23 April, 2007

THE AGE: Farmers urged to help save native animals and plants

Rachel Kleinman
April 23, 2007

FARMERS must help restore Victoria's bushland if endangered animals and plants are to survive, according to environment groups.

Hundreds of native species were under siege from habitat loss, climate change, invasive weeds and feral animals, the Victoria Naturally alliance said.

"Already a third of our native animals are either extinct or threatened and our indigenous plants are faring even worse," Victorian National Parks Association director Charlie Sherwin said.

The State Government will launch a consultation paper today on the growing threat to land and marine ecosystems.

The paper says the decline of biodiversity will affect ecosystems' abilities to provide food and clean water for Victoria.

Victoria Naturally has called on the Government to provide more money to help private landholders and farmers to restore bushland. But some projects should be fast-tracked and funded now, rather than waiting for the consultation, it said.

The Government must increase efforts to control weeds and feral animals in national parks.

Victoria's Alpine National Park needed urgent attention as one of Australia's natural areas most threatened by climate change, the group said.

Seventy per cent of Victoria's land had been cleared since European settlement, more than in any other state.

North-west Victoria had the highest number of threatened species in any one region of Australia. Species most under threat included the mountain pygmy possum, orange-bellied parrot, helmeted honeyeater and broad-shelled tortoise.

"A lot of people would be surprised by the dire straits our wildlife and indigenous plants are in," Victoria Naturally project director Carrie Deutsch said.

The growing phenomenon of people retiring to coastal and country areas and Melbourne's increasing population meant urban environments were encroaching on rural areas.

This is increasing pressure on ecosystems, the Government paper says.

While farmers were struggling with the crippling drought, they must also help ease the burden on the environment.

"Farmers can reduce environmental impacts through a more efficient use of resources and improved farming practices," the paper says.

Environment Minister John Thwaites said a new policy would aim to protect biodiversity over the next 50 years. It would also plan for climate change, drought and megafires.

"(It) is about achieving the right balance between land, coastal and marine uses and sustainable management of natural resources," he said.

The discussion paper will be launched by Mr Thwaites and former Australian of the Year Sir Gustav Nossal.

The Government wants public submissions by June 22.


No comments: