Move to protect threatened species in national parks

Brisbane Water National Park is one of 110 across the state which will contain sites declared Assets of Intergenerational Significance (AIS) in a move to protect some of the country’s threatened species.

Koalas, rock wallabies and the Nightcap Oak are some of the iconic species set to be protected under an historic National Parks plan to declare 221 sites as AIS and set a target of zero extinctions of species on the NSW National Park estate.

Environment Minister Matt Kean said the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Threatened Species Framework was about protecting and improving the health of our threatened and iconic species for future generations.

“Australia has the worst mammal extinction rate in the world,” Kean said.

“Globally, one million species face extinction over the coming decades and, as international biodiversity negotiations continue, everyone needs to aim high.

“Just as we have a net zero emissions target, we now also have a target of zero extinctions of species on our National Park estate, and are aiming to improve and stabilize the status of threatened species.”

“But our plan isn’t just about targets – it’s also about action and that’s why I am making declarations for 221 sites to protect 92 endangered and iconic species.

“These AIS declarations are a game changer for threatened species, triggering the strongest possible legal protections – mandating conservation plans, targeted feral animal control, bespoke fire management and monitoring and reporting.

“We legislated the AIS provisions following the NSW Bushfire Inquiry, which highlighted the need to protect our most important ecological and cultural assets.”

The new AIS have been identified as home to species at risk from feral animals, bushfire and climate change, and follow the first AIS declaration earlier this year to protect the ancient Wollemi Pines.

There will be 221 AIS sites across 110 national parks totalling 301,843 hectares (3.89 per cent of the National Parks estate).

The World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia (WWF) has welcomed the announcement.

“This is a good start to help regenerate Australia following unprecedented bushfires,” said WWF-Australia Chief Conservation Officer, Rachel Lowry, said.

She urged the government to go further.

“Species outside national parks also deserve a zero-extinction target,” she said.

“Urban areas can be hotspots for biodiversity including some of our most iconic threatened species.

“For example, there are important koala populations surviving in Sydney outside protected areas.

“Farmers who conserve high conservation value forests and woodland should be supported through a major boost in incentives by the NSW Government’s Biodiversity Conservation Trust.”

Lowry said the announcement comes at a time when attention is turning to international negotiations and calls for all nations to protect 30 per cent of the world’s land and 30 per cent of the world’s seascapes by 2030.

“With global negotiations underway to secure 30 per cent land and seascape protection, NSW could play a key role in helping Australia meet those targets through the expansion of their national park footprint, which is especially important after the bushfires,” she said.

“Only 9 per cent of NSW is within protected areas.

“Four of the six national unburnt landscapes in need of urgent protection post bushfires reside within NSW.

“WWF urges the NSW Government to extend protection to these critical wildlife refuges as a priority intervention to prevent further species extinctions.”

Terry Collins

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