Options to improve the protection of critically endangered species under national environmental laws.
This report (commissioned by the Bob Brown Foundation and prepared by EDO Tasmania) examines some of the weaknesses in the current operation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and identifies 5 key areas in which the laws should be strengthened to better protect those species and communities at greatest risk of being lost.
The summary of the recommendations in the report are reproduced here, and the full (PDF) report is linked at the bottom of this page.
Summary of recommendations
Critically endangered species and ecological communities should be afforded strong protection under Australia’s national environmental laws. Currently, inclusion of a threatened species or ecological community in the category representing the highest level of endangerment under federal laws does little to increase the protection provided.
There are 5 key areas in which our national environmental law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, can be strengthened to provide more effective protection to critically endangered species and ecological communities.
The key findings of this report are outlined below:
1. Streamlining assessment decisions
- A species listed on the IUCN Red List in the category of Critically Endangered must be automatically upgraded to that status under the EPBC Act.
- The Minister should have clear emergency listing powers in relation to species and communities considered to be critically endangered.
- The Minister must act on the advice from the Threatened Species Scientific Committee to list a species or community as Critically Endangered.
- Commonwealth, State and Territory threatened species assessment criteria must be synchronised to allow for reciprocal recognition of assessments.
2. Strengthening recovery actions
- Within 6 months of a species or ecological community being listed as critically endangered, a recovery plan must be adopted for the species or community (or revised, if one already exists). Some exceptions may apply where the Threatened Species Scientific Committee advises that a plan is not required.
- Recovery plans for critically endangered species must identify critical habitat for the species. All critical habitat identified in such recovery plans must be entered on the Critical Habitat Register.
- Recovery plans must include clear performance indicators, and the Department of Environment must report against these indicators in its annual report.
- The Commonwealth must be required to “use its best endeavours” to get a State or Territory government to implement recovery plans and threat abatement plans within its territory.
- Commonwealth funding for environmental and scientific research programmes should give priority to proposals that will further the survival of a critically endangered species or ecological community.
3. Avoiding impacts
- The Significant Impact Guidelines should provide that any adverse impact on a critically endangered species or ecological community, including any adverse impact on listed critical habitat, will be “significant”.
- The Minister must seek, and act consistently with, the advice of the Threatened Species Scientific Committee in relation to any proposed actions which may adversely impact on a critically endangered species or ecological community.
- The Minister must be able to vary or revoke an approval where a threatened species or ecological community impacted by the approved activity is ‘uplisted’ to Critically Endangered.
- The obligation to avoid damage to registered critical habitat on Commonwealth land should extend to critical habitat on land owned or managed by a State or Territory government.
4. No delegation of responsibility
- Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) forestry operations should not be excluded from the requirement to obtain approval from the Commonwealth Minister.
- If the RFA exemption is retained, it should not apply to forestry operations in an area of registered Critical Habitat.
- The Minister must not be able to delegate approval powers to a State or Territory government for actions which will have, or are likely to have, a significant impact on a critically endangered species or ecological community. All actions likely to impact on critically endangered species or ecological communities must be assessed by the Commonwealth Minister.
5. Encouraging strong action by State and Territory governments
- The Commonwealth should exercise powers under the current Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement to require the Tasmanian government to implement restrictions on broadscale clearing on private land.
- The Commonwealth should promote the implementation of best practice laws for the protection of threatened species by States and Territories, including through planning and building laws.
- The Commonwealth should consider entering into conservation agreements under the EPBC Act with State and Territory Governments to secure protection for critically endangered species and ecological communities.