December 29, 2016

Australia’s Outback Lake Eyre Basin wetlands and rivers protected

Australia has protected one of the world’s last great natural wetlands. In an announcement this weekend, the country’s Queensland government designated the Cooper’s Creek, Georgina, and Diamantina rivers protected under its Wild Rivers Act.

These rivers send life-giving waters into Lake Eyre and surrounding wetlands, in the arid heart of Australia.. Their irregular flooding, a natural phenomenon, transforms the surrounding area, known as the Channel Country, for thousands of miles to awaken dormant wildlife and attract enormous numbers of water birds from across the continent to breed and feed.

As a result of this designation, 11 million acres in western Queensland will be protected. Damaging activities such as mining and large scale irrigation will be banned in floodplains and wetlands and ten new Indigenous conservation ranger jobs will be created.

The move was strongly supported by the Traditional Owners of the region, graziers and other local people.

Scott Gorringe, speaking on behalf of Traditional Owners of the Diamantina, Georgina and Cooper Creek catchments, explained that the threats of coal seam gas and coal mining near the river system are too great a risk for communities in Western Queensland.

“Over a decade ago, the threat to the river system came from cotton farmers threatening to drain the river dry. Now the biggest threat is coal seam gas and coal mining,” Mr Gorringe said.

“The Bligh Government has turned the threat of mining destroying this river system a thing of the past, by permanently protecting the waterways and floodplains of Channel Country under the Wild Rivers Act.

“With today’s announcement, we can rest easy knowing this will not happen in the Channel Country. Rather, we will continue to have access to clean and fresh water, and a healthy river system to support healthy communities.

“The Channel Country in Western Queensland is one of the most natural desert river systems left in the world, and its transformation between desert and flood plain throughout the year makes the area some of the best beef country in the world.

“Together with graziers, mining companies, environmental and conservation groups, local councils, catchment and natural resource management groups, we have been negotiating with the Queensland Government for about three years, and it is great that the Government has realised the importance of conserving the three river systems and awarded this protection.

The Pew Environment Group – Australia has issued a joint press release with our partners about the announcement.  Photos and maps of the region are also available. See here:

http://www.pewenvironment.org/news-room/press-releases/protection-of-coopers-creek-georgina-and-diamantina-rivers-hailed-as-momentous-85899366810

The Queensland government announcement can be found here: http://www.cabinet.qld.gov.au/mms/StatementDisplaySingle.aspx?id=78106

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