Recovery plans designed to prevent the extinction of nearly 180 endangered species and habitats, including the Tasmanian devil, were removed by the Coalition in one of Sussan Ley’s final acts as environment minister.
Last year, the Morrison government proposed removing the requirement for a legislative plan for 185 plants, animals and habitats, including several plans that were years later.
In March, Ley signed decisions to remove that requirement for 176 of the species and habitats, with the move quietly released by the environment department after the election was called in April.
Ley made the decisions despite a government demand for feedback receiving 6,701 responses, everyone disagrees with the proposal.
Wilderness Society’s policy and strategy manager Tim Beshara called the former minister’s decision “disgraceful” and said he hoped the new environment and water minister, Tanya Plibersek, would review it.
“On a planet, the Commonwealth thinks they don’t need a recovery plan for the Tasmanian devil, one of the most important species in existence or the critically endangered Christmas Island fox, a species completely under state control and one of Australia’s most likely future extinctions.” he said.
“I can’t think of a better way for incoming Minister Tanya Plibersek to understand the entrenched political dysfunction in her portfolio than through this example of administrative incompetence and contempt for the community.”
The requirement for a recovery plan is at the discretion of the environment minister but, where such a requirement exists, ministers are legally obliged not to make decisions that are inconsistent with the plan.
Responding to Ley’s decision on Thursday, Plibersek said: “This is alarming. I have asked my new department for an emergency briefing.”
The proposal to eliminate plans for nearly 200 plants and animals was met shouts by environmentalists last year. It followed a review of normalization planning by the endangered species science commission (TSSC).
Among the 176 is the critically endangered night oak that was affected by the 2019-2020 forest firesthe dangerously endangered Cumberland Plain woodlandregularly cleared for development in western Sydney, and several Christmas Island species, including the critically endangered Christmas Island fox.
In her published reasons for each decision, the minister said she had followed the advice of the scientific committee and formed the view that a recovery plan “would not give a significant conservation plan advantage” over other mechanisms that were already in place.
All affected species and habitats have what is known as conservation advice, which is a similar document but it is not legally binding in the same way as recovery plans.
TSSC president Helene Marsh previously said recovery planning was ineffective, with plans often unfunded and actions not implemented, and that conservation advice could often be updated more quickly after emergencies such as forest fires.
Before the election, Labor promised $ 224.5 million for a national program on endangered species, which would include tackling the backwardness of outdated and outdated recovery plans.
The appointment of Plibersek, one of Labor’s most experienced ministers, to the environment and water resources has been welcomed by conservation groups due to the scale of reform this has been identified as necessary to reverse the declining environment of Australia.
Sophie Power, of the Australian Conservation Foundation, said Ley’s decision is disappointing and that groups would agree with the new minister.
“We shouldn’t just give up and abandon reactive planning. It’s a key conservation tool, ”she said.
“If it’s done well and properly, we think it’s critical.”
There were nine species out of 185 that Ley – now the vice-liberal leader – decided would continue to call for a recovery plan, including the spectacle fox and the golden sunbird.
Her office has directed questions to the environmental department because she no longer has responsibility for the portfolio.
A spokesman for the environmental department said the former minister had followed the advice of the scientific committee in each case.
The TSSC revised recovery plans for 914 endangered species and habitats last year and its initial advice was that 676 no longer required a plan.
The 185 represented the first cut of what was to be a broader proposition.
The spokesman said the purpose of the scientific committee is modernize conservation planning and “ensure that all listed species and ecological communities have appropriate plans to support their recovery.”