Home General News NSW to vacate nine Sydney Harbors in a year

NSW to vacate nine Sydney Harbors in a year

by Anthony L. Gonzalez

An area more than nine times the size of Sydney Harbor has been evacuated in NSW in one year amid warnings about Australia’s escalating extinction crisis.

According to the most recent Statewide Landcover and Tree Study, which is already two years old, 51,400 hectares of forest vegetation will be lost to agriculture, forestry, and infrastructure in 2020.

The figure is slightly decreased from the 54,500 hectares that disappeared in 2019 but significantly higher than the average of 38,800 hectares in 2009-2017.

NSW to vacate nine Sydney Harbors in a year

The numbers have alarmed conservationists who have warned of devastating impacts on wildlife and climate action.

“Using generally accepted data on wildlife densities, clearing on that scale would have killed up to 4.6 million animals in just 12 months — mammals, birds, and reptiles,” said Chris Gambian, head of the Nature Conservation Council.

“After the government relaxed land clearing laws in 2016, deforestation rates doubled and have remained at these dangerously high levels ever since.

“The coalition pledged its new laws would improve bushland and wildlife protection. These numbers, and the rising number of endangered species, show that the laws are failing to deliver on that promise.”

WWF Australia said NSW should commit to transitioning from forest destruction to reforestation and plantations to protect wildlife and keep carbon locked in the natural environment.

“This will help us regenerate Australia… and generate new revenue streams from natural capital markets,” said WWF conservation scientist Stuart Blanch.

Independent NSW MP Justin Field says more than 224,700 acres of forest vegetation were lost between 2017 and 2020.

He says one of the most disturbing things about the 2020 data is that three-quarters of rural deforestation could not be explained, meaning it may have been illegal.

“There is little point in throwing hundreds of millions into the land sector for natural capital and carbon sequestration if the thousands of acres of potentially illegal land clearing are not addressed,” he says.

“In the last five years, the government has prosecuted only one case of illegal land reclamation in NSW, despite a massive spike in reclamation and persistently high rates of ‘unexplained’ reclamation.”

“The fact that the government cannot explain where 75 percent of the vegetation that has been lost on farmland comes from is a clear indication that land clearing is still out of control in NSW,” she said.

“The government has already renounced its commitment to review the new land-clearance codes for three years, a pledge made in 2016 when the new framework was approved.

“This raises the question of whether the liberals are unwilling or unable to stand up to nationals in government when it comes to a land clearing that has gotten out of hand.”

AAP has asked Environment Secretary James Griffin for comment.

The Statewide Landcover and Tree Study uses satellite imagery to track the loss of woody vegetation.

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