The Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) has raised concerns in a submission to the Draft Biodiversity Strategy for Queensland, and has said that the existing strategy is fraught with uncertainty and is unlikely to deliver outcomes that meet international conservation targets.
“The Draft Strategy is a step up from previous efforts, but it has a long way to go before it is a credible roadmap to halting the rapid declines in Queensland’s biodiversity,” said Megan Barnes, President of the Brisbane-UQ Chapter of the SCB.
The SCB are critical of the Draft Strategy’s failure to provide any clear guidance for implementing management actions that will conserve biodiversity, and threatened species in particular. The State Government’s target for expanding protected areas to cover 11.5% of the State’s land surface by 2020 falls short of the recommended 17% area agreed to by Australia under the Aichi Targets set at the COP10 Nagoya Biodiversity Summit, said Dr. James Watson, Director of the Oceania section of the SCB.
Significantly, a large proportion of this target is expected to be gained through the Nature Refuges, a land tenure which remains unprotected from mining and other extractive activities. Over 40* nature refuges are currently contained within approved mining exploration permits for coal.
“The Nature Refuge program is an important tool for conserving biodiversity alongside sustainable land management, but there is little incentive for private landholders to enter into such an agreement if their properties are not offered protection from mining and gas exploration,” said Megan Evans, Secretary for the Chapter.
The Draft Strategy emphasizes the potential for a biodiversity offsets scheme to “balance inevitable biodiversity losses resulting from development and growth with corresponding biodiversity gains”. But the details of how such a scheme will counteract future development and the potential losses of existing Nature Refuges remains unclear.
The SCB said that policies which allow developments to be offset by the protection of existing habitat are guaranteed to result in further loss of biodiversity, and emphasized the need to identify offsets only from accumulated savings in biodiversity assets instead of borrowing while in debt.
“Queensland is globally significant in its richness and diversity of species and ecosystems – we have far too much to lose if we fail to effectively manage our natural heritage” said Ms Barnes.
Megan Barnes: T: 0410050983 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Megan Evans: T: 0418984248 E: email@example.com
* Update: AgForce estimates that there are around 100 Nature Refuges currently under exploration or mining permits