Threatened species legislation: just one act in the play
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Chris Dickman, Pat Hutchings, Daniel Lunney, 2004. "Threatened species legislation: just one act in the play", Threatened species legislation: Is it just an Act?, Pat Hutchings, Daniel Lunney, Chris Dickman
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Governments in Australia and elsewhere in the world use legislation to conserve species and other elements of biodiversity that are threatened by human activities. This forum examined to what extent relying on the legislative process is justified and, in particular, considered the effectiveness of legislation in achieving broad conservation goals. A synthesis of the papers presented at the one day forum run by the Royal Zoological Society of NSW is presented in this final paper. These papers display considerable insight into how threatened species legislation works, from the decision to list a species, to the consequences of listing for government departments, local councils, community groups and consultants. While the papers concentrated on the NSW Acts, they were compared with Commonwealth and other States' legislation as well as overseas examples. For many contributors to this forum, threatened species legislation is deficient in that it focuses on conspicuous, iconic and well-known taxa, and does little to conserve small, cryptic organisms, common but declining taxa, or ecological processes. In addition, threatened entities must often be identified using imprecise criteria that can be interpreted differently, and uncertain or incomplete information, while recovery planning for ever-expanding lists of threatened taxa is difficult and expensive. Scarce resources could be made to go further by allocating them to priority taxa, but criteria for ranking priorities are themselves highly contentious. Given these difficulties, an efficient way forward would be to identify common threats that afflict suites of populations, species and ecological communities and to target these for management. This is possible, but has been given insufficient priority under some existing legislation such as the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Other priorities for achieving broad conservation goals are the familiar yet critical requirements for sustaining research, education and funding, but added to these is the need for more public debate, engagement of the whole community, and informed inspiration to show that solutions are possible. We conclude that threatened species legislation is important, but just one act in the biodiversity play.