Identifying species and communities at risk

19 Aug 2016 - 16:19 | Version 2 |

Threatened native species, ecological communities and key threatening processes

Part 4.1 of the Nature Conservation Act requires the minister to make a threatened native species list divided into several categories (s 63), which are intended to align with the categories used in the EPBC Act and largely reflect IUCN categories. A species may be listed as:
  • extinct - if there is no reasonable doubt that the last member of the species has died
  • extinct in the wild - if members of the species exist, for example in cultivation or captivity, or outside their native range, but are no longer found in their natural habitat
  • critically endangered - if it is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future
  • endangered - if it is not critically endangered, but it is facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future
  • vulnerable - if it is not critically endangered or endangered, but it is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future
  • conservation dependent - if it is the subject of a native species conservation plan and the ending of the plan may result in the species becoming vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered
  • provisional - if there is a strong decline in species numbers in the ACT and surrounding region, or the species occurs or is likely to occur in the ACT and is listed as a threatened native species under a law of another jurisdiction (e.g. Cth, NSW), or the species was listed in the extinct category, but has been located in nature. Provisional listings only last for 18 months. The species is then either moved to another category or removed.
The minister must also make a threatened ecological communities list divided into the categories of critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable and provisional, which are defined similarly to the categories for threatened native species above (part 4.2), and a key threatening process list of processes that threaten a native species or ecological community (part 4.3).

The minister is required to develop criteria to be used in deciding whether a species, ecological community, or process should be listed, in consultation with the conservator and the Committee. These criteria are disallowable instruments, which must be notified, and presented to the Legislative Assembly under the Legislation Act 2001. At the time of publication, no criteria had been notified under the Nature Conservation Act.

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Any person may nominate an item to be included in a list, transferred to another category within a list, or omitted from a list. The nomination must comply with any requirements prescribed by regulation for the nomination and be given to the Committee (s 81). Individuals making a nomination for the inclusion in a list of particular species or ecological communities not listed as threatened in the ACT might use as evidence their status in other jurisdictions (such as NSW, Victoria and/or the Commonwealth) (see Contacts list at the back of this book for information on locating threatened species and communities listings, such as, the Commonwealth listing of threatened flora and fauna; the NSW threatened species profile search; and the Victorian list of threatened flora and fauna.

The Committee may also make nominations (s 83). The Committee may consult the public about any nomination (s 84) and must carry out a listing assessment of a nominated item that considers whether the item meets the eligibility criteria (s 85). If the Committee considers that the item is eligible to be included, transferred, or omitted from a list, it prepares a listing advice for the minister setting out the grounds for the committee's view (s 86).

The minister is required to take into account the Committee's advice, the

eligibility criteria, and the effect that the decision will have on the survival of the item in determining whether to include, transfer or omit an item (ss 88-90). If the minister decides to include, transfer or omit an item, the minister must revise and prepare a final version of the list (s 87). The minister's decision must be taken within 3 months of receiving the listing advice.

The threatened native species list, threatened ecological communities list and key threatening processes list are legislative instruments, accessible on the web through the ACT legislation register (see Contacts list at the back of this book).

Threatened native species

The most recent list of species is in the Nature Conservation Threatened Native Species List 2015 (No 1) (NI 2015-438) (s 63). A comparison of listings under this instrument and protective listings by the New South Wales and Commonwealth governments can be seen in Table 1 at the end of this chapter.

In its various conservation strategies, particularly the woodland, grassland and riparian action plans (see below), the ACT government gives special attention to species that are listed in jurisdictions found outside the ACT. In the action plans, these species are described as uncommon and or rare. Mention is also made in the action plans of lists of other uncommon and or rare species in the ACT which receive special management attention (see Table 1).

Threatened ecological communities

Under the Nature Conservation Threatened Ecological Communities List (No 1) (NI 2015--437), two threatened ecological communities are listed as endangered in the ACT: Natural Temperate Grasslands, and Yellow Box/Red Gum Grassy Woodland (s 69). Both are also listed under the Commonwealth EPBC Act, and box woodland is also listed in New South Wales (see Table 1). However, the definitions used in the different jurisdictions vary. For example, natural temperate grasslands defined under the EPBC Act include the ACT's montane grasslands, whereas the ACT listed ecological community does not. Natural temperate grasslands are afforded some protection under New South Wales native vegetation legislation.

Recovery teams consisting of government agencies, experts, non-government organisations and community representatives, may be established to identify, protect, manage and recover threatened ecological communities and species. One successful recovery team is the Natural Temperate Grasslands of the Southern Tablelands of NSW and the ACT Recovery Team, which has representatives from the ACT and New South Wales governments, catchment management authorities, the

New South Wales Farmers Federation, and community groups such as Friends of Grasslands and Greening Australia. This team not only provides expert advice, but uses funding to employ a project officer to map potential grasslands remnants, to identify new sites, and to bring new sites under conservation management.

Protected Native Species

Part 5.2 of the Nature Conservation Act requires the minister to make a protected native species list divided into the following categories:
  • restricted trade - if unrestricted trade in the species is likely to have a negative impact on populations of species in the wild
  • rare - if it is not a threatened native species, does not have special protection status and is rare in the ACT
  • data deficient - if there is insufficient information about the species in the ACT for the species to be listed as a threatened native species or in any other category of protected native species
  • any other category prescribed by regulation.
The minister is required to develop criteria to be used in deciding whether a species should be listed as a protected native species, in consultation with the conservator and the scientific committee. The protected native species list criteria is a disallowable instrument. At the time of publication, no criteria had been notified under the Nature Conservation Act.

The protected native species list is a notifiable instrument, accessible on the web through the ACT legislation register (see Contacts list at the back of this book). The list contains species eligible under the protected native species list criteria. The most recent list of protected native species is the Nature Conservation Protected Native Species 2015 (NI 2015-317).

Special protection status

Special protection status is the highest level of statutory protection that can be given to flora and fauna under the Act, and there are increased penalties for unauthorised activities affecting species with special protection status to recognise the greater environmental consequences of such offences, as well as tighter licensing constraints for activities affecting species with special protection status (i.e. licences may only be provided for research or management purposes or ex situ conservation).

A native species has special protection status if it is a threatened native species under the Act; or if it is a listed threatened species or listed migratory species under the Commonwealth EPBC Act (s 109). See also Table 1 at the end of this chapter.

Exempt animals

The conservator may declare a stated animal to be an exempt animal under section 155 of the Nature Conservation Act. Exempt animal declarations are disallowable instruments. In making such a declaration, the conservator must consider the need to protect native species in the ACT, and the need to conserve the significant ecosystems of the ACT, NSW and Australia.

Many of the offence provisions in the Act, described further below, do not apply to exempt animals. For example it is not unlawful to keep or sell exempt animals in the ACT, or to import or export them from the ACT. Further, no license is required to do so.

The most recent declaration of exempt animals is the Native Conservation (Exempt Animals) Declaration 2015 (DI2015--118). The exempt animal declaration is in place to protect native species in the ACT and conserve the significant ecosystems of the ACT, NSW and Australia by preventing certain species from being kept in the ACT (ss 133, 155). The list of exempt animals includes native animals that are often household pets and which pose no known threat to wildlife, for example, Galahs, Sulphur Crested Cockatoos and the Eastern Blue-tongued Lizard. The list also includes those exotic animals which are considered unlikely to become established in the wild, to exacerbate existing pest populations, or introduce a disease to wild populations.

Controlled native species

The minister may declare a native species to be a controlled native species under section 157 of the Nature Conservation Act if the minister is satisfied that the species is having an unacceptable impact on an environmental, social or economic asset. Examples of the types of unacceptable impacts that native species can have include: the impact of large eastern grey kangaroo populations on endangered ecological communities; the transmission of diseases by camps of grey-headed flying-foxes; aggressive behavior by individual magpies; and invasion of local native vegetation by Cootamundra wattle. Controlled native species declarations are disallowable instruments. Controlled native species may be the subject of controlled native species management plans (discussed further below).

Exotic pest plants and animals are managed under the Pest Plants and Animals Act 2005 which is discussed further below.

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