Biodiversity and threats in the Desert Uplands: The case of Bimblebox Nature Refuge


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The 8000 hectare Bimblebox Nature Refuge is threatened by a massive new coal development proposed by Waratah Coal. In late September 2011 the company released its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for its ‘China First’ mine (otherwise known as the ‘Galilee Coal Project’). It outlines a proposal to extract 40 mega-tonnes of coal per year, which would be transported on a yet-to-be-built 468km rail line up to Abbot Point and shipped through the Great Barrier Reef on its way to China where it will be burnt for energy generation. Their ambitious and polluting plans have not yet received formal government approval.

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  • Waratah Coal’s proposed mine would destroy Bimblebox Nature Refuge and result in a range of other highly significant environmental and social impacts. Have your say!

    The Bimblebox Team have prepared a short one-page submission, and a more comprehensive six-page submission. Details here:

    Submissions close 19th December 2011
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  • Biodiversity and threats in the Desert Uplands: The case of Bimblebox Nature Refuge

    1. 1. Bimblebox Nature Refuge Desert Uplands Central-west Queensland
    2. 2. Bimblebox Nature Refuge (or ‘Glen Innes’) Bimblebox or Poplar Box = Eucalyptus populnea
    3. 3. Location of Bimblebox Nature Refuge, 500km west of Rockhampton, 50km north-west of Alpha
    4. 4. Bimblebox History <ul><li>In 2000 the property was bought to save it from clearing with combined money of concerned families, plus $286,000 of federal National Reserve System funding </li></ul><ul><li>In 2003 the Bimblebox Nature Refuge Agreement was signed between the land owners and the state government, to ‘permanently protect’ the property’s conservation values </li></ul><ul><li>Nature Refuges are classified as IUCN VI* and counted towards Australia’s protected area targets </li></ul>
    5. 5.
    6. 6. <ul><li>There are extensive conditions under both the National Reserve System (Commonwealth Govt) and Nature Refuge (Queensland Govt) Programs. </li></ul><ul><li>For example, there ‘must be no destruction of any native plants’. </li></ul><ul><li>For example, The Minister must be informed if there are any ‘threats’ to the refuge. </li></ul>Obligations by owners of Bimblebox
    7. 7. What’s so good about Bimblebox? <ul><li>7,912 hectares, over 95% is remnant woodland and the remainder is being allowed to re-grow </li></ul><ul><li>It is one of a small number of conservation areas in the biodiverse yet under-studied and under-protected Desert Uplands </li></ul><ul><li>Is rich in biodiversity – </li></ul><ul><li>birds, reptiles, flora </li></ul><ul><li>138 bird species sighted </li></ul><ul><li>since 2003 </li></ul>
    8. 8. Significant species at Bimblebox Species Conservation Status Birds     Australian Bustard Ardeotis australis Conservation Significance for Desert Uplands Black Falcon Falco subniger Conservation Significance for Desert Uplands Bush Stone-Curlew Burhinus grallarius Conservation Significance for Desert Uplands Squatter Pigeon Geophaps scripta scripta Vulnerable (EPBC) Brown Treecreeper Climactereris picumnus Conservation Significance for Desert Uplands Speckled Warbler Chthonicola sagittata Conservation Significance for Desert Uplands Inland Thornbill Acanthiza apicalis Conservation Significance for Desert Uplands Black-chinned Honeyeater Melithreptus gularis Near Threatened (DERM); Conservation Significance for Desert Uplands Hooded Robin Melanodryas cucullata Conservation Significance for Desert Uplands Grey-crowned Babbler Pomatostomus temporalis Conservation Significance for Desert Uplands Great Egret Ardea alba Marine; Migratory(CAMBA, JAMBA) Rainbow Bee-eater Merops ornatus Marine; Migratory(JAMBA) Black-throated Finch (southern) Poephila cincta Endangered (EPBC)       Mammals     Common Dunnart Sminthopsis murina Conservation Significance for Desert Uplands Spectacled Hare Wallaby Lagorchestes conspicillatus Conservation Significance for Desert Uplands Rufous Bettong Aepyprymnus rufescens Conservation Significance for Desert Uplands Koala Phascolarctos cinereus Conservation Significance for Desert Uplands       Reptiles     Mulga Snake (King Brown Snake) Pseudechis australis Conservation Significance for Desert Uplands       Butterflies     Wanderer Butterfly Danaus plexippus Migratory (Bonn)       Plants     Large-podded Tick-trefoil Desmodium macrocarpum Near Threatened (DERM)
    9. 9. Biodiversity at Bimblebox
    10. 10. Silver-leaved Ironbark woodland and Spinifex understorey
    11. 11. Poplar Box (Bimblebox) woodland and native grasses
    12. 12. Mixed Eucalyptus woodland and native grasses
    13. 13. Eucalypt woodland, native shrubs and grasses
    14. 14. Black orchid
    15. 15. Migratory Rainbow Bee-eater
    16. 16. White-necked Heron
    17. 17. Brown Falcon
    18. 18. Red-tailed black cockatoo
    19. 19. Nobby Dragon
    20. 20. Pale-headed snake
    21. 21. On the boundary of Bimblebox
    22. 22. A view over the boundary
    23. 23. Why Protect Bimblebox? <ul><li>Only 2.3% of the whole Desert Uplands bioregion is protected in conservation estates, and is underrepresented in the NRS </li></ul><ul><li>The Desert Uplands bioregion contains nationally endangered plants, birds, reptiles, mammals and fish. </li></ul>
    24. 24. Desert Uplands
    25. 25. Why protect Bimblebox? <ul><li>Is a much needed example of cattle grazing co-existing with biodiversity </li></ul><ul><li>Innovative management, focussed on optimising biodiversity through strategic cattle grazing of exotic pasture grasses </li></ul><ul><li>Hosts multiple cutting edge landscape scale research projects run by various agencies </li></ul>
    26. 26. <ul><li>CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems – Biodiversity Monitoring in Desert Uplands. </li></ul>Research at Bimblebox <ul><li>This programme is part of a much larger project assessing the relationship between the grazing practices and biodiversity. </li></ul>From the information we gather in our surveys we hope to be able to provide a series or recommendations, or ‘tools’, for graziers who may wish to manage for biodiversity on some shape or form on their land.
    27. 27. 2. Queensland Herbarium & Land and Water Australia Fire Management Project Research at Bimblebox Established with co-funding from Land and Water Australia and the Queensland EPA in 2003. The project seeks to weigh the costs and benefits of using fire in conjunction with pastoralism. The project will look at the effects of fire on the structure of woodlands, their biodiversity, and pastoral production.
    28. 28. 3. Qld DPI&F - Two projects on woodland monitoring and grazing carrying capacity Research at Bimblebox Developing Long-term Carrying Capacity models for the Desert Uplands Understanding change in Queensland’s grazed woodlands (TRAPS woodland monitoring).
    29. 29. 4. Birds Australia – Trends in Avian Diversity Research at Bimblebox Fourteen long term bird monitoring sites have been established at ‘Glen Innes’ [Bimblebox Nature Refuge] in the intact eucalypt woodlands to monitor trends in avian diversity due to climate change and land use. A significant outcome will be the assessment of the potential for birds as surrogates for monitoring biodiversity and ecological health on a landscape scale.
    30. 30. Waratah Coal’s proposed mine <ul><li>52% Bimblebox open cut coal mine, remainder long-wall underground coal mines </li></ul><ul><li>The EIS claims that ‘ the project will not be viable without coal reserves under the BNR’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>In other words, according to the EIS, either the mine goes ahead or Bimblebox Nature Refuge remains intact </li></ul></ul>
    31. 33. <ul><li>Anticipates extracting 40 Mt of thermal coal per year – will be one of the largest in the southern hemisphere </li></ul><ul><li>Over the life of the mine the total emissions (Scope 1 and 2) would be in the order of 150 Mt </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Australia’s total emissions are around 545 Mtpa </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Scope 3 (from coal burning) not calculated in EIS, despite contributing more than 90% total climate impact </li></ul>Waratah Coal’s proposed mine
    32. 34. Impacts to threatened species on Bimblebox <ul><li>Confirmed sighting of ‘endangered’ (EPBC) Black-throated Finch ( Poephila cincta cincta ) (BTF) on Bimblebox Nature Refuge in May 2011 by Birds Australia </li></ul>“ It is apparent from the review of existing information that there have been no systematic or regular surveys in regards to BTF in the Desert Uplands, with most data derived opportunistically and descriptive in nature. In considering the information available at the time of preparing this report, it is clear that there is insufficient information for adequate conservation planning for BTF [in] the bioregion” (Appendix 10A, p.21) From the EIS:
    33. 35. <ul><li>Offset area to be legally “secured” by a Nature Refuge Agreement… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Nothing to stop this offset to be cleared in the future e.g Newlands Nature Refuge established to offset Newlands coal mine (Xstrata), but p roposed extension to mine will destroy Nature Refuge </li></ul></ul><ul><li>No evidence that appropriate offset areas are available </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Management needed to obtain ‘ecological equivalence’ of offset area </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>It took over 10 years of dedicated management to restore undergrowth to Bimblebox </li></ul></ul>Impacts to Bimblebox & areas around rail and port to be “offset”
    34. 36. Mining & Exploration at Bimblebox <ul><li>To date, 20 exploration holes have been drilled on Bimblebox. </li></ul><ul><li>Waratah has built roads on Bimblebox without our consent, have caused erosion on roads and have helped spread the invasive Buffel Grass. </li></ul>
    35. 37. <ul><li>No mining has occurred on Nature Refuges, to date, but in August 2009, Dept Environment and Resource Management (DERM) approved an additional 100 exploration holes on Bimblebox. </li></ul><ul><li>We were given no notice of this approval. </li></ul><ul><li>At the same time, we purchased infrastructure to improve management of cattle to protect the biodiversity values of Bimblebox. </li></ul>Mining & Exploration at Bimblebox
    36. 38. <ul><li>While Queensland legislation has put an end to clearing of remnant vegetation by landholders – this does not apply to mining companies </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Mineral & resource developments exempt from Vegetation Management Act 1999 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>There is no security for landholders who are trying to do the right thing by the land </li></ul><ul><li>Current legislation does not protect significant conservation areas from destruction from mining </li></ul>Issues
    37. 39. <ul><li>Landholders generally have very few rights in the face of mining interests </li></ul><ul><li>The mine will also be in the recharge zone of the Great Artesian Basin. The impact on this and local water tables is unknown </li></ul><ul><li>The threat to Bimblebox Nature Refuge is not from the landholders but purely from government legislation </li></ul>More issues
    38. 40. QLD coal expansion
    39. 41. <ul><li>Over 30% PA’s in Qld by 2020 expected to be nature refuges.... </li></ul><ul><li>Relies on landholder trust </li></ul><ul><li>Nature refuges = Not protected! </li></ul><ul><li>Growth in PA’s (largely through offsets)...but what are we losing? </li></ul>Qld Biodiversity Strategy (2011)
    40. 42. <ul><li>Wrote to Queensland & Commonwealth Ministers </li></ul><ul><li>Submission to EPBC Act </li></ul><ul><li>Petition to the Queensland Government. </li></ul><ul><li>Hosted former Premier Beattie’s visit to Bimblebox. </li></ul><ul><li>Working with Mackay Conservation Group, Human Society International, Capricornia Conservation Council, 6 Degrees etc.. </li></ul>What we are doing…
    41. 43. <ul><li>Police Waratah’s activities & report breaches to DERM. </li></ul><ul><li>Submission on Waratah’s Draft Term of Reference </li></ul><ul><li>Letter to the IUCN </li></ul><ul><li>Submission to Qld Draft Biodiversity Strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Media – newspaper, radio etc.. </li></ul>What we are doing… While working 2 properties & a family …
    42. 45. Nature Refuge News, Aug 2007 “ Today over 560,800 hectares of some the world’s most biologically diverse areas are protected in Nature Refuges ” “ All 242 nature refuge landholders have one thing in common – they know their patch is worth protecting forever ”
    43. 46. Nature Refuge News, Aug 2007
    44. 47. Nature Refuge News, Nov 2007
    45. 48. Hugo Spooner, Avocet Nature Refuge, Springsure <ul><li>Avocet contains 1 of only 3 populations of endangered Bridled nail-tail wallaby (Flashjack) </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
    46. 49. <ul><li>“ Our family, 10 years ago put every available last dollar into buying the place to save it from bulldozers. Then in securing it as a Nature Refuge, we were charged by both federal and state governments with the responsibility to restore and preserve. </li></ul><ul><li>That’s our brief and we intend to keep it and if government and industry cannot recognise its value, then we who do, must show them this place means as much to us as coal does to them.” </li></ul><ul><li>Ian Hoch, Bimblebox . </li></ul>
    47. 50. <ul><li>Public submissions to the EIS close 7 th November </li></ul><ul><li>More info: </li></ul><ul><li>Thank you for listening </li></ul><ul><li>Any questions? </li></ul><ul><li>Contact: Paola Cassoni [email_address] </li></ul>