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GRASSROOTS INPUT TO ENVIRONMENTAL DEBATES

Land clearing Kimberley style.

"New clearing laws announced" thus read the title of an article in the AGWEST Northern Pastoral Memo September 2002 (Australia)

"The Minister for Environment, Dr. Judy Edwards, has announced new laws to control clearing on public and private land. The new laws will greatly strengthen legal protection of native vegetation, recognising its importance in combating land degradation, maintaining biodiversity and complementing sustainable land use practices.

" The changes have been welcomed by Commissioner of Soil and Land Conservation, David Hartley, "Rural communities are facing land degradation issues on an unprecedented scale. Further clearing of native vegetation is very hard to justify, and undermines community efforts to promote sustainable agriculture and healthy rural landscapes.""

The article continues with a mention of dates, permits, exemptions and increased penalties "from a maximum of $3'000 to a new maximum of $250'000 (($500'000 for companies)"..

Where do these new laws leave the persons responsible for lighting the fire on Doon Doon station mid September? That fire cleared a significant portion of remaining biomass in an area close to 2000 square kilometres or more.

Where do these new laws leave the mining company that was apparently responsible for the fire that cleared areas around Faraway Bay that had been protected for quite a number of years?

While the rhetoric that embraces current legislation may seem logical and justified, and will probably keep at bay some of the critics, one cannot help but notice that despite some wonderful efforts in over a decade of land-care our Nation's natural resources continue to decline.

When will we have the moral courage to admit that conventional wisdom does not seem to be working and that we cannot legislate away something that affects our comfort zone?

While academics debate and senior department positions are at threat we are sacrificing the livelihoods of the people that this land would support.

Author Paul Hawken says something to the effect of: "Death is one thing, prevention of birth is quite another." I believe our current management is guilty of the latter. Trees and grass always die, but when we exhaust them into the atmosphere is where the first bit of ecological damage takes place, the next is when the opportunity of restoration of the environment is denied.

I invite the responsible citizen to read: http://managingwholes.com/newtopsoil.htm

Chris Henggeler, Kachana, October 2002