The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has asked Australia’s Prime Minister and State Premiers to hold a national meeting on the issue of land clearing. The organisation argues that 1999 figures show land clearing rates up by 20% to 520,000 ha.
At such a rate, only Brazil, Indonesia, Congo and Bolivia clear more land than Australia.
Tree felling reduces the impact of Australia’s carbon sinks but it also, according to the ACF, poses serious threats to the country’s drinking water and agriculture industry. “As well as devastating habitat for birds and animals, land clearing in Australia is recognised as the main cause of rising salinity threatening future farm productivity, making water undrinkable, destroying roads, buildings and other infrastructure in towns and cities,” says the organisation. “By removing deep rooted vegetation which had acted as groundwater pumps, water tables have risen. This has mobilised ancient salt stores leading to salt scalds, land degradation and rising salinity levels in rivers.”
Faced with 1999 figures that show land clearing rates rising, ACF’s executive director, Don Henry, has asked for improved leadership from government. “The Federal Government’s premier environment program, the Telstra-funded $1.5 billion Natural Heritage Trust, according to the Government’s own mid-term review, is facing failure because for every hectare planted 100 are bulldozed,” says Henry. “National leadership is needed if we are to avoid a massive loss of biodiversity in Australia’s woodlands and the accelerating disaster of salt poisoning from salinity.”

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