Farmers are calling on a group of ecologists to ‘get real’ and ‘get perspective’ after the release of a declaration this week criticising Australian land clearing regulations.
The Ecological Society of Australia’s declaration seeks to link farmers to exacerbating climate change.
AgForce Queensland CEO Michael Guerin said the proclamation took a blinkered account of the available science and ignored the on-ground realities.
Australian farmers are this country’s most important land managers, caring for 50% of Australia’s land mass.AgForce Queensland CEO Michael Guerin
“They depend on maintaining healthy soils, vegetation and waterways to produce the food and fibre that sustains Australians and many people across the world.”
In May 2018 the Queensland Labour government imposed tightened land clearing laws on farmers.
The scientists are calling for all levels of Australian governments to return to, or pass new legislation to protect native vegetation from broad-scale land-clearing. However, Mr Guerin believes calls for more restrictive vegetation management laws lack perspective.
Mr Guerin said Queensland’s 2018 December fires were so devastating because farmers were prevented from managing fuel loads and from clearing adequate fire breaks.
“Taking the management of the land away from those who know and understand it best can have disastrous consequences. Feral pests and weeds spread quickly and the risks of wildfire grows with increased fuel loads.
“Queensland already has strict laws in place that limit what farmers can and can’t do on their own land including harsh penalties for non-compliance,” Mr Guerin said.
The declaration also raised concerns that land clearing increased the progression of climate change through carbon emissions and therefore intensified Australia’s drought conditions.
In actual fact, at its current rate of innovation, research and developing farm practices, Australian agriculture is trending towards carbon neutrality by 2030.
“Cattle producers are simply not clearing vast quantities of land to raise livestock. Rather they are selectively managing their land, similar to the way indigenous Australians have been doing for thousands of years, encouraging healthy regrowth and to balance the vegetation types,” Mr Guerin said.
Farmers have been at the forefront Landcare since it was established 30 years ago. This involvement has delivered thousands of projects focussed on strategic reservation, riparian protection, enhanced water quality and biodiversity protection.
AgForce Queensland is calling for a well thought through approach to land management that benefits both farmers and the land they manage.
“The last thing we need is calls for more legislation from people who are not managing the reality on the ground,” Mr Guerin said.