Saturday, 14 October 2017

FERAL DEER IN AUSTRALIA



Deer are among the world’s most successful invasive species and can have substantial negative impacts on natural and agricultural ecosystems. They are considered one of Australia’s worst emerging pest animal problems. 

Six species have established wild populations in Australia: the fallow, chital, red, rusa, sambar and hog deer. Numbers of all six are increasing, with populations expanding into new areas.

Most wild deer are currently in south-east Australia, which is where accidental and deliberate releases have occurred in the past. A recent study based on bioclimatic analysis, however, has suggested that most of the species already present in Australia are well-suited to the tropical and subtropical climates of northern Australia. Thus, they could potentially occupy most of the continent, including parts of the arid interior.

In Australia, deer are classified differently, depending on which state they are found. In Queensland, the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia they are classified as a pest species.

But the south-eastern states have not. NSW has listed the damage caused by deer as a key threatening process. Yet under current laws in this state, deer are also protected as a hunting resource. NSW is not alone. Tasmania lists them as partly protected wildlife, and in Victoria they are essentially treated as a protected game species for recreational hunters despite also being listed as a key threat under Victorian threatened species legislation. 

In March 2016, an independent review by the Natural Resources Commission recommended NSW make deer a pest species. Such a move was not supported by the NSW Government, who are obviously too worried about the political repercussions from denying deer hunters their sport. 

Making feral deer a pest species would give land managers and governments the power to tackle this growing environmental and agricultural threat head on, rather than being constrained by current laws that protect feral deer. We also need to prevent further deer farm escapes and the deliberate ‘seeding’ of new areas by hunters. 

Because, to address this pest we need concerted efforts to prevent new populations; to eradicate small, isolated populations; and to contain other wild populations.

            - Janet Cavanaugh

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on September 4, 2017.  

Friday, 6 October 2017

ILUKA KOALAS



Some years ago, there was a vibrant koala colony around Iluka, but bushfires, disease, dogs and expansion of human activity drastically reduced their numbers.
With no reported sightings for several years it was thought the population had died out, and koalas were deemed to be functionally extinct from Iluka. But then records by WIRES Clarence Valley branch began to rekindle interest, and further ecological studies showed them to be returning, albeit in very small numbers.
Tragically one or two were road deaths, and some beyond help, so unable to be returned. However more lately koalas have been reported, mainly from around the golf course, the conservation reserve,  Sid Gill Park, Iluka Road, and in more unexpected places like Moriarty's break wall, from where it was relocated by WIRES, on a cafe verandah, and in a resident's garage.
Photographs taken by Iluka's keen koala spotters have shown these animals to be mainly in good health, so able to be left to do what koalas are designed to do.
Recently a cyclist spotted a koala cross the Iluka Road into bushland, where it climbed a small tree then sat a convenient 2m off the ground, so enabling a good close look. The resident then called Clarence Valley WIRES, and reported the koala to be an adult male, suffering from an injured or diseased left eye.
Unfortunately he disappeared before help could arrive. So residents are now urged to keep a look out for this koala, which could be in severe trouble if the eye problem is a chlamydia-related disease.
WIRES are also calling for Iluka residents as well as visitors to the area, to report all koala sightings, whether apparently healthy or not, for recording on the NSW Wildlife Atlas, or for capture and treatment where possible of sick or injured animals by experienced WIRES koala rescuers and carers, before hopefully their safe return to their usual surroundings.
Even a koala high in a tree will add to the knowledge of their range
For any sightings please notify the WIRES Threatened Species Reporting Officer (0456 689 134)

- Patricia Edwards

 This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on September 25, 2017. 

NOTE: Iluka is on the northern side of the mouth of the Clarence River.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

THE SANTOS PROPOSAL TO MINE COAL SEAM GAS IN THE NARRABRI AND PILLIGA AREA - PART 2

Mining company Santos has plans for a massive coal seam gas mining operation near Narrabri in the north-west of NSW.  In its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which was put on public exhibition earlier this year, Santos outlined its proposal for 850 gas wells on agricultural land and in the Pilliga Forest (which is crown land).  Almost 23,000 submissions were received by the NSW Department of Planning on the EIS, the largest response ever to a planning proposal in NSW.  Apparently around 18,000 of these were opposed to the development.

 The NSW Government is yet to make a decision on whether the project will go ahead.
 

The Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition (CVCC)  made a submission opposing the proposal. Part of this submission was published in a recent post   . The rest of the CVCC submission is published below.



Climate Change Effects

a) CSG and unconventional gas projects that have been developed in Australia and elsewhere are not greenhouse-friendly (or even more greenhouse friendly than coal) as the industry and many politicians claim. This project will be the same.  Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. 

b) While the burning of it for energy creation produces carbon dioxide just as happens with coal, there is a major issue with fugitive emissions from leaking wells and venting of the gas from pipelines.  Proponents of the industry conveniently choose to ignore this when promoting it as a better energy source than coal. The Queensland experience has shown that problems of leakage in an operational gasfield are quite common.

c) Moreover, once the industry has extracted all the gas that it economically can and has capped its wells, there will be a continued leakage of methane as the well-capping fails over time.

d) Furthermore the claim that gas will serve as a relatively long-term transition to renewables is looking increasingly unlikely given the rapid development of renewables and large-scale battery technology – technologies which are much more appropriate in a carbon-constrained world. So there are questions about the long-term financial viability of this project.  Is it likely to become a stranded asset?


Effect on Dark Sky and the Siding Springs Observatory

a) Santos’ activities are already affecting the Siding Springs Observatory near Coonabarabran. This observatory in the newly established Dark Sky Park hosts the largest optical telescopes from national and  international universities and research entities.  The site contains more than 50 telescopes used by a variety of institutions.  And there are plans for further telescopes – as long as the sky remains dark.

b) From 2013 light emissions from Santos’ gasfield exploration have increased to the point where the Bibblewindi large flare creates  more light pollution than the entire nearby town of Coonabarabran which has over 3,500 residents.

c) Santos plans to triple the number of pilot flares and double the number of large flares including constructing 50 metre high flare stacks with an average 30 metre high flame above it.  There is no mention that they will enclose the flares and thus limit the light pollution.

d) This is a very important research facility as well as an important tourist attraction to the region.  Its viability should not be compromised by Santos’ project.


 Inadequacy of Santos’ EIS

The size of this very large EIS is no indication of its adequacy. There are far too many unknowns.  For example there are no maps showing where the 850 wells and all the other infrastructure will be situated.  The NSW Government should insist that Santos provide this information and that it should be on  exhibition for public comment before the project is assessed by government.


 The Project as a Solution to the “Gas Crisis” in Australia

Any suggestion that developing this massive project will solve the so-called gas shortage crisis is arrant nonsense. There is plenty of gas being mined in this country but the trouble is that practically all production is being exported. This means the domestic market is threatened by shortages. This has happened because successive governments have failed (except for Western Australia) to secure domestic supply with some form of reservation policy as happens in other parts of the world (including the USA). In addition there have been suggestions that the some gas companies are holding back production in some operational fields. This presumably would have an impact on domestic supplies. Quite obviously there is an appalling lack of transparency in the national gas market – something which should be fixed by government.


Conclusion

The CVCC understands that there is widespread opposition to this development throughout the region.  It is obvious that it does not have a social licence to move from its destructive exploration stage to an even more destructive production stage.  The benefits claimed by the industry and others – largely referring to job numbers and an economic boost to the area – are outweighed by far by the long-term damage that this industry will do over a wide area of the north-west – to the natural environment, to climate,  to agriculture, to water supplies, to clean air, and to community health.  Furthermore, if Santos is permitted to go ahead, the impacts of its gas-mining will remain with the region long after it has made its pile and left.

The Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition believes that this project should be rejected.