The aim of our third nature conservation review, by Barry Traill and Christine Porter, was to identify gaps in the reserve system and conservation policies and programs, and recommend reforms to slow and reverse biodiversity losses.

Clearing controls on private land, introduced in 1989, had reduced losses from about 15,000 hectares to 3000 hectares annually. But despite this and many other new measures such as the 1988 Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act, vegetation mapping and catchment management planning, Traill and Porter concluded that extinction processes were continuing largely unabated.

Less than a fifth of ecological vegetation classes were adequately protected and more than half were threatened or extinct. High priority recommendations were to protect all vegetation remnants in highly fragmented landscapes and establish protected areas for south-western Victoria, riverine forests and woodlands, the Strzelecki Ranges, and box-ironbark woodlands and forests.

Action was needed to address invasive species and climate change threats and impacts on freshwater systems. Only 600 hectares of Victoria’s marine waters were then protected. The Environment Conservation Council (successor of the Land Conservation Council) had developed draft recommendations for a system of protected areas that Traill and Porter recommended the VNPA support in principle.

But they criticised the process as overly influenced by economic considerations and insufficient to protect variation within bioregions. They recommended that 20% of each major marine habitat be protected within a minimum of two national parks in each bioregion, with integrated coastal zone management and more funding for management.

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