Ahead of next week’s Labor Party national conference, where delegates will vote on the party’s national policy platform, 256 scientists have signed an open letter calling on the Albanese government to end land clearing and native forest logging before the next election.

The scientists warn it will be impossible for the government to meet its commitments to no new extinctions and reach net zero emissions without urgently halting the bulldozing of native forests and woodlands.

The letter states:

“We have sounded the alarm for more than 30 years that the large-scale destruction of native woodlands, forests, wetlands and grasslands was the single biggest threat to the nation’s biodiversity. That is still the case today.”

Last week land clearing data released for Queensland and NSW confirmed more than 1.5 million hectares of forest and woodland (an area larger than greater Sydney) has been bulldozed in three years across the two states alone.

Dr Hugh Possingham, co-chair of The Biodiversity Council and Professor at The University of Queensland, said:

“Sometimes conservation solutions are complicated. This one is not. We’re still averaging around half a million hectares of clearing a year. It’s far too much. For every 100 hectares bulldozed, as many as 500 native mammals, 2000 birds, and 15,000 reptiles die. That means tens of millions of native animals killed directly every year by the bulldozing of their homes. 

“But the destruction doesn’t end there. The fragmentation of their habitat leaves those animals exposed to predation by feral animals and localised extinctions caused by drought, bushfires, ecosystem collapse and disease. Ending land clearing in Australia is one of the most economically efficient ways of reversing the decline of our biodiversity.”

Nathaniel Pelle, Business and Nature Lead for the Australian Conservation Foundation, said:

“Not only is it impossible for Australia to tackle climate change and end extinction without first ending land clearing, it is critical for our own wellbeing and our economy that we reverse the trend of nature destruction. Land clearing degrades the soil we need to grow crops, adversely affects local rainfall, pollutes waterways and harms pollinators like bees. After climate change, it's the key reason the Great Barrier Reef is in danger.”

Ahead of the upcoming vote on the party’s national platform more than 300 Labor branches have passed a motion calling on the party to “Move to 100% plantation timber and end broadscale land clearing before the next federal election…”

“It’s beyond urgent that we stop habitat destruction in Australia,” ACF’s Nathaniel Pelle said.

“The Labor Party has made great strides for nature in the past, whether by banning oil and gas mining on the Great Barrier Reef or protecting Antarctica from industrialisation. Now it must act to end land clearing.”

The letter is at https://www.endlandclearing.org.au/

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