The federal government has set a goal to prevent any new extinctions of Australian wildlife.
This is the first time that a federal government has announced a target for the extinction of plants and animals in the country. The goal is part of a 10 year plan To improve the course of 110 species and 20 places, and protect an additional 50 million hectares of land and marine area by 2027.
Minister of Environment and Water, Tanya BleiberskHe said the government was setting “the strongest targets we’ve ever seen” to try to reverse the nature crisis documented in this year’s State of the Environment report.
“Our current approach has not worked. If we keep doing what we have been doing, we will continue to get the same results,” she said.
The plan is based on a document issued by the previous government and includes the Albanian government’s previous commitment to guarantee 30% of land and marine areas in protected reserves by 2030.
The number of priority species also increased from 100 to 110 and sites increased from six to 20 species.
Conservationists have welcomed aspects of the plan, including explicit goals such as a zero-extinction goal.
But they were crucial that Australia’s threatened species strategy continues to “pick winners” by identifying so-called priority species when nearly 2,000 species are listed as threatened under national laws.
Preventing extinctions, they said, will require a significant increase in funding for conservation measures and restoration of threatened species as well as taking action to stop major threats, particularly habitat destruction.
Australia’s Green Party said the targets will be “unachievable” if governments continue to open up new coal and gas reserves.
“It is great to see Australia join other developed nations, including New Zealand and members of the European Union, in setting a goal of no new extinctions,” said Rachel Laurie, chief conservation officer at WWF Australia.
“Stopping extinctions is achievable, especially for a rich country with science-based solutions.”
But Lowry said it was unclear how the plan would help non-priority species, such as the endangered larger gliders.
Australia has more than 1,900 endangered species. She said this plan picks 110 winners.
“Cost and time bound recovery plans are essential for all threatened species. Otherwise, we will see more native animals silently crossing the line of extinction.”
Pasha Stasak, director of the Nature Program at Conservation Australia, said halting ongoing habitat destruction has been key to reversing Australia’s “sad” record of extinction.
She said this would require strengthening Australia’s national environmental laws, as recommended in the review led by former competition watchdog Graeme Samuel, and more funding.
The government has promised to respond to that review by the end of the year and has allocated $224.5 million to a program to save native species.
“Scientists estimate that $1.69 billion per year is needed to tackle Australia’s extinction crisis,” Stasack said.
“We urge the government to include funding to stem the extinction in this month’s federal budget.”
Priority new species include the critically endangered King Island scrub, while new places include the Blue Mountains and the Australian Alps.
The plan is divided into objectives that focus on specific issues such as restoration of invasive species and species, habitat protection and climate change.
It includes goals to improve the pathway of priority species and the status of priority places, reduce the impact of feral cats and foxes on important habitats, ‘contemporary’ approaches to conservation planning, and secure at least 80% of threatened plant species in insurance collections.
Achieving the plan’s goals will require significant investment in Threat Reduction Strategies.
“While no extinctions is a very important goal, the main test will be whether the decisions, reforms and funding commitments made by the government will get us there,” he said.
Speaking on national broadcaster ABC on Tuesday morning, Plebersk said the plan was more ambitious and focused than previous iterations.
She said that prioritizing species does not mean overlooking other plants and animals.
“It’s really a major species in certain environments,” she said.
“And if we focus on these species, we create a kind of halo effect for the entire ecosystem of which the plant or animal is a part.”
Plebersk said the government still plans to introduce new environmental laws next year.
All levels of government will need to work together to prevent underlying causes of environmental degradation and species extinction, including land clearing, invasive species and continued dependence on fossil fuels, said Ewan Ritchie, professor of wildlife ecology and conservation at Deakin University.
He said the plan’s increased ambition was welcome but still “far less than what is needed to halt and overcome Australia’s biodiversity and extinction crisis”.
On Tuesday, the government also announced 15 new species, including the Parma wallaby and the beautiful beard orchid, and three ecological communities were added to Australia’s threatened list.