Since Australia’s national environment protection law took effect 17 years ago, around seven million hectares of threatened species habitat has been destroyed by bulldozing and logging.

That’s the shocking conclusion of new analysis by University of Queensland researchers, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), WWF-Australia and the Wilderness Society.

The total area of threatened species habitat that has been destroyed since Australia has had a law that is supposed to protect biodiversity is larger than the entire state of Tasmania.

The report, Fast-tracking extinction, finds since the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) took effect in 2000, there have been dramatic habitat loss for the koala, red goshawk, greater glider and yakka skink, pushing these species towards extinction.

The report finds almost all nationally threatened species habitat destruction has occurred without any federal approval or any attempt to seek approval. It also shows the federal regulator responsible for implementing the EPBC Act has no mechanism for monitoring the state and trends of threatened species habitats.

Professor James Watson from UQ’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, said, “This is a catastrophic story for Australia’s extraordinary wildlife. Satellites do not lie and this research provides very clear evidence that the law, and those enforcing it, are failing to do what is necessary to preserve our natural legacy.”  

ACF’s CEO Kelly O’Shanassy said, “Despite its high aims to protect biodiversity and threatened species, our national environment law has failed to address the key problem driving extinction of Australia’s unique wildlife – the destruction and fragmentation of forests and bushland.”

WWF-Australia’s Martin Taylor said, “We see bulldozing of threatened species habitats on a vast scale, with no attempt to seek approval, but the government refuses to enforce the law, claiming it’s a state responsibility! This is a national scandal.”

The Wilderness Society’s National Director, Lyndon Schneiders, said, “Australians expect Government to protect our forests and wildlife for future generations. We need strong new national laws backed by a strong, independent EPA to meet community expectations. It’s time to end deforestation and old growth forest logging and protect iconic wildlife like the Koala.”

Read the report: Fast-tracking extinction: Australia's national environmental law

Josh Meadows

Media Adviser at the Australian Conservation Foundation