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Bittersweet conservation announcement for the Mt Manning/northern Yilgarn area of WA's Great Western Woodlands

Updated:

For many years proposals have been made for the conservation of the Mt Manning/northern Yilgarn area in the north western section of the Great Western Woodlands, focusing on the ecologically significant ‘banded ironstone formation’ (BIF) ranges in the area.

 On 1 September 2010 the WA State government (Environment Minister Faragher and Mining Minister Moore) announced tenure changes in this area, affecting approx. 526,000 hectares, which is ~3.3% of the Great Western Woodlands. The changes included the creation of:

1.    Die Hardy Range Nature Reserve: ~10,000 hectares to become highly protected reserve;

2.    Mount Elvire Conservation Park incorporating reserves for ‘Conservation and Mining’: 155,000 ha;

3.    Diemals/Mt Jackson/Windarling ‘Reserve for Conservation and Mining’: 78,000 hectares;

4.    Jaurdi Conservation Park incorporating a reserve for ‘Conservation and Mining’: 284,000 ha;

Click here to see the map of the proposed new tenure arrangements.

This is a welcome move by the government to the extent it clarifies and gives certainty that these areas are to be vested and managed for their conservation values, rather than continuing to languish as ‘Unallocated Crown Land’.

It is a bittersweet gain however, as the proposed classification of these reserves does not provide strong protection for some particularly sensitive areas, including areas which have repeatedly been proposed for a high level of protection for many years.     

Most alarmingly, 4,160 hectares of the existing Mt Manning Range Nature Reserve is proposed to be excised for mining - with the tenure reduced to Unallocated Crown Land. It is unfortunate that the Minister’s media release omitted mention of the decision to approve this excision.

On the positive side, the development of ‘Conservation and Mining Reserves’ as a tenure that both provides for active conservation management (e.g. for fire, feral animals and weeds) while still allowing for mining, is one mechanism for ensuring the landscape scale conservation that is needed across the Great Western Woodlands.    

Currently most of the Great Western Woodlands is ‘Unallocated Crown Land’ - a type of land tenure which receives little or no active management by government, leading to very destructive wildfires and increases in invasive feral species.    

These Ministerial decisions come at a critical time in management planning for the Great Western Woodlands. As part of their election commitment the government is about to release a Biodiversity and Cultural Conservation Strategy for the Great Western Woodlands which was undertaken with the involvement of all stakeholders.

This process was based on trust, openness and negotiation, and the government’s failure to consult beyond the mining sector in relation to the Mt Manning announcement seemingly ignores the work in progress.

Native Title claimants are still determining the structure of their application for this area, and as there is currently no active native title claim over this area, the government took no regard of native title interests or ‘future act’ requirements.

This area is of exceptionally high conservation value for its rare, restricted and endemic plant life and habitats that are extremely important to an array of native animals. Despite the absence of a currently active native title claim, the region is also very special in terms of its cultural significance to the Traditional Owners.

Regardless of the shortfalls, we welcome the government’s announcement as a first step in long term protection of this unique part of GWW.