Saturday 5 November 2022


Bird and Nature Tourism in Australia by Dr Rochelle Steven, published recently by Birdlife Australia, highlights the growing importance of birdwatching to the tourist industry and its associated benefits for communities and conservation.

In a recent article about the report Dr Steven pointed to the huge diversity in our birdlife which made birding such a fascinating activity for many people.  However, many non-birdwatching Australians are unaware of this diversity or the existence of fascinating and relatively common birds like the Striated Pardalote, Metallic Starling, Satin Bowerbird and Crimson Finch.   Dr Steven remarked that when one of these birds “is presented to a new or non-birder, they never fail to illicit a reaction of surprise and wonderment - if only I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard the words ‘how did I not know this bird existed?’”

Dr Steven believes that one of the most significant changes to Australian birding and the travel sector occurred during the last two years because of the pandemic. 

“For some, especially those who spent significant funds and time travelling around the country and the world, it clipped their wings for at least the first 18 months of the pandemic. The silver lining, however, was the huge uptake of birding at a more local and immediate scale, with people taking a keen interest in birds near their places of residence.”

With travel now back on the agenda, it was appropriate for an examination of the value of birding to tourism, the economy and conservation.  This examination included a well-supported survey of birder tourists and access to data from Tourism Research Australia which since 2019 has listed birdwatching on its National Visitor Survey.

Two of the report’s key findings, highlighting birding’s economic importance, are that over half a million Australians incorporate birdwatching into their travel each year and that bird tourism contributes around $283 million to Australia nationally, with negligible government investment in marketing or infrastructure. The report is available from Birdlife Australia on .

It will be interesting to see how much birding tourism will grow.

-        Leonie Blain


Published in the "Voices for the Earth" column in The Clarence Valley Independent , October 5th , 2022.   



Tuesday 11 October 2022


Mankind’s immeasurable impact on planet Earth through the reckless exploitation of natural resources has reached a point where many are running out.

The demand for these resources grew enormously with the industrial revolution in the 1760s to 1849s, when nothing was off-limits. However, concerns grew over the wasteful destruction of landscapes, and the rapid disappearance of natural ecosystems, with animals like bison, whales, and elephants hunted to virtual extinction for meat, tallow and ivory.

By the mid-1860s, visionaries like naturalist Ferdinand Hayden, began to lobby for the first ever national park, Yellowstone, in the USA. Hayden had visited the area with a survey team, and later led an expedition of discovery, a report on which helped convince the U.S. Congress to withdraw the region from public auction

Finally, in March, 1872, President Grant signed The Act of Dedication, the law that created Yellowstone National Park.

John Muir, American naturalist and conservationist described Yellowstone as follows: "However orderly your excursions or aimless, again and again amid the calmest, stillest scenery you will be brought to a standstill hushed and awe-stricken before phenomena wholly new to you”.

Australia followed, creating the world’s second national park in 1879, now the “Royal”, south of Sydney. Of course, like many early national parks, it was about providing spaces for public recreation, rather than for conservation. 

I recently experienced my own John Muir moment while visiting the Lamington National Park, just north of the Queensland Border, seated beneath a ‘monolithic’ Brush Box, carbon dated to over 1,500 years.

Lamington’s visionary was Robert Collins, MLC, who was inspired by the Yellowstone Park concept when visiting the USA in 1878, and began a vigorous campaign for the area’s preservation.

In 1900, as a direct result of Collins’ “constant representation”, the Queensland Surveyor General noted: “these lands be ultimately reserved as national park and sanatorium”. This finally led to the park’s dedication in 1915.

With so many of Australia’s unique fauna and flora facing extinction, we desperately need other visionaries. We can all be part of that by supporting conservation efforts.

-        John Edwards

Published in the "Voices for the Earth" column in The Clarence Valley Independent ,September 14, 2022.   




Sunday 2 October 2022


The North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) has called on the NSW Government to stop approving koala habitat for clearing and logging. 

NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh pointed out the illogical situation where koala habitat continues to be cleared while the NSW Government spends tens of millions of dollars on koala hospitals, open range zoos and planting seedlings.  All of this will not prevent koalas becoming extinct in the wild unless existing koala habitat is protected.

“Every day the NSW Government is allowing the Forestry Corporation to cut down mature Koala feed trees in public forests, and farmers to bulldoze them, while their propaganda arm goes into over-drive pretending that Koalas don’t need their feed trees.

“We know that Koalas only utilise certain individuals of certain species, and that the larger those trees are the more they use them. Protecting these key trees and allowing others to mature is essential for Koala’s survival.

“If the NSW Government is sincere about saving Koalas they need to ensure thorough surveys of potential habitat before clearing or logging is allowed, and to protect any core Koala habitat found.

“For a start they can ditch their current policy that if a logger sees a Koala in a tree they just wait for it to leave before they cut its home down, Mr. Pugh said.