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Great Western Woodlands

In the south-west of Australia, east of the Rabbit Proof Fence and west of the Nullarbor Plain, lies the largest unfragmented woodland left on earth – the vast, beautiful and unprotected Great Western Woodlands.

IMAGE: Sunset colours in the Great Western Woodlands | Barbara Madden

Why it's important
The threat
What we're doing about it
How you can help

Why it's important

IMAGE: Woodlands flora | Barbara Madden
While in South Africa, Europe and the Americas, this type of woodland has been mostly cleared, fragmented and degraded, the Great Western Woodlands has remained home to a remarkable richness and diversity of plant and animal life. With over 3,300 flowering plant species, there are more native plants in the Great Western Woodlands than in the whole of Canada!
The Woodlands is a safe haven for many of our most threatened creatures. Animals that have become rare or extinct in other parts of the country – malleefowl, scarlet-chested parrots, red-tailed phascogale (and possibly bilbies and numbats) – are still found living happily in the Woodlands. 

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The threat

Banded Ironstone Formation (BIF) ranges of Helena Aurora Range | Sara Marques

The Great Western Woodlands is at risk of suffering a ‘death by a thousand cuts’ – largely due to the fact that most of it has no conservation status at all. Governments are slowly coming to see the importance of the Woodlands, but have so far failed to adequately recognise, protect and manage this bioregion.
Poorly planned large-scale infrastructure developments such as roads, powerlines and barrier fences present a serious threat of extensive clearing and fragmentation of the Woodlands. Large bushfires combined with prescribed burning operations ordered by the State Government have resulted in woodland areas being burnt too frequently to allow proper ecological recovery. Most urgently, the 
IMAGE: Mulla mulla | Amanda Keesing
Great Western Woodlands’ Helena and Aurora Range (Bungalbin) is under threat from proposed iron ore mining.
The presence of introduced pests is also threatening the amazing biodiversity of the region. Weeds suffocate native plants while feral animals like donkeys, goats, camels, foxes and cats damage habitats and kill and maim native fauna.

What we're doing about it

Our vision for the Great Western Woodlands is a healthy, intact bioregion jointly managed by its Traditional Owners, valued by local communities and free from the threat of large-scale destructive development.

IMAGE: Eucalypt trunks | Barbara Madden

The Woodlands is a massive ‘carbon bank’. Studies have estimated that around 950 million tonnes of carbon are stored in its soils and vegetation – which can be lost over time without improved management of fire and other impacts.
We’re committed to raising awareness about the Great Western Woodlands and the threats it faces locally, nationally and internationally. The more people who understand the significance of the woodlands, the better.
In order to do this we’re building alliances with key stakeholders including Traditional Owners, scientists, other conservation organisations, landholders, sustainable businesses and local communities.
IMAGE: Boots on the ground | Sara Marques
And we’ve been successful in convincing the WA State Government to deliver the first-ever Biodiversity and Cultural Conservation Strategy for the Great Western Woodlands. This is an important first step but fails to provide secure protection for the values of the bioregion.
There are great opportunities for non-destructive development in the Woodlands based around Indigenous arts and culture, eco-tourism, sustainable land management, native foods and medicines, and renewable energy. But governments need to support these enterprises – not just mining operations.
We are working to ensure protection of the Great Western Woodlands’ Helena Aurora Range as a national park with support from Traditional Owners and the wider community. Read more about the Range, why it's so special, the threats it faces and how you can help protect it.

How you can help

You can help us protect the Great Western Woodlands by donating to the Wilderness Society today. Be part of something great for Australia.