Farmers & conservationists must stand together for climate action

The great efforts of thousands and thousands of Landcarers could be undone if governments fail to tackle the big drivers of environmental decline, Australian Conservation Foundation Executive Director Don Henry told the International Landcare conference in Melbourne today.

Mr Henry praised the successes of the Landcare movement, saying all Australians –especially governments – had a responsibility to redress the legacy of past mistakes.

“If we permit indiscriminate clearing of wildlife habitat, if we fail to give our rivers their share of water, if we allow governments to shy away from early action on climate change then we’re undermining the efforts of the hundreds of thousands of people who volunteer their time at community planting days,” he said.

“We’re living today with the costly legacy of past mistakes and short-sightedness. We’ve already lost dozens of Australia’s unique animal and plant species, while hundreds more teeter at the edge of extinction.

“Now we are facing this century’s most serious threat – dangerous climate change.

“Science is telling us global warming is bringing an increased risk of heat stress (in livestock and humans), more extreme weather, more bushfires, changes in water availability, drying soils, changes in growing seasons and conditions that favour pests, weeds and disease. Thankfully, solutions to climate change are within our grasp.”

Mr Henry said farmers and environmentalists shared a common future and said they must stand together to call for early action to tackle climate change. He said Australia’s farmers and pastoralists – with responsibility for much of the country’s land and water – have a crucial role in turning around the looming environmental crisis.

“We need to build on Landcare with a long-term commitment to community conservation and a new deal between farmers and the rest of the community. It’s time for a strong and strategic new national stewardship program.”

Mr Henry said he believed most Australians wanted to see landholders rewarded financially for thoughtful and timely conservation work – “where it’s most needed and where it’s above and beyond what the law requires”.