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 Exciting news!

The Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) has launched a new website with its own built-in blog.

We encourage Numbat News readers to visit the new website and read the latest about environment and sustainability issues in WA.

CCWAhas also adopted a new logo – it still includes Western Australia’s iconic native Numbat, but it now also contains the new phrase ‘look forward’ to reflect the Council’s focus on building a positive, sustainable future worth looking forward to.

Our website makeover is part of an exciting process where CCWA will be using the latest online tools to engage with more people across WA than ever before! Our website, blogs, facebook page and twitter account provide new ways to keep people informed and ensure a conversation takes place in the community about the critical issues we are facing in WA.

We invite you tocheck out the siteand provide your feedback. This is a work in progress and over the coming months you will see new and exciting functions on the site that will enable people all across WA to take part in campaigns, discussions and community efforts to build a future worth looking forward to.

I have just returned from a short holiday in the United States followed by a conference in Washington DC.   It was quite an experience being at the centre of all that political power, but I did wonder what I could learn in the US that could help us with protecting the environment here in Western Australia. After meeting with some non-government environmental advocacy organisations in including the PEW Environment group and the Sierra Club, I started to realise that there are some key differences and some striking similarities to what we are facing back home.

The images and stories we tend to see through commercial media would make us believe that the USA is so comprehensively controlled by corporate interests that individual citizens or the environment are almost totally ignored. I was therefore surprised to notice a very strong sense of community in the USA. People seemed to identify more readily, and more strongly around particular issues, whether it was the overwhelming community support for the street-art in San Francisco, or the community groups working so hard to prevent coal mining by mountaintop-removal on traditional lands in West Virginia.  These people were prepared to join together around a cause and get active in politically powerful ways that force decision makers to take notice. 

So how do we strengthen the environment, conservation and sustainability community in Western Australia? Part of the answer of course is the Conservation Council itself, and with nearly 100 grass roots community member groups involved with the Conservation Council we already have a strong network covering almost any environmental or sustainability issue you care to name.  It is a constant challenge for us to find new ways to harness this power and potential in effective ways that drive real change, but that’s our job as a peak community group for conservation and sustainability issues in WA.

One of the initiatives we have recently been involved with is a new coalition between groups working to save bushland and forests from the bulldozer. After 200 years of almost indiscriminate land clearing in WA, we have little native vegetation left.  With a renewed push by a pro-development government and a strong economy, the last remaining natural areas are now coming under threat.  In turn, this loss of habitat is placing pressure on our native species such as the endangered black cockatoo. Unique to WA, these characteristic birds need our help to preserve their last remaining habitat before they are driven to extinction. Please log on to http://cockatoosneedyou.org.au/ to get more information about this campaign and to send a message to our political leaders asking them to prevent the extinction of our black cockatoos.   

Another important conservation community-building initiative that we are currently working on is Conservation Week 2010. Every year we hold a week of events and activities run by groups or individuals active around environmental issues in their local community. This is a great way to get to know your local environment group, find out how you can get involved, or even run an event to demonstrate to others what you are already doing and build more support in your local area. Why not be part of the action and organise a bushwalk, a movie night or set up an information stall in your local community during Conservation Week!   This year Conservation Week will be held from October 23-30 and you can find out all about the events planned, or register your own event on the Conservation Council website.

 Support the Conservation Council to build a conservation community in WA  by making a tax-deductable donation here

Call for immediate cessation of logging in low and intermediate rainfall forests

WA’s forest conservation groups have called for an immediate cessation of logging and clearing in jarrah forests in the low and intermediate rainfall zones following the release of the EPA’s ‘Mid-term audit’ of the implementation of the current WA Forest Management Plan (FMP).

 In its audit released today, the EPA has stated,

 ‘[I]t is most unlikely that the jarrah forest in the low and adjacent medium rainfall areas, particularly in the northern forest, can continue to contribute to the jarrah sustained yield and also be consistent with ecologically sustainable forest management (ESFM).

Jess Beckerling from the WA Forest Alliance, WA’s peak forest conservation body, said the EPA’s report confirmed the fears of conservationists that climate change, declining rainfall, dieback and a history of unsustainable logging and mining had placed large parts of the jarrah forest at risk of ecological collapse.

As the EPA has stated in this audit,

[T]he nature and scale of threats to the forest appear to be increasing and the combining of some of these threats over time and in parts of the forest is placing considerable stress on the values of the forest.

“Under these circumstances, all logging and clearing should be stopped immediately in these forests in order to give them some chance of recovery and survival”, said Ms Beckerling.

Piers Verstegen, Director of the Conservation Council, said the EPA report also confirms that management of WA forest industries has suffered from a systematic breakdown in compliance monitoring and a lack of enforcement of conditions put in place to protect the environment.

“We have known for years that government regulators are failing to take the logging industry to task for serious management problems including ongoing breaches of conditions put in place to protect the forests and the species they contain. This situation demonstrates that it is not possible to manage a native forest logging industry in a way that is ecologically sustainable.”

 The EPA says

Governance arrangements related to planning and management of the forest regions need to be reviewed and modified…The current statutory roles of the Conservation Commission, DEC and the Forest Products Commission (FPC) are not effective in ensuring delivery of and compliance with the approved FMP.

Peter Robertson, State Coordinator for the Wilderness Society (WA), supported the EPA’s call for work to commence immediately on a new Forest Management Plan, and said that the new FMP should end all logging, thinning and clearing in WA’s native forests.

Support the Conservation Council – your independent voice for the environment by clicking here

Western Australia’s favourite tourist destination, Margaret River is renowned for its wines, surf, forests and natural beauty. It is difficult to imagine a worse place for a dirty industrial coal mine, but that’s exactly what’s being proposed just 15km from the town.

A coal mine in Margaret River would not only mean more carbon pollution, but would cause devastating impact to the groundwater that vineyards, forests and the town itself relies upon. In Collie, the coal industry is literally sucking aquifers dry by pumping groundwater at a rate two thousand times greater  than it is naturally replenished. We won’t stand by and let this happen in Margaret River.

The Margaret River community is strongly opposed to this coal mining proposal and we are working closely with them to stop the coal mine and keep the coal in the ground.

Earlier today we joined residents from Margaret River and met with Premier Barnett at Parliament House where it was stated very clearly that coal mining is not wanted in Margaret River. The Premier said he would ‘consider’ legislation to protect Margaret River from coal mining, but he refused to make any firm commitments.

Right now, it’s critical that we ramp up our efforts to stop this coal mine before it gains environmental approvals, but we can’t do this without your help.


Please help us to stop the coal mining industry’s plans in Margaret River,
please donate generously to this important cause.

Your 100% tax-deductable donation to this campaign will help the Conservation Council of WA continue to fight the proposal by ACMI and LD Operations to establish an underground coal mine just 15km from Margaret River.

The impact on Margaret River is not the only reason to stop this coal mine.

LD Operations plans to export coal from Bunbury to be burnt in polluting coal fired power stations overseas. Recently, the world’s most respected climate scientist, James Hansen (NASAA) said ‘Coal power stations are death factories – close them’. The only way to ensure that our coal does not contribute to dangerous climate change is to leave it in the ground.

Any assistance you can give to help us win this campaign will be an investment in protecting Margaret River and avoiding dangerous climate change.

Please
donate here and forward this to your friends!

OK, so we may have had to wait a little longer than usual, but our new Labor-Green minority government presents important opportunities to progress environmental issues that have been neglected for far too long in Western Australia. Environmental protection is generally a State responsibility, however there are a range of important areas where decisions are required by the Commonwealth that can make a real difference.

At the Conservation Council we have compiled a list of top priorities for Commonwealth Government action to protect the Environment in WA.

Step in to Protect the Kimberley

Recall the historic intervention by the Commonwealth Hawke Government to prevent the damming of the Franklin River in Tasmania in 1983. That is exactly the sort of intervention that we need to see from the Gillard Government right now in the Kimberley where WA Premier Barnett has announced plans to take Aboriginal lands for a massive industrial gas hub. If this Woodside proposal goes ahead we will not only see WA’s carbon pollution rising out of control, but we will see the end to the unique and pristine Kimberley coast damaged forever, and replaced instead with an industrial development in the middle of the most important calving ground for hump-back whales in the world. Recently the Conservation Council and our member groups released a report  commissioned from the Curtin University Sustainable Tourism Centre demonstrating that this development would have a profound impact on sustainable tourism industries in the Kimberley. There could not be a clearer case for the Commonwealth Government to step in to protect Australia’s world class environmental and cultural heritage in the Kimberley.

Stop the coal expansion

Recently the world’s most highly respected climate scientist Dr. Janes Hansen from NASA said that ‘coal fired power stations are death factories – close them’. With three new coal fired power stations having recently received environmental approvals from the State and a coal mine proposed for Margaret River, urgent action by the commonwealth Government is required before the coal industry begins pouring concrete. The new Minority Government must immediately introduce policies to prevent the massive coal expansion that is planned in Western Australia and must take action as soon as possible to introduce a price on carbon to clean up the rest of our economy.  Recently a lot of our time has been spent assisting the community in Margaret River to stop the proposal to develop an underground coal mine just 15km from Western Australia’s favourite tourist destination. There is only one safe thing to do with our coal deposits in WA and that is to leave them in the ground. We urgently need your assistance with this campaign – please make a tax-deductable donation here – anything you can give helps!

Save our Marine Life

The Commonwealth Government control the majority of Australia’s territorial waters and there is a huge opportunity to create a large network of marine sanctuaries in the South West marine region stretching from Kangaroo Island in South Australia to Shark Bay to the North. This area is home to greater marine biodiversity than the Great Barrier Reef, yet less than 1% is protected. Recent polling suggests that the vast majority of Western Australians want to see strong protection of our marine environment, so the creation of marine parks represents an opportunity for the new Gillard Government to do something popular that will also leave a lasting positive impact for future generations. Visit the Save our Marine Life website for more information and to see how you can get involved with this important campaign.

Protect our animals and their habitat

Western Australia is home to a number species that are listed as endangered under Commonwealth Government environmental legislation. This gives the Commonwealth Environment Minister powers to intervene where developments threaten these species. Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoos and Western Ring-tailed Possums are unique to WA, and the survival of these species could depend on the approach taken by the next Environment Minister. Developments like the proposal by the University of Western Australia to clear important bushland at Shenton Park, the proposal by Main Roads WA to extend the Roe Highway through the Beeliar Wetlands, and the ongoing native forest logging in the South West all contribute to loss of critical habitat for our endangered species. These developments all have backing by the state Government and the only hope for these areas now lies with the Commonwealth. Stand by for announcements soon on how you can help to ensure these areas are protected.

If you have not done so already, we encourage you to send an email to Julia Gillard urging her to act on the priority environmental issues for WA have outlined above.

Support the Conservation Council – your independent voice for the environment by clicking here

Any slim credibility attributed to the the Golden Gecko awards for environmental management in the mining industry went out the window this year with the announcement of the 2010 award winners by the Minister for Mines and Petroleum, Hon. Norman Moore.  

Minister Moore said in a media release

“These award winners have demonstrated leadership and excellence in environmental practices in the mineral and petroleum sector,“All of the submissions have demonstrated exceptional environmental management over a range of different projects,”  

Hang on, is this the mining industry we are talking about? Exceptional environmental management?  It sounds almost too good to be true. Well, it is.  

You dont have to dig to far below the overburden of PR in the media release before the orebody underneath starts to look like a much more ugly picture.  

Two of the projects that won awards, and another that was nominated have been rejected by the State’s environmental watchdog, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) as environmentally unacceptable.These are resource projects operating in some of the worlds most sesitive, unique and pristine environments. These areas should be protected, not turned into quarries.  

Irvine Island in the Kimberley is a good example of an area where mining should not even be considered, yet Pluton Resources, conducting mining exploration there have won a prestigeous environmental award.  

The Conservation Council of WA appealed the decision to allow Pluton to conduct minerals exploration on the Island, and at the time the EPA stated in formal advice to the Appeals Convenor:  

Given the very high conservation values on and surrounding the island, and the currently near-pristine condition of the area, mining is seen as inappropriate”  

 Another project that won a Golden Gecko was Crosslands Resources Jack Hill Iron Ore mine in the unique and stunning Banded Ironstone Formation (BIF) Ranges in the States Mid West. Mining these ranges is just that – it involves removing the entire mountain range and shipping it to China. These ranges are the remnants of an ancient landmass, and, like islands in the landscape, they have developed their own unique floristic communities.  More info on the BIF ranges is here and you can watch a video explainingwhy these ranges need to be protected here.

Windarling Mine Pit in BIF Ranges. Photo: Brian Moyle

The EPA said the Jack Hills mine could go ahead on the provision that representative areas of the ranges and their threatened flora were set aside for conservation. THE EPA have clearly stated that if significant areas are not set aside for conservation then several plant species will likley be driven to extinction in the Mid West. Once again, the EPA advice has not been followed, with the Minister for the Environment since overruling the EPA on several occasions to allow more mines in the BIF ranges.  

Mt. Manning in the BIF Ranges. Photo: Brian Moyle

Most of the mining companies active in the Mid West BIF ranges are backed by Chinese investors, or the Chinese Government who have been lobbying to get an easier ride in the environmental approvals process, which can only mean compromised environmental standards. Keen to placate the Chinese when visiting China in July last year, Premier Barnett stated publicly that his office was ‘intervening’ in the environmental approvals process for Mid-West iron ore companies, and that ‘It should not be business as usual with China.  

It may not be fair to suggest that all this is the fault of Crosslands Resources, but to give them an environmental award for mining in an area which is likely to see the extinction of threatened species makes the Golden Gecko awards look more like a cynical public relations stunt than an award to be proud of.  

The controversial Chevron LNG project on Barrow Island A-Class nature reserve was also nominated for a golden Gecko, and is featured proudly in the glossy brochure for the awards this year.  

Once again, the EPA ruled against the proposal, saying it was environmentally unacceptable, and a threat to endangered sea-turtles and several malmmals that exist only on the Island. Once again, this advice was overturned by Government. Since then the project has had an appalling environmental record including numerous quarantine breaches, killing endangered turtles, and most recently the sinking of a service vessel carrying hundreds of liters of diesel.  

In a previous year the Esperance Port Authority received a Golden Gecko award for dust management before they went on to contaminate the town of Esperance with lead dust. 

Perhaps these awards should be re-named the Golden Gecko Awards for environmental incompetence in the minerals industry.

Support the Conservation Council – your independent voice for the environment by clicking here

Photo: Annabelle Sandes http://www.kimberleywhales.com.au

A new study by the Curtin University Sustainable Tourism Centre identifies plans for a massive polluting LNG industrial site near Broome as a serious threat to the Kimberley’s unique and globally-recognised tourism ‘brand’.

The report entitled “Kimberley Whale Coast Tourism: A review of opportunities and threats” by Dr Michael Hughes and colleagues from Curtin University was commissioned by The Conservation Council in collaboration with two of our most active member groups: Wilderness Society and Environs Kimberley.

The report finds significant opportunities for increased regional economic benefits, including employment, through the burgeoning whale watching industry and enhanced marine protection. Broome is uniquely placed to benefit from whale tourism because of the proximity of the Humpbacks and the fact they are in the area to give birth to calves. The study presents a series of important findings that are at odds with recent government studies and statements on the impact of LNG industrialisation on Broome and Kimberley tourism.

Download a copy of the Kimberley_WhaleCoast_Report[1]

Some key findings:

  • The Kimberley tourism ‘brand’ is based on the unique natural and cultural values of the region, including its wildlife and vast, unspoiled coast and landscapes;
  • Tourism is more valuable to the regional economy than resource projects which return less to the local economy, employ fewer local people and have relatively short lifespans;
  • When iconic brands are damaged – as occurred in the 1970’s with the location of an oil refinery on the Shetland Islands – it takes a lot of time, money and effort to rebuild
  • Currently around 10 tour operators, including Aboriginal run businesses, offer whale-watching experiences out of Broome & the Dampier Peninisula – the site of the proposed LNG hub and port.
  • There appears to be a substantial imbalance between government support for tourism, including Indigenous tourism enterprises, and the far greater level of funding for resource extraction projects.
  • The government needs to recognise the findings of the study which highlight the fact that Broome and surrounding communities do not need large scale industrial projects to secure their economic future.

In particular, WA and Commonwealth Tourism Ministers – Dr Liz Constable and Martin Ferguson – need to stand up for the Kimberley tourism industry and ensure that ill-considered resource projects do not ‘kill the goose that lays the golden egg.’

Environment groups believe Kimberley tourism needs better management and requires much more Indigenous involvement. This can be achieved through expanded Indigenous Rangers programs, creation of new Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) and the introduction of a comprehensive licensing and permit system for tourism operators and tourists accessing remote land and sea country.

Support the Conservation Council – your independent voice for the environment by clicking here

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