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In the mid to late 19th century, New South Wales passed laws protecting from over-hunting just a few native bird and mammal species, despite scientists having documented the disappearance and decline of once-common species. As public concern grew over the decline of useful or commercially exploited species, and as scientific societies lobbied for their increased protection, so more bird and mammal species, and from 1927 some native plant species, gained protection. Realisation of the detriment of broad-scale agriculture led to laws setting aside reserves where land-uses that threatened species could be excluded. Mid-20th century laws introduced professional administration of reserves and of biodiversity laws, and increased the range of protected taxa. From the 1990s, with conservation politically potent, modern laws sought to conserve all biodiversity, not just individual species, but also ecosystems and their intrinsic processes, and to manage threatening processes. Such laws affect other planning and land-use laws, at all jurisdictional levels; they are embedded in a nationally integrated set of laws and reflect international agreements to conserve biodiversity. Biodiversity laws have grown in complexity, coverage and importance. Science and society will contribute to their continuing change.

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