to the wider community,” said Mr. Kennedy. “They provide habitat for native plants, animals and birds, allow water to percolate down to recharge water tables, prevent soil erosion, clean the atmosphere and provide shade, as well as a number of more subtle benefits on an ecosystem level.”
HSI anticipates that both State and Federal governments will take steps to prevent these threats of environmental vandalism from materialising.