LETTER OF THE WEEK - The Land, November 1, 2007
Hijacked by hyperbole in environment debate
SIR: Two articles in The Land of October 25 highlight an issue that should be of continuing concern to your readers: the hijacking of the environmental agenda by minority groups using their ideology as a platform for change.
Ian Causley, the retiring Member for the seat of Page ("Fresh page for man who spoke his mind", p6), tells us: "Our democracy had been hijacked by minority groups prone to hyperbole, which were influencing the views of city people and politicians to the detriment of rural industries and communities."
He cites two examples of where we have lost the plot in the management of public resources: forestry and the Murray-Darling.
The continuing saga of invasive native species (woody weeds) in the Central West could be added to those examples.
In the same edition, Ian Lobban from the Victorian Farmers Federation, commenting in the article,
"Conservation a threat" (Southern regional edition, p1), tells us the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC) recommendations for the red gum forests along the Murray River "have the potential to shut down farming and recreational industries".
The Australian Environment Foundation endorses the sentiments expressed and believes any environmental issue that is tackled using science and empirical evidence will deliver the right outcomes.
Sadly, the woody weeds issue is a prime example of ideology triumphing over science and evidence; the VEAC proposals for the red gum forests are another.
Duncan Malcolm, the chair of VEAC, is quoted in the article as saying: "The health of the river red gum forests along the Murray River is far worse than expected" - as one would expect after 10 years of drought.
However, reducing the area of State forest available for timber harvesting, banning campfires, reducing access for camping and launching of boats, reclassifying State game reserves into nature conservation reserves, and increasing the size of national parks by 300 per cent will not change that one bit.
These changes will reduce or exclude the use of public land by change of land tenure.
By themselves they will not lead to better land management.
We all support more water for the red gum forests - we do not support changes that will further marginalise small rural communities for no net environmental gain.
Similar proposals will be suggested for red gum forests in NSW by the National Parks Association.
Rural people should reflect on the statements of Mr Causley and Mr Lobban and decide how much they have to lose before they act to save their environment.
Australian Environment Foundation, Benalla, Vic.