25/9/01
Hello everyone,
                       We are continuing to get occassional thank you emails
from politicians with the information and views we are sending them. With the
federal election tipped for Nov 3rd, we are planning to ask for each party`s
answers to some questions on property rights and related issues, to clarify
their position during the election campaign. If you have any question you
would especially like to be asked, please let us know by 1st October.

This weeks News & views are
(1) Comments from landholders in the Walgett area (NSW)
(2) Another success story regarding responsible dairy industry action on EBL.
(3) WA Govt fears litigation over memorandum of understanding  (MOU)
(4) Woodland Ecologist asks for quote clarification and makes comments on
Qld`s firewood figures
(5) Evidence of centuries of regular fires on grasslands in Mexico
(6) Land clearing applications surge in Qld
(7) BUSHTENDER TRIAL ASSESSMENTS BEGIN
(8) Pre Election promises on property rights
(9) $700 WOOD HEATER BOUNTY
(10) A way to determine firewood "duty of care"
(11) Biodiversity Duty of care should be consistent with water & air duty of
care
(12) Comments on health of Great Barrier Reef
(13) High yield farming could save the environment
(14) Questions answered on animal welfare issue in Qld
(15) Bill Soko asks where are we getting our material from?
-======================================================
(1) Comments from landholders in the Walgett area (NSW)

Louise Foster has informed us that a Landholders Protection Association has
started in Walgett (NSW) One of their issues is getting some sense into the
fact that opal mining can occur on their grazing land once a new area is
deemed with all sorts of  consequences to grazing management, water issues,
and more.

The Fosters also have a copy of a map of their property which shows huge
differences in the landscape of the past compared to today.

The original map was surveyed in 1877.  It has the astronomical observations
dated January 1877 and the basic land features.  It describes the land area
that they were interested in clearing/cropping as heavy dark soil country,
very open box and coolabah, subject to inundation.  This area is now thickly
timbered.
Louise said the DLWC does not want to have to acknowledge the map and that
the vegetation has changed drastically as that gives landholders who want to
reduce some of the vegetation grounds for saying they are only returning the
land back to a pre settlement mix of grass and trees etc.

On the subject of the Walgett Vegetation committee Louise says

As far as I know the committee has been stale mated for a couple of years
now.  The Walgett members are very frustrated and disgusted with the whole
process.  Each time they very nearly come to a consensus, the conservationist
leave the table and then come back with new directions.  We believe they are
conferring with persons not on the committee.

Denise O`Brien has also written

The Walgett Vegetation Committee, which covers our area,  has resigned, or
rather the landholder representatives.  They feel they are wasting their time
and that the outcome is already a foregone conclusion.  NSW Minister for
Agriculture..., Richard Amery has responded by saying he will readvertise the
positions and if not taken up he will put his own government reps in.

They were on their 12th draft vegetation management plan with no real
prospect of conclusion, so you can understand the frustration.

(* Maybe NSW landholders are too nice. No union groups put up with this sort
of negotiation delaying tactics without action that brings the country to a
standstill )
============================================================
(2) Another success story regarding responsible dairy industry action on EBL.

Ian Sutherland (PIRSA) was telling Leon Ashby about how Enzootic Bovine
Leucosis (EBL) has been controlled in SA.
EBL is a viral infection which does not have major economic impact on herds
but can be a reason for trade restrictions to some countries.
Several years ago the SA Dairy Industry decided to give incentives for
dairymen to test their herds.  3 cents a litre bonus was paid for all milk
coming from herds that tested for EBL .
As a result all 756 SA herds were tested.
75 were initially positive
only 2 herds still remain positive at the moment

Ian said because of the incentive being paid, people from the department were
even welcomed onto properties, which was a pleasant experience.
========================================================
From the Countryman newspaper
(3) WA Govt fears litigation over MOU

Plans are underway to review a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on
landclearing amid fears the present agreement could leave the WA Government
open to litigation.
Agriculture Minister Kim Chance said the MOU gave the false impression that
landholders were forbidden to clear land during the application process.
He was also concerned farmers believed the EPA had the power to reject land
clearing applications.
"Farmers had been led to believe they were not able to clear land and no-one
has been able to tell the whole truth. In reality, if the Soil and Land
Commission fails to issue a notice of intent within 90 days, then farmers can
go ahead and clear.
Farmers usually don`t do anything while their application is being assessed
because they don`t realise the EPA can`t stop them clearing."  Mr Chance said.

The WA Govt is looking to make changes to this situation soon.
===========================================================
From Dr Barry Traill
(4) Woodland Ecologist asks for quote clarification and makes comments on
Qld`s firewood figures

Dear Leon,

I get your last landholders email newsletter and in the last article you
quoted me as saying:

"Dr Barry Traill (Wilderness society of Queensland) said on ABC radio that
if tree clearing continues as it is, then in 20 years time, there will be no
bush left  as we know it ."  

I don't of course mind people commenting on or strongly criticising things I
say
publicly but I don't recall saying this in an interview and I haven't been
on ABC radio for a while.  Was I perhaps referring to the increasing number
of local extinctions of woodland birds in NSW and Qld?  I would appreciate
it if you could let me know whether this a direct quote from me and the
context if any of my quote.

Another piece in the newsletter was from a landholder questioning recent
firewood figures and asking to know how they were calculated.  He mentioned
a figure of 1.2 million tonnes a year in Qld as being on the radio.  A
recent figure from a CSIRO study which I can provide the reference for is
that between 0.23 and 0.45 million tonnes were burnt for domestic firewood
in Qld.  If industrial burning of wood was included the figure would be a
bit higher.   Apparently firewood heater sales are increasing rapidly in the
urban south-east and the demand is going up.

  Regards,

Barry Traill

* We have replied to Barry which included this transcript of an AM program
where we got Barry`s comment from.

AM - Wednesday, February  7, 2001  8:22

COMPERE: The conservation movement is about to enter the Queensland election
campaign to highlight that State's dramatic rate of tree clearing. It has
startling figures that show that the rate of tree clearing in Queensland is
nudging 1000 hectares a day.

Ian Townsend spoke first to Barry Traill from the Wilderness Society.

BARRY TRAILL: Queensland’s no magic pudding. You can’t just keep on taking
and taking and expect there still to be significant areas of bush left. In
around 10 to 20 years there’ll be nothing left. No bush left, at current
rates, outside national parks in south-east Queensland, which is really an
horrendous prospect, I think.

IAN TOWNSEND: Barry Traill is a woodland ecologist with the Wilderness
Society. The conservation movement has had problems getting politicians to
debate tree clearing because it’s an issue that divides the city and the
bush. And in a tight Queensland election neither party can afford to alienate
a large part of the electorate.
--------------
* click here to see the
article on tree pulling with criticism of Barry`s comments ie that he was not
allowing for tree thickening, encroachment and regrowth, and at 2000`s
pulling rates, it would take 150 years and not 20 yrs to pull all the trees
in the grazed woodlands of Qld, which wouldn`t happen even if all
restrictions were taken away, because landholders goals are not to remove
trees, but to establish and maintain as much digestible perennial grasses as
possible, without the grasses being reduced by tree density.
* Lance Jones (Rolleston Qld) heard the firewood figures on ABC radio on the
4th July, but we are unable to find a transcript on the ABC web site to
confirm who the firewood figures came from.)
===========================================================
(5) Evidence of centuries of regular fires on grasslands in Mexico

Ian Frake has sent us a web site address which shows sites in Mexico where
schrubs are invading grasslands

http://www.cpluhna.nau.edu/Research/grasslands1.htm click here to
see it

One of the interesting details it gives are the amount of fires that occured
in the past. This was done by studying the tree rings from remaining trees,
noting fire scars in the rings.  One tree survived 30 fires, and fire
frequency was fairly regular - several years apart, which controlled the
schrubs. Todays fire frequency is much less, so the researchers are
advocating more fires should be a management option today to maintain a
stable amount of schrub cover.
============================================================
From Land & Water News
(6) Land clearing applications surge

The Queensland Government has blamed a surge in land- clearing applications
on
new provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation
(EPBC) Act.
Approvals for land-clearing rose from 25,680 ha in March to 93,400ha in
April, or
close to a third of the total area available for clearing since September
last year,
Queensland's Natural Resources Minister, Stephen Robertson, has told
Parliament.
Uncertainty caused by Commonwealth listing of the brigalow belt and
tree-clearing
as a threatening process under the EPBC was the most common reason given for
the `ambit claims' by farmers, as well as speculation attributed to Forestry
Minister,
Wilson Tuckey, that the Howard government may consider buying back permits
from land-holders.   
The Queensland Government is maintaining its view that regulation is not the
`complete solution' to land clearing and land-holders have a key role to play.

(* We believe the solution to "land clearing" is to understand why the
landholders with timber thickening require tree pulling as a tool to managing
their properties well. To our knowledge, no one who opposes tree pulling has
ever addressed how to manage tree thickening and regrowth without using tree
pulling despite many being asked when they visit our properties.)
==========================================================
(7) BUSHTENDER TRIAL ASSESSMENTS BEGIN

The Victorian Department of Natural Resources and Environment has received
more
than 150 expressions of interest to date for the upcoming BushTender Trial,
under
which farmers would be paid to protect the native vegetation on their land.
There are over a million hectares of native vegetation on private land in
Victoria and
its conservation is considered vital for salinity control, water quality,
land
protection, and flora and fauna habitat. The first site assessments for the
three-year
program commenced recently in the north- central region between Bendigo and
Ballarat and in the north east between Wangaratta and Wodonga. Under the
trial,
farmers bid for the management services they are prepared to offer to improve
their
native vegetation and the bids is then compared with the bids from all other
landholders participating in the trial.
=========================================================
(8) Pre Election promises on property rights

Deputy Prime Minister and National Party Leader, John Anderson, has indicated
that the Federal Government is determined to force state governments to pay
compensation to land-holders for conservation costs and loss of water and
other
property rights.
Launching the Coalition's pre-election regional development package, Stronger
Regions, A Stronger Australia, Mr Anderson said that it was the Government's
view that "if the community demanded changes to the practices followed by
primary producers, and those changes devalue assets, reduce income, and
damage
local economies and jobs, then the whole community must share the burden."
"The Federal Government will continue its efforts to have the states properly
recognise water and other property rights, and to compensate producers for
their
erosion or removal," he said.
 ======================================================
(9) $700 WOOD HEATER BOUNTY

Cash subsidies of up to $700 will be available to families under a new $1
million
scheme to replace polluting wood heaters in NSW and upgrade to low pollution
heating.
Wood heaters produce about one third of the particle pollution or "brown
haze" in
Sydney and most of the winter air pollution in colder regional centres like
Armidale
and Cooma.
The wood heater bounty is one part of the
Government's three year, $6 million Clean Air Fund to tackle sources of
domestic
pollution.

Current laws already provide scope for councils to take enforcement action
against
people creating excessive smoke.  

Research by CSIRO has found (*guessed) the estimated national firewood
harvest is more than six million tonnes per year. It also found evidence that
firewood is not managed sustainably and that listed fauna species are
potentially threatened by firewood harvesting. This includes 21 birds, 20 of
which occur primarily in woodland or
mallee ecosystems.
The draft Code of Practice is to be finalised in late 2001. See
www.ea.gov.au/land/firewood/publications/strategy. click here
 to see it
============================================================
From Ian MOTT (Aust Forest Growers)
(10) A way to determine firewood "duty of care"

It does appear that this firewood policy is attempting to close down existing
lawful
farming uses. This would not be possible on any property with a history of
collection where a collector has been methodically working away through
various parts of a property.  They would only be able to enforce the
prohibition when firewood collection is about to take place for the first
time.

It is curious how the firewood strategy has made no attempt to determine
what the historical background dead wood level was in the supposedly
threatened "Box Ironbark" country.

If most of this country was ringbarked in the past then the paddocks would
be cluttered with an entirely artificial resource of dead wood. If there is
anyone that would like to kick the crap out of this policy then they need
only find a small untouched remnant of box ironbark forest, subject it to 10
years of regular firestick farming practices as per the previous 40,000
years, and then measure the wood volume that remains on site.

This remaining volume would be the amount of your environmental duty of care
for both your managed regrowth forest and your paddocks. Any surplus wood
from past ringbarking could not be regarded as a natural resource.

Happy hunting (and collecting).
Ian Mott
===========================================================
From Mick Keogh (NSW Farmers)
(11) Biodiversity Duty of care should be consistent with water & air duty of
care

The comment from Bernie Masters (WA MP) is interesting, in that he recognises
the economic and equity imperatives inherent in the recognition and
protection of property rights to farm land. He has also raised the
question of a farmers responsibilities to the land, which is a valid
question.
While most farmers live by the dictum that land should be
handed on in a more productive and sustainable state, there is, however,
a danger in Masters' proposal to broaden this concept by also
incorporating 'improvements' in public good aspects, such as
biodiversity, into the package that should be handed on to the next
generation. The duty of care for farm land should not be any different
to the duty of care that exists more generally in common law, and covers
the use of a wide range of 'community resources' such as air, water,
peace and quiet, etc.
To illustrate why this is so, consider the situation that would apply if it
was agreed that a duty of care standard for all users of natural resources
should be to hand the resource on in an environmentally 'better' state than
it was received in. A user of
water and air, such as an urban community, would have a requirement to
somehow 'improve' the air and water. Any water it returned to the
environment should be cleaner and purer, and contain more biodiversity
than when the water was extracted, necessitating a whole range of new
and expensive water treatment processes.

 Similarly in relation to air,
any chimneys or car exhausts would be required to expel air that was
clearer and purer than the air taken in. This is clearly not a
requirement at present, nor is it one that makes economic or
environmental sense.

 It is well understood that there is a sustainable
level of natural resource utilisation that doesn't result in
irrepairable damage to the environment, and that natural environmental
processes can accommodate.

Low levels of particulate matter released
into the atmosphere via exhausts can be accommodated, and don't result
in damage to the environment. Similarly, water released as effluent may
include levels of impurities that can be efficiently dealt with via
natural processes, and don't result in a reduction in water quality.

Imagine the howls of protest if an urban community was required to pay
for the cost of 'improving' the quality of air and water it uses. Yet
this appears to be the proposal that is put forward in relation to users
of land for farming. The 'duty of care' concept to not do anything to
land that harms anyone else or their property is not a '60s hippy
concept', but a principle of English Common Law that can be traced back
to the Magna Charta, and one which applies right throughout democratic
societies.
If Bernie Masters wants the standard changed in relation to
land, then lets make sure the same change applies in relation to other
natural resources, such as air and water.

========================================================

From Gary Turner - Maryborough Qld
(12) Comments on health of Great Barrier Reef

Upon reading your "brief" about Senator Hill acting to stop run-off into
the Barrier Reef waters, I thought this site might be of interest .

http://www.altgreen.com.au (Economically viable alternative green - EVAG) Click here to see the site
These comments come from  "Barrrier reef report card" on this site

a copy of a letter dispatched to the ABC's Sandy McCutcheon:
        Dear Mr. McCutcheon
        I had just managed to convince my friend teaching in the
TAFE system in Bundaberg, that the Great Barrier Reef is in relatively good
shape.
        I based my assertions on peer reviewed scientific
experiments. These experiments in many cases were constructed and funded in
expectation of finding an impact of farming practices on the Great Barrier
Reef.
        Published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin Vol. 42, No. 2 pp
91-120 2001 is the Report of ENCORE: The Effect of Nutrient Enrichment on
Coral Reefs. Synthesis of Results and Conclusions.
        This experiment on One Tree Island exposed Coral colonies to
large amounts of fertilizer. These nitrogen and phosphorus compounds were
absorbed so quickly out of the water column that the experiment had to be
redesigned to have another "high loading phase". The result was: 'The
impacts were generally sub-lethal (did not kill anything) and subtle
(difficult to define) and the treated reefs at the end of the experiment
were visually similar to the control reefs.'
        The other papers I have were funded by the CRC Reef Research
Centre and published as the 'Great Barrier Reef: Terrigenous Sediment Flux
and Human Impacts.' These papers suggest that the net transport of sediment
across the shelf is landward onto beaches and into bays, that inshore reefs
exist in high sediment loads caused by the prevailing winds disturbing
sediment and that the reef is going through a sustained period of
historically high growth.
        I believe at the recent conference in Townsville
investigating the health of the Reef that Mr. Barnes presented a paper
suggesting this high rate of calcification continues.
        Another person wrote
Sandy McCutcheon plugged tonight's program at the end of
last night's with the line that (I think residue run-off) pollution of the
Great Barrier Reef had "increased by a shocking 15,000 per cent in the past
150 years". From memory, Queensland did not even get self government until
1859. The population of the reef coast in 1851 would have been very small
indeed, so 15,000 per cent is a pretty meaningless figure. I'm interested to
find out how they calculated that little gem.
        and another also writes

 We, too, would be
interested to know why the well-protected Great Barrier Reef system, which
repeatedly receives glowing report cards, is purportedly under such threat.
This is a HUGE system that has been subjected to quite extraordinary
environmental stresses over the millennia, including enormous fluctuation in
sea level (a rather stressful event for coral) and yet flourishes. It would
most certainly have witnessed combinations of significant (natural)
bushfires followed by extreme wet season events leading to sediment and
eutrophication problems - and yet it is there and in remarkably good shape.

While commercial trawl operations are (rightly) permitted within some of the
surrounding marine park (a few percent), none occur, or are permitted to
occur on the reefs or in the inter-reef zone.
    Australia "protects" the GBR to truly ridiculous extent already, so
why the hand-wringing and angst? This appears no more valid than the absurd
"plague" claims of Crown of Thorns starfish "destroying" the Reef (actually
just a natural cyclical population expansion and recession of a coral
predator).
Disinterested parties have repeatedly assessed the GBR as being in
particularly good shape, so why isn't this receiving fair media attention?

(* The EVAG site has a lot of material on it and seems to have a similar
perspective to Landholders for the environment)
==========================================================.
From ABC radio
(13) High yield farming could save the environment

At Tanunda in the Barossa Valley there's an interesting discussion on how
high yield farming could save the environment. Former US State Departmental
Agricultural analyst Dennis Avery has been invited by the South Australian
Farmers' Federation to speak about environmental conservation, and "the right
to farm" issue. One of his comments was that even though the world population
may stabilise at 8 to 9 Billion people by 2035 or so, demand for produce
would still increase as more of the population becomes wealthy and consumes
at similar amounts per person to western countries.
=======================================================
(14) Questions answered on changes to animal welfare in Qld

Leon Ashby had a chat with Warren Lehman (stock inspector at Blackall Qld) on
animal welfare and summarises the conversation.

* Animal welfare was handled by local govt & housing but has now been handed
to DPI in cooperation with RSPCA & police.
* The current 1925 legislation will be updated and a bill is due for the
second reading soon.
* The legislation is linked to various codes of practice which are written in
association with various industry groups.
* The codes are not law but used as evidence as to what animal "duty of care"
is, which means they might have a bit of flexibility in them if you are taken
to court.
* The codes are national and will be reviewed every 5 years.
* Basically the DPI will handle livestock complaints and the RSPCA pets.
* The DPI are obliged to investigate all complaints, but not anonymous ones.

Warren assured me there was no animal rights stuff behind this legislation,
and that if they investigate complaints, all efforts to help landholders look
after their livestock will be exhausted before prosecution would begin.

I believe there were two points that landholders in the rangelands will still
have concerns about
(1) The codes regard the practice of throwing the gates open and letting the
stock fend for themselves in a drought, as abandoning them. (in other words,
if that is what you think is your best management option, as it can sometimes
be, you may have to defend your decision to the DPI.)
(2) The department does not have to be reactive, but can now be involved in
confronting people if animal welfare is supposedly being undermined.
============================================================
(15) Where are we getting our material from?

From Bill Soko (Daintree rainforest foundation)

Leon,
where are you getting this stuff,  off the net or direct from usa contacts??  
 Do
you still manage any land these days?

Bill Soko

* G`Day Bill, About 50% of our material comes from books Jane & I have read,
or web sites we have found, and the rest is sent to us, mostly from those on
the mailing list.

We don`t have any USA contacts as such, but many of the web sites we find are
US based.
The cows don`t milk themselves yet Bill so this email stuff is just a part
time effort. Thankfully these computer programs can do a lot in a short time
(when they work)   
=======================================================
That`s it for this week, but there are some more interesting articles in the
pipeline.
If any one wants some past News & views, let us know.  
We are thinking of putting them on the web site.