07 April, 2008

HERALDSUN: Rare species may be lost

Sarah Wotherspoon
Herald Sun April 07, 2008

Some of Victoria's most endangered species may be beyond salvation - and the State Government has suggested it may not continue to try to protect them.

About 1000 of the state's plant and animal species are at risk of extinction as key habitat areas continue to decline.

A damning report released yesterday reveals some endangered animals will be wiped out unless the Government invests more money and resources in saving them.

But the same report says: "Fundamental decisions need to be made about the level of resources that can be invested in this area and whether we want to continue to aim to protect all species."

More than half of Victoria's native vegetation has been cleared since European settlement, while 80 per cent of private land has been cleared.

Remaining habitats are fragmented and only isolated patches of vital and once vast ecosystems remain intact.

The report, entitled Land and Biodiversity at a Time of Climate Change, recommends pursuing private investment to restore crucial habitats.

Environment Minister Gavin Jennings denied the threatened species would not be protected, saying that assessment processes needed to be reviewed.

"The green paper explores potential opportunities for landholders to access new markets in carbon and biodiversity," Mr Jennings said.

"A lot of corporations are seeing investment opportunities in land management.

"There will continue to be significant support from the State and I hope from the Commonwealth as well."

The green paper will form part of the Government's climate change white paper to be released next year.

Other actions considered in the paper include:

USING public-private partnerships to manage public land.

IDENTIFYING and protecting priority habitats in the marine environment.

ENCOURAGING plantings in key areas for both biodiversity improvements and carbon sequestration.

CREATING north-south and east-west habitat corridors connecting national parks.

Environment groups welcomed the report as a major step in protecting Victoria's environment but said it needed to be followed up with major funding.

Victoria Naturally alliance project leader Carrie Deutsch said the Government needed to set clear targets backed with resources.

"We would like to see at least a tenfold boost in funding and that's specific funding to protect and restore habitat for our threatened species.

"The science is telling us that Victoria is the most damaged state in Australia and according to the CSIRO about one third of native plants and close to half our native animals are threatened with extinction.

"We need to reconnect our core national parks and reconnect large scale networks of habitat corridors across the state in order to give species room to move as the climate changes."

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