Coalition proposes to abandon recovery plans for 200 threatened species and habitats | Preservation
The Morrison government has proposed removing recovery plans for nearly 200 endangered species and habitats, including the Tasmanian devil, whale shark and endangered populations of the glossy black cockatoo on Kangaroo Island, one of the most critical areas. most affected by the 2019-2020 bushfires.
Environmental groups decried the move as a step backwards less than 12 months after a statutory review of Australia’s national environmental laws found successive governments had failed to protect the country’s unique wildlife.
Recovery plans are documents that define the actions necessary to stop species from becoming extinct. Ministers are legally bound not to take decisions incompatible with them.
Since changes were made to the law in 2007, they have increasingly been replaced by what is known as a retention notice, a similar document but which does not have the same legal force in national law.
Guardian Australia has previously reported that less than 40% of listed endangered species have a recovery plan. Another 10% of all those listed have been identified as requiring a recovery plan, but those plans have not been developed or are incomplete. Even more plans are obsolete.
The federal Department of the Environment revealed last year that it had not finalized a single recovery plan for endangered species for almost 18 months and that more than 170 were overdue. All listed species, including those requiring a recovery plan, have a conservation notice.
This year, the government asked the Independent Scientific Committee on Threatened Species (TSSC), which advises it on endangered wildlife, to review recovery plans for 914 threatened species and habitats to determine which should continue to develop. ” have a recovery plan and which might just have a conservation plan. Advice.
The committee advised that 676 no longer required a recovery plan.
The government is responding in stages to the recommendations of the commission and released Friday for public consultation the first tranche of 157 animals and plants and 28 ecological communities for which it proposes to remove stimulus plans.
These include the vulnerable Green and Golden Bell Frog and the Spectacled Flying Fox, whose threat status was upgraded to Endangered after the 2019 heatwaves.
Among the ecological communities is the critically endangered Cumberland Wooded Plain, one of the most pressured forests in the country due to urban development in western Sydney.
It has been identified as requiring a recovery plan since 2009 but no plan has yet been finalized.
Labor Party spokesperson for the environment, Terri Butler, said on Friday that “Scott Morrison has given up on saving iconic Australian species”.
“The 2019-20 bushfires killed or displaced 3 billion animals and his response is now to cut 157 stimulus packages.”
Greens for the environment spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said the government was seeking to rewrite its obligations and “was waving the white flag to save our native plants and wildlife.”
“Reducing the minister’s level of obligation is reducing the protection of our native animals and species,” she said.
“It’s about letting the minister get away with it – the Morrison government dropped the ball on protecting our environment and wildlife and now they want to change the rules and the responsibilities.”
Helene Marsh, chair of the Endangered Species Scientific Committee, told Guardian Australia that the species and habitats assessed by the committee were those for which recovery plans had expired, were due to expire or were overdue.
She said the committee carefully examined every plant, animal and habitat and determined that overall, around 13% of the country’s wildlife required a recovery plan.
Marsh said recovery planning has been ineffective, with plans often unfunded and actions not implemented.
She said that a conservation advice could be such a detailed and useful tool, could be developed more quickly and updated quickly after an emergency such as a bushfire disaster.
“We looked at whether a stimulus package would make a difference or not and we looked at each in great detail,” she said. “A conservation board can be updated and in these times of fires and climate change is a much more nimble instrument.”
Marsh told Guardian Australia that the most important reforms the government could make for Australia’s wildlife would be to implement legally binding and detailed national environmental standards that were recommended by the former head of competition oversight, Graeme Samuel, in his review of environmental protection and biodiversity conservation. Act.
She said the committee’s recommendations on which species and habitats should not have recovery plans were based, in part, on being regularly affected by development and therefore triggered the need to assess. development under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
She said the committee recommended that species that regularly trigger the law keep a recovery plan.
However, the Cumberland Plain woodland, the sun moth and the legless striped lizard, all of which regularly trigger the need for an assessment under the law, are all on the list of proposed habitats and animals that do not. would require more recovery plan.
Samantha Vine, of Birdlife Australia, said a conservation notice was a good basic document but was not a solid plan to get species off the road to extinction.
The organization is concerned about the 19 endangered birds that may no longer require a recovery plan, including the glossy black cockatoo populations of Kangaroo Island and South Australia, the northern masked owl and the northern booby Abbott.
“We have a clear view of where the Endangered Species Scientific Committee is coming from because they are overwhelmed,” Vine said. “But walking away from stimulus packages because they aren’t working as well as they should be is not the right approach in a crisis of extinction.”
Brendan Sydes, lawyer and policy adviser at the Australian Conservation Foundation, said recovery plans are not working as well as they should, but the answer is not to abandon them all together.
“Conservation advice is not an adequate replacement for stimulus packages because they are much less stringent in what they require and do not have the same legal weight,” he said.
“To virtually forgo recovery planning would be a terrible admission that there is no political will to tackle Australia’s extinction crisis. “
A spokesperson for the Environment Ministry said the recommendations were based on “the best planning outcome for the individual threatened entity and are subject to public consultation before any final decision.”
“This is the first installment of public consultation that invites the public to comment on proposed recovery plan decisions for 185 species and ecological communities,” said the spokesperson.
“Subsequent public consultation periods for the lists of other species and ecological communities will be organized.”
A spokesperson for Environment Minister Sussan Ley said: “The proposed changes have been recommended by the Independent Scientific Committee on Endangered Species and are now available for public consultation.