Re: Resolve landclearing?

Subject: Re: Resolve landclearing?
From: David James <>
Date: Mon, 20 Jul 1998 17:17:27 +1000
Just to add to the debate,

Land clearing is widely recognised by the conservation movement as the
biggest conservation issue in Queensland. The Rate of landclearing in
Queensland is amongst the highest in the world, comparable even to
Amazonian countries. 

I think David Geering is right that it won't lead to many extinctions in
the next fifty years or so, it will lead to fragmented populations, massive
numbers of local extinctions and an enormous endangered species list. 

It may already be too late to prevent this. Habitats are already fragmented
and popultation declines will follow with some lag in time. 

Neils suggested the following:

>2)      Change land clearing guidelines so no permits are issued on
>leasehold on state-forest land as the main objective to grow trees. Ban
>clearing on endangered ecosystems. Increase retention of remaining habitats
>in clearing guidelines.

Unfortunatley the Queensland Tree Clearing Guidelines for Leasehold land
were negotiated by two departments (Natural Resources, and Environment)
with wide community consultation. The process started under the Goss Gov
and continued under Borbidge. The process was notoriously troubled and
polarised. Conservationists and landholders maintained opposing views and
and the latter won out with conservationists walking out of negotiations
with virtually no concessions after enormous effort. The guidelines favour
short-term economic views of the primary production sector. The Borbidge
Governemnt signed off on them a year or so ago. The Howard governement
initially withheld NHT funding from Queensland beacause they were unhappy
with the rate of clearing in the State but they seem to have reached a
mutually satisfactory position. The short of it is that the guidelines are
an environmental disiater and changing them will be harder than starting
from scratch was. 

>3)      Landcare is not a conservation initiative but a land management tool
>to improve the produtivity of the farm. Bushcare is about preserving
>remaining vegetation. Allocation of new funds should be directed to
>bushcare. It is cheaper not to cut down trees than plant new ones. 

Landcare is about Community Natural Resource Management. It can cover
everything from Integrated Catchment Management, Bush Regeneration, Urban
plantings, and sustainable primary production. NHT funds are allocated to
both landcare and bushcare aswell as coastcare and other areas. The funding
formulas may change but you won't see all funding allocated to Bushcare
alone. Landcare funding is not given for clearing of vegetation It can be
spent on significant conservation initiatives like fencing remnant blocks
and creklines etc, though often it is spent on projects of duius
conservation significance. Join your local Landcare group and see that it
spends its funds on conservation, not for bolstering of  productivity. 

>4)      Acquisition of leasehold land when leaseholds are up to renewal. A
>lot of leases do expire and there is no reason to renew them if the land is
>forested. If renewed leasehold conditions should not allow removal of

I should think that lease holders could find reason for their leases to be
renewed and generally leases are renewed. A cultural shift would be
required to change this. Perhaps it is coming, but right wing governments
seem to be pushing the other way, i.e for conversion of leasehold to
freehold, for extinguishment of co-existence (ie native title), etc.  

>6)      Corrupted world market caused by heavy subsidies to farm production
>in other OECD coutries have pushed down prices on farm products and
>consequently farmers have to increase land under cultivation in order to
>survive. The paradox is that land clearing increased sharply when meat
>prices dropped. The consumer must pay the full external cost of meat

sustainable grazing rates require changes in the economics of the Grazing
industry. Australian meet-eaters simply do not pay the TRUE COST for their
meet. Graziers over much of Aust. struggle to make a living, therfore
overstock (abuse) the land in their custody and still struggle. Retailers
take a huge cut. But essentially, consumers should be paying at least
double if we want to halve stocking rates. Same goes for grain, vegetables,

Someone said that we should all be vegetarians. I am, but as much for
health reasons as for environmental reasons. Take a look at the WA
weatbelt, or the Queensland Sugar coast. It is not just grazing that is the

Annabel wrote:

>Having recently returned from a trip through Queensland, it is obvious to
>me that landholders there have quite different problems to those in my own
>area.   The proliferation of regrowth on previously cleared land has to be
>seen to be believed and a lot of grazing land is threatened by this.
>Whereas here the problem is lack of regrowth, there they have too much.

Firstly, Queenslands tree-clearing guidelines are applicable to old-growth
vegetation, ie that which has never been cleared before, and this is where
they have their worst impact. 

In some areas of queensland there is vigorous regrowth (eg in some Brigalow
areas, and on Cape York). However, regrowth is not always very good
habitat. Often the regrowth is very dense altering the ecosystem (eg.
mellaleuca regrowth on the Cape is so thick that it provides good habitat
for Black-backed Butcherbirds which then prey on Golden-shouldered Parrots
which used to nest in open areas). around Townsville "regrowth" usually
consists of environmental weeds. Chinee apple is a hardwood tree covered
with one-inch spikes, loves fire, and coppices like a bramble if you cut it
down or poison it. It can grow in dense thickets covering hectares.
Rubbervine loves to scramble over trees and choke them. Weeds cost
Australia billions of dollars. "regrowth" is not necessarily good.

It is most upsetting to see one land holder allowing regrowth or weed
infestation to smother cleared land while a neighbour clears old growth

I think Lorne's opinions are positive, vote Greens (or democrats) join
conservation groups (and Landcare/Bushcare/Coastcare Groups and The Greens
or the Democrats) and lobby politicians. lobby your local member. Lobby
your friends and acquaintences to do the same. Write to the newspapers.
Educate children in the mistkes of the past and the present so that next
the generation can get it right even if we can't. 

Radical? The Corporate sector may say so. But surely chain clearing
thousands of hectares, clearing forests, and poisoning water ways is
radical, not speaking out against such practices.

David James
PO BOX 5225
Townsville Mail Centre 4810

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