The primary aim of the FFG Act is aims to guarantee that all taxa of Victoria’s flora and fauna can survive, flourish and retain their potential for evolutionary development in the wild, and to ensure that the genetic diversity of flora and fauna is maintained. Various management processes and conservation and control measures available to conserve and protect flora and fauna are not being used, largely because of their perceived complexity and the difficulty of administering these provisions.
The gap between listed items and items with action statements continues to widen. The "guarantee" is compromised by vested interests such as logging and recreational shooting.
The Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (the Act) is the primary Victorian legislation
providing for conservation of threatened species and ecological communities . Since the Act was passed in 1988, 653 plant and animal species, communities and threatening processes have been listed.
The primary aim of the FFG Act is aims to guarantee that all taxa of Victoria’s flora and fauna can survive, flourish and retain their potential for evolutionary development in the wild, and to ensure that the genetic diversity of flora and fauna is maintained.
The full range of ‘management processes’ and ‘conservation and control measures’
available in the Act has not been used. Various management processes and conservation and control measures available to conserve and protect flora and fauna are not being used, largely because of their perceived complexity and the difficulty of administering these provisions.
The gap between listed items and items with action statements continues to widen.
The lack of baseline data and outcome or output performance measures means it is not possible to conclude whether the Act has achieved its primary objectives.
The available data, which is patchy, indicates that it has not.
Administration of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988:Recommendations by the Attorney General – 2009 recommended that the department should:
review the internal timeframes it sets for listing, against the resources it applies and the processes it adopts, to confirm they are realistic
The only critical habitat determination made was subsequently revoked at the time of his report; and no interim conservation orders have been issued.
Action statements are the primary tools in the Act being used to protect and conserve threatened flora and fauna. However, the effort directed to listing threatened species and processes has not been matched by effort to develop action statements, to monitor the implementation of actions, or assess their effectiveness.
The Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act requires Action Statements to be completed for each listing. An Action Statement sets out management prescriptions to protect endangered species. An Action Statement must be completed 'as soon as possible' after listing.
Brendan Sydes, Chief Executive Officer and lawyer at the EDO found that Action Statements have still not been prepared for 374 of the 675 species, communities and processes listed under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act, despite the clear legal obligation to do so. In the past year, only one draft statement has been released.
At this rate, it will take the Government decades to fulfil their obligations, said Mr Sydes.
Proper utilisation of the conservation measures available in the present FFG Act would make a real difference to biodiversity conservation in Victoria.
The action statements must set out what has been done to conserve and manage that taxon or community or process and what is intended to be done and may include information on what needs to be done.
The failure to complete Action Statements renders the RFA (Regional Forest Agreement) Reserve System inadequate for the protection of endangered species due to lack of information and management strategies.
An analysis by lawyers at the Environment Defenders Office (EDO) found that of 599 threatened plant and animal species listed under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act, only 270 have an action statement to manage their conservation as legally required.
In the view of the EDO, the lack of political and Departmental will to fully implement and enforce the FFG Act, combined with a lack of resources provided to DSE for implementation of the Act has resulted in its weak implementation.
The Mountain Ash forests of the Central Highlands are home to several threatened and endangered species, for example, the endangered Leadbeater’s Possum, which is Victoria’s faunal emblem. Endemic to the Yarra tributaries, the population of the Leadbeater’s Possum is currently in decline as a result of inadequate habitat.
The protective provisions of the FFG Act are excluded where logging is conducted in areas containing flora listed as threatened under the FFG Act. The Flora and Fauna Guarantee (Forest Produce Harvesting) Order 1998 authorises the taking of protected flora from State forests, where such taking is the result of logging. However, a similar exclusion in areas of threatened fauna does not exist. Therefore, the protection afforded by the FFG Act remains intact and applies to logging operations conducted in the threatened species habitat in the Yarra tributaries.
The CAR (Comprehensive Adequate Representative) reserve system on paper is meant to protect all biodiversity values in the Otways from logging practices based on best scientific information. However if the impact logging has on other forest values is not done then decreased levels of protection are what occur.
The Native forest timber industry are exempt from complying with legislation which is in place to protect flora species listed in the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988.
The existence of this Order for exemption is an admission that logging practices in State Forest threaten and destroy listed flora in the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988.
East Gippsland is now a refuge for many of Eastern Victoria’s rare and threatened forest species. To be responsible and responsive about reversing the decline in number and populations of threatened species, the zoning system must now strongly favour protection of their remaining habitat.
Under the FFG Act, action statements are required to set out what has to be done to conserve and manage (a threatened) taxon or community. The action statements contain short-term, interim, objectives and actions as well as longer term objectives and actions to ensure the species return to a secure conservation status. To the extent that re-zoning will result in the longer term actions and objectives of the action statements for the relevant species not being implemented and achieved, the re-zoning could result in a failure to meet legal obligations that arise under the FFG Act.
For the Powerful Owl, the long term objective of the FFG action statement is:
...to increase population numbers in potentially suitable areas, where owls
are now scarce by maintaining and restoring habitat for species across all
land tenures to return it to a secure conservation status in the wild.
Changes to the zoning are inconsistent with the long term objective of this statement.
(Australian Conservation Foundation Environment East Gippsland - Gippsland Environment Group - The Wilderness Society Victoria - Victorian National Parks Association Submission to East Gippsland Forest Management Zone Amendments September 2010)
The Spot-Tailed Quoll is now classified as Vulnerable under the Commonwealth Endangered Species Protection Act 1995, and has recently been reclassified to Endangered under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act. When the Quoll was first listed for protection under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act (nomination 146), logging practices that cause habitat fragmentation were cited as a major threat.
The first Tiger Quoll Action Statement has no prescriptions to protect Quolls from logging practices despite the primary Quoll habitat being within forest available for logging. The failure to recognise the potential for forestry operations in State Forest to create fragmentation is a serious issue.
The Wildlife Act and the FFG Act should be at least partially amalgamated so that the FFG Act includes prohibitions on taking or destroying all listed flora and fauna.
The deliberate inaction and disregard of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act by the government, coupled with an assumption that no one would ever have the funds to take them to court, proved to be not enough to protect the historical over-logging operations of the hooligan industry.
Victoria’s Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 has objectives to ensure “Victoria’s native flora and fauna can survive, flourish, and retain their potential for evolutionary development”. Now the integrity of this Act is under threat. Perversely DSE’s Code of Practice argues that deliberate burning of bushland and forest habitat will help Victoria’s native flora and fauna to survive, flourish, and retain their potential for evolutionary development.
No document exists to zoologically prove that native fauna will suffer such negative consequences if it does not have a bushfire range through its habitat. As a result, the Code of Practice implies that bushfire is ok for all Victorian bushland and forests – DSE conveniently convinces itself that the urgent moral imperative for DSE to suppress bushfires is extinguished. So now it lights more fires than it puts out.
The ability for forest fauna to recover is therefore being hampered by further prescribed burning, and recovery is also hampered by reduced fecundity caused by a decade of drought, and for the owls, low prey population densities.’
Offences for the protection of fauna – there are no provisions for the protection of listed fauna. Offences in relation to fauna are contained in a separate piece of legislation, namely, the Wildlife Act 1975 (Vic).
The offences in the FFG Act should apply to all listed species, not just flora and fish. The defence available to owners and lessees of private land should be removed. The FFG Act should also prohibit the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of habitat of listed species. Or at the very least, the FFG Act should prohibit the destruction of the "residence" of a listed species (e.g. the hollow, nest, or other dwelling place), similar to the new Canadian legislation, the Species At Risk Act 2002.
Currently there are exemptions under the FFG Act for logging, in the form of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act (Forest Produce Harvesting) Order 1988. These exemptions should be removed. (Lawyers for Forests)
Sambar Deer are confusingly listed as 'environmentally threatening' under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act, yet protected as a game species under the Wildlife Act. That makes no sense, and has led to gross inaction on a rapidly escalating problem. (VPNA)
--Logging in habitat areas must be listed as a potentially threatening process under
--Logging management must be reviewed in order to develop sustainable rates of
logging, if logging is to continue.
VicForests won on their contest that they can log FFG recognised habitat for the endangered Leadbeater's Possum - Victoria's faunal emblem. This has meant the survival of the species cannot be 'guaranteed' under the FFG Act.
The proposed variation to the Code of Practice for Timber Production 2007 will allow the Secretary of the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) to override a Flora and Fauna Guarantee Action Statement (Action Statement) for any given forest coupe. In other words, it empowers the Secretary to clear threatened species habitat that would otherwise have been protected.
This effectively takes the only readily enforceable part of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (Vic) (FFG Act) and allows the Secretary to make it unenforceable. (EDO - EDO Briefing Paper Forestry Code changes endanger threatened species 30 Nov 2011)
The impacts of climate change, fire, weed and feral animals and logging, coupled with changing demographics and community attitudes to forest management, all point to the need for a major, independent assessment and overhaul of current logging arrangements.
(Australian Conservation Foundation - East Gippsland)
DSE has provided no evidence to suggest that any comprehensive surveys have taken place to ensure that the species are being adequately monitored and protected as per legislative requirements in their action statements and the FFG Act.
In June of this year, 10 of the 11 staff who make up the south-west biodiversity team will not have their contracts renewed, with similar cuts expected in other regions of the State. Many species of flora and fauna in south-west Victoria are on the brink of extinction and require urgent proactive management. The government’s dismissal of threatened species officers will ensure that next to nothing is being done to save these species, thus totally ignoring its legal requirements under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 and the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
The implications of this move are alarming. Less DSE officers and staff will further compromise the effectiveness of the enormous and important task of protection biodiversity.
Urban sprawl is eating into natural areas and green wedges, and impacting on some of the most endangered habitats and species in Victoria . A significant population of the Southern Brown Bandicoot (Isoodon obesulus obesulus), a nationally threatened species, still persists in south-eastern Melbourne in the cities of Casey and Cardinia. The Southern Brown Bandicoot is listed as ‘endangered’ under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999. In Victoria, Southern Brown Bandicoots are listed as ‘threatened’ under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.
About 5000ha of Victoria's last remaining grassland habitats will be cleared in the growth corridors, approximately 2600ha of grassland will be retained in the urban growth areas, and the rest will be offset into two large 15,000ha grassland reserves outside the growth areas.
In a world of finite resources with unchecked economic and population growth, some form of overshoot and collapse is inevitable.
Victoria could bear the brunt of a climate change front that would see almost a third of animal species wiped out in less than 60 years.
By 2070, Victoria could be rendered unrecognisable as the continent heats up and rainfall patterns change, according to a drastic new report by the CSIRO. Victorian animal species already threatened by climate change include the mountain pygmy possum, the helmeted honeyeater, and pink-tailed legless lizard.
One of the report's authors, Dr Michael Dunlop said ecosystems such as the eucalyptus forests to Melbourne's north could disappear and snowfall in Victoria's alpine regions become more sparse, and the Mallee become increasingly thirsty. It's easy to blame climate change as if it were indistinct from human actions, and with loss and degradation of habitats, compromising management of flora and fauna, and loosening policies that protect native animals, will likely cause their demise.
Of the 91 species of non-marine mammals known to have inhabited Victoria since European settlement,
19 are now extinct in the state, and five of these are now totally extinct. Many other species survive with much diminished populations. For example, the native grassland complexes of lowland Victoria are now among the most endangered ecological communities in Australia, there being less than 2% left of the pre-1750 area of thousands of square kilometres.
While there is legislation to protect native vegetation, or their offsets, it's assumed that wildlife will adapt to smaller, degraded and diminishing habitats.
Chief Recovery scientist Professor David Lindenmayer has resigned from the Commonwealth Recovery Team for Victoria’s Leadbeater’s Possum saying that it’s efforts, he argues, will ''lock in'' the animal's extinction.
Hird Swamp in northwest Victoria is left open to shooting. This wetland is often home to one of Australia’s most threatened birds, the Painted Snipe, rarely photographed. In Victoria, the Painted Snipe is listed under the Flora & Fauna Guarantee Act as Critically Endangered,” says Laurie Levy coordinator of the Coalition against Duck Shooting. Freckled Ducks were again illegally shot on Lake Murphy at the opening of the 2006 duck season. Back in 2004 they found several dead swans and protected blue shovellers at Johnson Swamp, and other game they suspected hunters had discarded after reaching their two-bird bag limits.
" Painted Snipe - threatened by shooting and overgrazing by cattle.
" Leadbeater's Possum - Doomed by "managed" extinction by logging.
The environmental costs are accelerated degradation of habitat caused by four wheel drives, and, inevitably, declining populations of our endangered and supposedly "protected" species.
Independent report to the Australian Government Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
Human population growth is a potential cause of environmental change worldwide, including Australia, even without considering the impact of changes on living standards or resource use per capita. The largest factor influencing population growth over the past decade has been net overseas migration rather than natural increase, although less so than over previous decades. Direct impact are the extension of the urban growth boundary, land clearing for agriculture, feral animals, proposed invasion of green wedges for developments – and also in national parks.
18 species are listed as extinct.
The Advisory List of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna lists 41 extant species compared with 34 listed under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988.
SOE report 2011
The perception that kangaroos are a renewable resource, coupled with the labelling of these native animals as pests, has resulted in the largest slaughter of land-based wildlife on the planet.
In the past 20 years, 90 million kangaroos and wallabies have been lawfully killed for commercial purposes. Kangaroos are often found with missing limbs or jaws or suffering from gaping wounds due to the difficulty of the shot. The writer concludes:It is irresponsible to commercialise the hunting of kangaroos, given these serious concerns of contamination and animal cruelty ,
Although kangaroo and wallabies are not considered endangered or threatened, there is a moral dimension of protecting wildlife from profits, and being cruelly plundered. All wildlife should be protected from commercial activities.
In short, while there's dedicated staff at the DSE trying to conserve and preserve wildlife and habitats, they are facing a tsunami of forces against their preservation. Logging exceptions, commercial interests, human population growth, economic austerity measures, apathy and climate change will inevitably negate the "guarantee" of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.