11 Dec 2018


WWF-Australia says the New South Wales government is massively understating the area of forest and woodlands that should be protected from tree-clearing.

Official maps show only 1.76 million hectares of land regulated as “sensitive”* or “vulnerable”* in coastal, north east and north central NSW.

But WWF-Australia today released its own maps which show 15.37 million hectares of high conservation value land in coastal, north east and north central NSW.

These regions contain notorious tree-clearing hotspots and nearly three quarters (72%) of WWF-mapped high conservation land is at risk because it is outside NSW’s protected area system.

The WWF mapping was funded by former WWF-Australia president and ex CSIRO chief research scientist Dr Denis Saunders and his wife Vee.

High Biodviersity areas of coastal, north-east and north-central NSW
High Biodviersity areas of coastal, north-east and north-central NSW © WWF-Australia

WWF-Australia contracted Eco Logical Australia to use existing government information to map areas which contain threatened ecological communities and species, wetlands and riparian buffers, and climate change corridors.

“When the New South Wales government axed tree protection laws it sent environmental conservation backwards by least 50 years,” said Dr Saunders.

“What the government has mapped as worthy of some protection is dangerously deficient."

“Our maps demonstrate it is relatively easy and cheap to show where threatened native vegetation communities at risk of clearing are located. These areas must be protected,” Dr Saunders said.

WWF-Australia conservationist Stuart Blanch said: “WWF has done the NSW government’s job and released maps showing the woodlands and forests that must be saved from bulldozers."

“The government should now follow our lead and produce and publicly release scientifically credible High Biodiversity Value maps for the whole state."

“All areas mapped as supporting sensitive High Biodiversity Value land should be legally protected from tree clearing."

“Almost 1000 animal and plant species are at risk of extinction in NSW with the koala the most high-profile victim."

“We recently investigated a known clearing hotspot in northwest NSW and found the area of forest and woodland bulldozed nearly tripled after laws were axed last year."

“We need much stronger laws to stop this runaway destruction of habitat,” he said.

* Land regulated as “sensitive” or “vulnerable” can still be cleared in many circumstances.