Australian news, and some related international items

Environment Minister Sussan Ley not to support protection of Murray-Darling river systems

Murray-Darling systems not assessed for endangered listing after officials warned Coalition would not support it
 FoI documents reveal struggling systems were ‘clear candidates’ for protection but Sussan Ley ‘unlikely to support’ it,  Guardian, Lisa Cox, Wed 13 May 2020 Struggling river and wetland systems in the Murray-Darling Basin were not assessed for listing as critically endangered after officials warned the Morrison government would not support protecting them.

Environment department staff said the two ecological communities were “clear candidates” for assessment for a critically endangered listing, documents released under freedom of information show. But the environment minister, Sussan Ley, was “unlikely to support” their inclusion on the 2019 list of species and habitats under consideration for protection, they told the threatened species scientific committee.

The department also told the committee the work required to do the assessment would have “significant resource implications”.

The two communities are known as the “wetland and inner floodplain of the Macquarie Marshes”, and the “Lower Murray River and associated wetlands, floodplains and groundwater systems from the junction of the Darling River to the sea”.

Both were listed as critically endangered by then environment minister Mark Butler in the final days of the Labor government in 2013.

After the Coalition won government, both listings were disallowed under the new environment minister, Greg Hunt. It followed a campaign against the critically endangered listings by the National Irrigators Council.

Humane Society International, the organisation behind the nomination that led to the 2013 listings, renominated the river and wetlands systems for assessment for a critically endangered listing last year.

In a briefing to the threatened species scientific committee, officials said a tool the department used for conservation assessments had ranked the two communities as the highest priorities from a conservation perspective among a group of five ecological communities nominated for listing in 2019.

But neither made it on to the proposed priority assessment list, which is given to the environment minister to consider before they determine the nominations that will make it on to the final list.

The briefing to the committee is the same document that led to Guardian Australia last week revealing the government had stopped listing major threats to species under national environmental laws…….

Labor’s environment spokeswoman, Terri Butler, said it was “outrageous” the Morrison government had not followed scientific advice. She said the government was attempting “to influence the outcomes of scientific processes designed to protect our environment”.

Richard Kingsford, the director of the Centre for Ecosystem Science at the University of New South Wales, said the scientific research on the two communities showed both had high levels of biodiversity and were degrading significantly as a result of reduced flooding.

“The question would be: why were they ruled out at that first step?” he said……


May 14, 2020 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics

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