New initiative defends the unburnt

Defending the Unburnt is a new flagship partnership between Environmental Defenders Office and WWF-Australia, designed to build legal defences for some of Australia’s most vulnerable ecosystems.

The catalyst for the new project was the devastating 2019-20 bushfires, during which 14 million hectares were burned and an estimated three billion native animals were impacted.

The full scale of the destruction was detailed in a pivotal new report from WWF, identifying six priority areas along Australia’s East Coast in need of immediate protection.

These are the Unburnt Six – regions encompassing crucial ecosystems, habitats and safehavens for some of Australia’s most vulnerable wildlife.

The Unburnt Six comprises of:

Border Ranges

Spanning the border between Queensland and New South Wales, this priority area includes threatened ecosystems such as the endangered Upland Wetlands of the new England Tablelands as well as critically endangered lowland rainforest regions.

Nymboida

The Nymboida priority area is situated in the Northern Rivers of New South Wales, including almost 5000 hectares of the critically endangered New England Peppermint Grassy Woodlands ecosystem.

North Coast

Surrounding Port Macquarie, The North Coast priority area is a crucial habitat for koalas and contains almost 250,000 hectares of the critically endangered lowland rainforest of subtropical Australia ecosystem.

Yengo-Wollemi

Almost 500,000 hectares of the Yengo-Wollemi priority area was burned over the course of the devastating 2019-2020 bushfire season. This region includes critically endangered eucalypt forest and woodland areas, and is a vital habitat for the grey-headed flying fox and the superb lyrebird.

South Coast

A diverse region spanning 400,000 hectares of coastline south of Sydney, this priority area is a key habitat for the spotted-tail quoll, the southern brown bandicoot and the giant burrowing frog. It contains almost 300,000 hectares of critically endangered ecosystems.

Gippsland-Eden

The Gippsland-Eden priority area encompasses critically-endangered grassland, woodland and rainforest ecosystems, and is home to vulnerable species such as the platypus, the greater glider and the long-footed potoroo.

Spearheaded by the EDO’s dedicated Biodiversity Team, in collaboration with WWF-Australia, Defending the Unburnt will deploy a range of legal strategies, tools and services to protect what remains.

Through Defending the Unburnt, a team of Biodiversity law experts – led by Managing Lawyer Andrew Kwan and Senior Solicitor Cerin Loane – are using a full suite of legal tools to strengthen these critical ecosystems.

The project is pushing for greater legal protection for the Unburnt Six and their wildlife through new innovative approaches, by advocating for stronger laws, policies and processes that properly respond to the impact of the 2019-20 bushfires and with greater scrutiny of native forest operations.

They are also working on-the-ground and online with local communities, giving them the legal support they need to protect these areas and the animals that call them home, and developing digital legal resources to empower Australians everywhere in the protection of the areas and wildlife they love.

Visit the Environmental Defenders Office at edo.org.au to find out more about the Defending the Unburnt initiative and see how you can help.

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