Scientists warn Australia's environment laws are failing because they are too weak, have inadequate review and approval processes and are not overseen by an effective compliance regime.

More than 240 of Australia’s leading conservation scientists have signed an open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison urging him to establish strong national environment laws to stem Australia’s worsening species extinction crisis.

In the open letter the scientists say Australia’s native species are being wiped out at an alarming rate, with three species gone forever in the last decade and another 17 animals facing extinction in the next 20 years.

The letter warns, “our current laws are failing because they are too weak, have inadequate review and approval processes, and are not overseen by an effective compliance regime.”

Since the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act was created in 1999, 7.7 million hectares of threatened species habitat – an area larger than Tasmania – has been destroyed.

The 247 scientific signatories urge the Morrison Government to use an upcoming review of Australia’s national environment laws to strengthen protection for nature, not weaken it.

They say strong laws, greater investment and government partnerships with researchers, Indigenous communities, conservation organisations, businesses and other Australians can help successfully protect and restore our wildlife for future generations.

The scientific letter to mark the launch of the review of national environment law has been backed by Places You Love, an alliance of 57 environment groups.

“Strong national environmental laws are critical to arresting species decline and protecting the places Australians love,” said Samantha Vine, Head of Conservation, BirdLife Australia.

“The science is clear. We need to take urgent action to stop the extinction crisis – this review provides a vital opportunity for science to prevail over politics,” said Humane Society International Senior Campaign Manager, Alexia Wellbelove.

“This review is a once-in-a-decade opportunity to fix our broken environment laws, stem the extinction crisis and leave a legacy that will ensure future generations get to enjoy seeing koalas and bandicoots in the wild, as we do,” said Australian Conservation Foundation Nature Program Manager, Basha Stasak.

“Extinction is a choice; Prime Minister Morrison and Minister Ley must use this review to upgrade the EPBC Act from a piece of legislation that considers and then catalogues the loss of nature, into one that catalyses government action to prevent the loss of nature,” said Wilderness Society National Nature Campaign Manager, Suzanne Milthorpe. 

“The EPBC Act does not adequately protect our threatened species, our precious water resources and our native forests, it does nothing to prevent climate change or help nature cope with its impacts – new federal environmental laws are needed to equip Australia to act on the challenges we face,” said Nicola Rivers, Director of Advocacy and Research at Environmental Justice Australia.

“WWF’s one million supporters have told us Australia’s beautiful wildlife, habitats and climate are worth standing up for and protecting – now is a critical window of opportunity for the Australian Government to secure strong laws that prevent the loss of much-loved Aussie icons like the koala and marine turtles,” said Rachel Lowry, Chief Conservation Officer, WWF-Australia.

The open letter, references and a full list of signatories can be found here.

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