The NSW Annual Report on Native Vegetation released by the Office of Environment and Heritage last Friday shows that 2009/10 was the worst year on record for clearing of native bushland , according to environment groups.
"This report reveals that in 2009/10 a vast area of native bushland in NSW, equating to 138,400 football fields in size, was cleared for crops, forestry or infrastructure" said Belinda Fairbrother, Campaigns Manager with The Wilderness Society Sydney.
"This is higher than any other year since records commenced in 1988 and shows that the NSW Government has failed in its promises to restrain land clearing, resulting in rapid and accelerating degradation of wildlife habitat and water catchments" she said.
"Land-clearing is recognised as the single greatest threat to wildlife in Australia. It causes the death of birds and animals, the extinction of species, leads to the poisoning of soils from salinity, and makes a major contribution to global warming" said Pepe Clarke, Chief Executive Officer of the Nature Conservation Council of NSW.
"The NSW government is currently conducting a review of native vegetation controls. They should take this report as a warning - what is required are stronger land-clearing laws that do more to protect the environment, not weaker ones" he said.
"The report marks a sad end to the International Year of Forests - the area cleared for forestry in 2009/10 was almost five times greater than it was in 1988/89" said Susie Russell, President of the North Coast Environment Council.
"It reveals a massive increase in the rate and intensity of logging in NSW, which will be causing untold damage to the extraordinary high diversity forests of north-east NSW" she said.
"It comes after the National State of the Environment report reveals declining biodiversity throughout the country, and follows news that the NSW Government has opened up logging in habitat of the endangered Yellow-bellied Glider in southern NSW" said Kevin Evans, Executive Officer with the National Parks Association of NSW.
"Sadly, this report confirms that habitat for many of our most iconic and threatened species in western NSW are still at risk from land clearing. It is a pity that the NSW Government tried to bury such an important report in the pre-Christmas rush" said Carmel Flint, spokesperson for the Northern Inland Council for the Environment.