Wildlife free zones plan in southeastern NSW to bring native mammals back to the brink of extinction

Wildlife free zones plan in southeastern NSW to bring native mammals back to the brink of extinction

It may not be a well-known fact, but wildlife remains one of the biggest threats to Australia’s native wildlife.

Now it is hoped that building “wildlife free zones” across NSW national parks will help bring dozens of species back to the brink of extinction.

The state government proposes to create 65,000 hectares of wilderness-free national parks, with the first proposed coastal zone in southeastern NSW near Bombala.

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service chief Atticus Fleming said the plan would help address one of Australia’s biggest conservation problems.

“One of the biggest factors in that extinction rate was the impact of feral cats, foxes and other wildlife.”

The long-footed potoroo is one of the other species that could be reintroduced to the area.(Provided)

The New South Wales government has proposed ferocious fencing around 2,000 hectares of the South East Forest National Park, Nungatta.

Native mammals including the long-footed potoroo, eastern bettong, smoky mouse, and eastern quoll are among the species the project could reintroduce to the area.

The $ 2.5 to $ 3 million zone is one of seven predator-free areas established by the state government and the first to be established on the east coast.

Mr. Fleming said it was hoped it would help “go back in time” to the bush.

A bush lookout surrounded by greenery, a blackened tree in the foreground, a cloudy sky and a distant horizon.
It is believed that the reintroduction of native species into South East Forests National Park will help the badly burned bush recover.(Provided)

The project contributes to the recovery of forest fires

Sections of the South East Forest National Park were badly burned during the 2019-2020 bushfires.

David Lindenmayer of the ANU School of Environment and Society said reintroducing native species would help the bush recover.

“These animals dig and dig a lot, which actually helps lead to better rain infiltration, much stronger plant growth patterns, and much higher levels of plant cover.”

The bush that regrows after the fires, with a few blackened tree trunks, trees tower in a blue sky with some clouds.
Parts of the South East Forest National Park were badly burned during the 2019-2020 wildfires.(Provided)

More solutions are needed

While conservationists like Professor Lindenmayer welcome the creation of these “continental islands,” he said more work needs to be done.

‘It really doesn’t make sense to do this sort of thing unless we address the other factors that determine the decline of animals,’ said Professor Lindenmayer.

“Problems such as extensive logging, excessive fires and logging also need to be addressed.”

Another issue it raised was the “lack” of conservation funds from the state and federal governments.

“Our investment is about one-tenth of what it needs to be, so we have to fix it,” he said.

A map of wildlife free areas in NSW with the title, reversing the tide of extinction.
Seven wildlife free zones are proposed in NSW.(Provided)

However, NSW Environment Minister James Griffin said the government is spending more on conservation than it ever has.

“We have never spent more money than we are spending right now,” he said.

The public is encouraged to have their say on the management plan for the Southeast Wild Animal Free Zone before construction begins in the middle of the year.

It is hoped that the first native species can be reintroduced by the end of 2023.

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