The harvesting of Declared Rare (Threatened) Flora (refer to section 4.1.4, below) is prohibited by law unless specific Ministerial permission is obtained, and this is reflected in conditions on the Commercial Purposes and Commercial Producer's or Nurseryman's Licences. Ministerial permission would not generally be granted unless a conservation benefit was demonstrated. The various options for restriction of harvesting of other protected flora are outlined below in the Management Strategies section.
Some taxa, however, which have special management needs (e.g. susceptibility to intensive harvesting, such as Banksia hookeriana), may be able to be harvested only under certain conditions and, in these cases, the general licence condition is varied to allow restricted harvesting where this can be demonstrated to be sustainable. Measures to ensure that harvesting is sustainable may include:
· special licence conditions being set, to cover such matters as specified harvesting methods and the amount of material (both vegetative and reproductive) which may be taken from any one plant in a season;
· specific areas being closed for picking (e.g. following a fire for a specific number of years, or after a certain number of years of harvesting);
· restrictions being placed on the number of pickers permitted to harvest the taxon; and/or
· royalties being charged to fund research and monitoring.
Where taxa which are to be exported have special management requirements, they will be so identified in the Export Flora List.
Where data on the level of exploitation of a particular taxon gives rise to concerns about sustainability, DEC has the ability to impose a quota on the amount of material able to be legally taken for commercial purposes, or impose limits on the numbers of pickers allowed to harvest the taxon, or a combination of both strategies. When quotas are set they will be set at conservative levels (i.e. application of precautionary principle) relative to the availability and reproductive capacity of the species being considered for harvest. Quotas may be varied from year to year according to criteria such as rainfall, time since last fire, other land use operations, the impact of past harvests and projected resource availability from field observations.
Where a taxon has a quota proposed, the setting of the quota is discussed with the Western Australian Flora Industry Committee (WAFIAC) (section 6.5). Annual quota levels, when set, are notified to affected sections of the flora industry, the WAFIAC, and the Commonwealth Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.
5.1.3 Conservation Reserves
In addition to the general protection afforded to Western Australia's flora under the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950, the establishment and management of a comprehensive, adequate and representative conservation reserve system is a strategic approach to achieve the aim of conserving genetic resources, biological communities, and ecological processes. Through an integrated system of conservation reserves, appropriately managed and broadly representative of the landforms, marine and inland aquatic systems, biogeographic districts and biota of Western Australia, the aim is to maintain habitats and the necessary evolutionary processes and ecological support systems which will maximise the long term persistence of taxa and communities. As well as being broadly representative, the reserve system also seeks to include "special" areas to encompass threatened taxa and ecosystems, geographical outliers, and unique or spectacular landforms.
Western Australia's system of protected areas makes a substantial contribution to the conservation of flora. Large areas of land have been vested in the Conservation Commission of Western Australia and reserved as national parks, conservation parks and nature reserves for the purpose of conserving native flora and fauna and natural ecosystems. Commercial harvesting is not permitted in these areas, other than under special circumstances for the harvest of propagation material for revegetation activities associated with the park or reserve.
The area of land reserved for national parks at 30 June 2012 was 6,246,675 hectares; 10,244,921 hectares were reserved as nature reserves; 847,312 hectares were gazetted as conservation parks; and a further 392,556 hectares for other reserves with a conservation component. The total area of terrestrial conservation reserves was 28,285,218 hectares or 10.23% of the terrestrial area of Western Australia. The identification and acquisition of conservation reserves is an ongoing process, with a further 19,271 hectares having been acquired for conservation reservation, but not yet reserved. These lands are also being managed for conservation by DEC.
The richness and high degree of endemism in Western Australia's flora, and the localised distribution of many taxa, have resulted in a situation where many flora taxa are naturally rare or have been made rare through habitat loss due to land clearing or other causes. Threats from land clearing, disease infection, weed invasion, drought and other local disturbances are major causes of endangerment of Western Australia's many naturally rare and localised plants.
Under the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950, any protected flora that the State Minister for Environment considers is “likely to become extinct or is rare or otherwise in need of special protection” may be declared to be Rare Flora (also known as Threatened Flora). No person is permitted to take (harvest or disturb in any way) any taxon gazetted as Declared Rare Flora from wild populations anywhere in Western Australia, either on Crown land or private land, without the written consent of the Minister, or his delegate. Failure to obtain this permission can result in fines up to $10,000. Declaration as Rare Flora thus provides greater protection, focuses attention on the need for more detailed research and management, and helps to ensure the continued survival of the taxon in the wild.
Normal procedure has been for only flora which is “likely to become extinct or is rare” to be Declared Rare Flora. There is, however, the facility for the Minister to declare flora “otherwise in need of special protection” to be Declared Rare Flora and therefore to protect that flora from taking (including harvesting) on all lands. This is a mechanism available to the Minister to prevent harvesting of particular flora taxa, if it is felt that such harvesting is unsustainable, or otherwise inappropriate.
Under DEC’s Policy Statement No. 9 (Conservation of Threatened Flora in the Wild), protected flora taxa may be recommended for gazettal as Declared Rare Flora if they satisfy each of the following criteria.
a) The taxon (species, subspecies, variety) is well defined, readily identified and represented by a voucher specimen in a State or National Herbarium. It need not necessarily be formally described under conventions in the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature, but such a description is preferred and should be undertaken as soon as possible after listing on the schedule.
b) The taxon has been searched for thoroughly in the wild by competent botanists during the past five years in most likely habitats, according to guidelines approved by the Director General.
c) Searches have established that the plant in the wild is either:
(i) rare; or
(ii) in danger of extinction; or
(iii) deemed to be threatened and in need of special protection; or
(iv) presumed extinct (i.e. the taxon has not been collected from the wild, or otherwise verified, over the past 50 years despite thorough searching, or of which all known wild populations have been destroyed more recently).
d) In the case of hybrids, or suspected hybrids, the following criteria must also be satisfied:
(i) they must be a distinct entity, that is, the progeny are consistent within the agreed taxonomic limits for that taxon group;
(ii) they must be [capable of being] self perpetuating, that is, not reliant on the parent stock for replacement; and
(iii) they are the product of a natural event, that is, both parents are naturally occurring and cross fertilisation was by natural means.
The status of a threatened plant in cultivation has no bearing on this matter. The legislation refers only to the status of plants in the wild.
Plants may be deleted from the schedule of Declared Rare Flora (as flora which is likely to become extinct or is rare) where:
recent botanical survey as defined above has shown that the taxon is not rare, in danger of extinction or otherwise in need of special protection;
the taxon is shown to be a hybrid that does not comply with the inclusion criteria; or
the taxon is no longer threatened because it has been adequately protected by reservation of land where it occurs, or because its population numbers have increased beyond the danger point.
The Declared Rare Flora list is reviewed annually. As at November 2012 there were 413 extant taxa and 14 taxa that are presumed extinct, gazetted as Declared Rare Flora (Appendix 3).
Commercial harvesting of Declared Rare Flora is not generally permitted. An exception may be made in special circumstances, such as where the Minister approves the taking of seed, cuttings or tissue culture material for commercial propagation, where the conservation status of the taxa in the wild would be assisted, or would not be adversely affected (e.g. the establishment of cultivated populations of a rare taxon that is attractive to the flora trade could reduce the likelihood of illegal picking in the wild).