Satellite Imagery and Land Clearance Legislation: A Picture of Regulatory Efficacy

  • Bartel R
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Satellite observation allows the rates and extent of land clearance to be measured and compared between areas and over time. This article analyses the findings of some recent studies, and shows that land clearance rates have declined in some states following the enactment of land clearance regulation, but they have also fallen in states with little or no regulation. Land clearance rates in Australia generally have been in decline since the 1970s, with clearance rates having declined further and faster in regulated states. Regulated states also clear less of their remaining vegetation than states without regulation or with only limited regulation. In some areas, however, it appears that land clearance rates may have declined without regulation, simply because there has been little land left to clear. The components of the picture are difficult to separate. South Australia has achieved a negative net rate of clearance. This may be attributable to regulatory effort but also to the relative lack of opportunity to clear. The obvious decline in native cover in South Australia may have also promoted voluntary compliance with the legislation, and indeed a different norm of land management. However this does not appear to be the case nationally, and the clearance occurring in the frontier zones of some states (especially of the brigalow in Queensland) means that national policy targets and the aims of most legislative measures are being defeated. Revegetation programmes too are failing and, except in South Australia, are falling far short of the quanta of clearance both in terms of incidence and the extent of clearing undertaken. Nation-wide there remains a net loss of native vegetation.

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  • Robyn L Bartel

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