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Friday, May 17, 2024

Decrease in vegetation clearing: More needs to be done locally

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POSITIVE progress has been made in regulated tree clearing throughout Queensland since the state government made legislative changes in 2018.

Newly released data has shown a decrease in regulated vegetation clearing in Queensland over a three-year period, leading to a reduction in carbon emissions, which contribute to the climate change crisis.

A further 59,654 hectares of vegetation regrowth has been detected.

Whitsunday Conservation Council (WCC) president Jacquie Sheils said WCC would like to see local strategies reflect the state’s success as well.

“We welcome the improvement but with climate change and other impacts there’s still a long way to go,” she said.

“Habitat fragmentation needs to be addressed and connectivity needs to be improved with regenerated movement corridors. We need to move beyond controlling clearing, towards restoration of animal habitats.

“Locally, it should not be a right to clear-fell. It leads to soil erosion, loss and fragmentation of habitat for local fauna, weed invasion and increased urban heat retention.

“At present, our local council lacks any strategy to protect remnant habitat and the State government Act does not protect regrowth, even where it has value for habitat.”

The latest Statewide Landcover and Trees Study (SLATS) report analysed clearing rates of different vegetation types, revealing a solid balance between saving vegetation, without preventing landholders from maintaining their properties.

SLATS monitors native woody vegetation, critical for maintaining biodiversity, preventing land degradation, and improving water quality.

Clearing of regulated vegetation reduced from about 98,000 hectares in 2019-20 to 61,000 hectares in 2020-21. This year’s annual SLATS report shows that total woody vegetation clearing in 2020-21 decreased by 17 per cent compared to the previous year, and 49 per cent overall since 2018-19.

Queensland Resources Minister Scott Stewart said the data showed that ecosystems were being protected in Queensland, while landholders were still able to manage their properties.

“The report shows Queensland’s strong vegetation management framework continues to protect our native ecosystems, while allowing landholders to manage their properties and grow the food and fibre that is fundamental to our economy and our regional communities,” he said.

“The results are encouraging and show the long-term, positive impacts of the legislative changes the Queensland Government made back in 2018. These laws have been, and will continue to be, based on the best available science.

“Our ongoing challenge is to reduce unlawful clearing and we’ll continue to work with landholders to educate and assist them in understanding their obligations. The majority of landholders are complying with our vegetation management laws, but we will hold those to account who do the wrong thing.”

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