Australian Government Recommends Massive Land Clearing, Concedes Area Likely Home To Endangered Species

It has recently been announced that federal officials plan to back a mass clearing of vegetation, primarily eucalyptus trees, at Kingvale Station on Cape York Peninsula. The proposed plans call for a destruction of nearly 2000 hectares of Queensland forest. The federal backing undermines the Turnbull government rescue package.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported the forest is most likely home to endangered species. Runoff caused by clearing such a massive amount of forest is liable to cause damage to the Great Barrier Reef.

Just last month, the government proposed spending millions to protect the reef and improve water quality through improved farming practices. Now, it seems as if the opposite proposal is on the table. The final ruling on the Queensland forest clearing project will be made by Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg. The ruling will test his self-proclaimed willingness to protect the reef’s water quality.

The owner of Kingvale Station, Scott Harris, wishes to clear the land to make it farm accessible. The government previously approved Harris’s request in 2014, but later ruled that a land clearing of this magnitude must also be considered under the Commonwealth laws. The draft report proposed that the clearing should be allowed and a final recommendation will soon be made.

The Department of the Environment and Energy was informed that the clearing of Kingvale Station will not cause damage to the reef. However, the land drains into two rivers which run directly “into the Great Barrier Reef 200 kilometers downstream.”

The recommendation came after warnings from various environmental foundations and departments. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority stated that during any heavy rain or flood season, the clearing is “almost guaranteed” to result in sediment entering into the reefs where the two rivers meet.

One of the largest issues facing the reef is poor water quality which causes excessive growth of algae. Excessive algae will block out light and smother corals. Another issue facing the Great Barrier Reef, caused by outbreaks of algae, is an overpopulation of crown-of-thorns starfish that feed on the coral itself.

Reef BioSearch states “The Great Barrier Reef is home to six of the world’s seven marine turtles, such as the common Green, the small omnivorous Hawksbill, and the increasingly rare Loggerhead.” The sea turtles can be seen any time of the year. However, during breeding season they are spotted more often in the Southern and Nothern section of the reef where they make their nests.

It has been concluded that clearing the proposed land will affect numerous endangered species which included the loggerhead and leatherback turtles and the Northern Quoll.

According to the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, the Northern Quoll first inhabited across all of northern Australia and from Western Australia to the southeastern corner of Queensland. The Northern Quoll declined substantially in numbers, especially in drier portions of Australia. The marsupial, thriving only in wetter areas, make a home in wooded lands similar to the area now slated to be demolished by this project.

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