Management of Commercial Harvesting of Protected Flora in Western Australia 1 July 2013 – 30 June 2018

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5.1.5 Research

There are various programs designed to provide specialised scientific information which support DEC's management of commercial flora harvesting. The main areas which are being addressed are:

· investigation and documentation of Western Australia's flora, ecological processes and biological resources;

· conservation of threatened taxa and ecological communities; and,

· sustainable use of land and biological resources.

Research programs will also be initiated into specific issues relating to the sustainable harvesting of flora as identified through the monitoring and assessment of the industry. Investigations will include the assessment of the sustainability of harvesting specific taxa, and in specific communities, as well as into the development of specific harvest prescriptions for taxa. Recommendations from research will be presented to the WAFIAC, and management recommendations implemented as required through licence conditions or special endorsements to licences.

5.2 Management Strategies
The mechanisms available to, and used by, DEC in order to regulate the harvesting of flora are detailed in section 4.1 above. The range of measures in place provides scope for tailoring management to specific taxa and specific situations. This section details how those measures can be manipulated, where required, in order to ensure conservation of flora.
5.2.1 Licence Conditions
Under the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950, licences may be issued subject to conditions. A standard set of conditions forms part of the licence, and these are attached to each licence. The standard licence conditions differ between those applying to Commercial Purposes Licences (for Crown land) (Appendix 7) and those applying to Commercial Producer's or Nurseryman's Licences (private property) (Appendix 8) due to the different management and control available to such lands. Both licence types do allow, however, for licence conditions to be imposed that have regard to the conservation of protected flora, and the respective licence conditions can be amended to address conservation concerns or changes in management issues.
These licence conditions outline DEC’s requirements for management of picking. Licence conditions may include such matters as prohibition of taking of certain taxa, methods of taking flora so as to ensure the conservation of the flora, restrictions on areas from where flora may be taken, restrictions on the method of operation so as to ensure the conservation of the habitat and associated ecosystem, including conditions relating to the control of the introduction and spread of dieback disease, requirements to carry and produce the commercial flora licence, and submission of flora returns. It is a requirement of a commercial flora licence that these conditions are complied with, and non-compliance may result in a letter of warning or advice, cancellation or amendment of an endorsement to the licence, non-renewal of the licence, cancellation of the licence, or prosecution, depending on circumstances.
The standard licence conditions may be modified by DEC as necessary to ensure the conservation of protected flora or appropriate land management. Standard licence conditions may also be modified to require special endorsement for certain taxa. Such special licence conditions can, for example, set quotas, limit the locations where a taxon may be harvested, times when it may be harvested, the parts that may be harvested or the parts that must be left on the plant. Special licence conditions can also be used for situations where whole plants may be taken under DEC-approved salvage operations.
Once a licence is issued, the licensee may harvest or sell any protected flora provided it is not specifically prohibited through licence conditions, or the method of operation relating to the harvesting is contrary to the licence conditions as they relate to the conservation of the flora, its habitat and associated ecosystem.
5.2.2 Area-Specific Management
While the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 provides for the conservation of flora on all lands, there are many land tenures (e.g. private, pastoral leases, reserves vested in other agencies) where DEC is not the land manager. In order to ensure that commercial flora harvesting is sustainable, there need to be measures in place for the management of the industry on all lands. Such mechanisms come from legislation and, more specifically, conditions on flora licences. Licence conditions apply on all land tenures, although conditions applying to Crown and private land differ (refer to Appendices 7 and 8).
Consideration of licence issue, licence conditions and endorsement decisions are all measures that can be used to provide directed restrictions on harvesting in particular areas, where required. These measures have been described under the Management Measures section of this plan. In implementing these measures, DEC has the ability to restrict or stop picking effort within an area, if there is an identified need to do so (e.g. because the populations have declined significantly), or to re-open or expand areas for picking (e.g. when populations have recovered). Such measures will be taken based on population monitoring, and will take a precautionary approach where the scientific evidence is uncertain.
On private land, no licence is required to take protected flora, and hence the provisions of the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 cannot regulate flora harvesting on these lands, other than where the land owner does not give permission, or in the case of Declared Rare Flora, where the permission of the Minister is required. However, while the taking of the flora may not be able to be regulated per se, the sale is under licence, and consequently indirect regulation is provided through licence conditions where the flora is being harvested for sale. Such conditions may apply to specific areas of private property where this is necessary for the conservation of the flora.
Flora harvesting on private land may also be subject to vegetation clearing provisions included in the Environmental Protection Act 1986 (section 3.4). These provisions enhance the controls on private property flora harvesting, especially if such harvesting has the potential to result in any damage to the flora, its habitat or associated ecosystem.
Ultimately, acquisition of land, as a conservation reserve can be used to provide permanent protection for particular flora populations and habitats.
5.2.3 Taxon-Specific Management
There are several options for individual management of taxa where this may be necessary to ensure conservation, including:

  • restrictions on harvest methods, or circumstances under which harvesting may occur;

  • restricting harvesting through quotas;

  • banning the harvesting of the taxon from Crown land or banning the sale of the taxon where taken from private land;

  • removal from the list of flora permitted to be exported (Export Flora List), or assignment to specific categories of the Export Flora List;

  • listing on DEC’s Priority Flora list (section as poorly known or rare (but not threatened) flora; and

  • gazettal as Declared Rare Flora by the State Minister for Environment (section 5.1.4).

Where the sustainable harvesting of a taxon requires specific management beyond that which may be provided by endorsements to licences, separate subsidiary species-specific management plans will be prepared. Regulating, restricting or banning the harvesting of taxa
Through Commercial Purposes Licence conditions, the Department may specifically restrict or ban the harvesting of any flora taxa on Crown lands if harvesting poses a threat to the taxon (management actions will be based on monitoring and research, taking into account the precautionary principle). Taxon-specific harvest techniques or commercial harvest quotas specifying the quantities of a particular species (or specific products) which may be harvested may be set where there is concern that the method or level of previous harvesting could be unsustainable. Similarly, circumstances in which particular products may be taken from Crown lands can be specified (e.g. salvage situations where whole plants may be taken). Exported taxa for which quotas on Crown land harvesting or where other special restrictions apply, are identified in the Export Flora List.
As outlined above, the taking of a plant taxon on private property can only be legally prevented under the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 where the taxon is declared as Rare Flora. However, licence conditions and the Export Flora List can be used to prevent and otherwise restrict the commercial trading of protected flora harvested from these lands. Taxa will only be considered for addition to the Export Flora List where the flora is demonstrably able to be sustainably harvested from either Crown or private land, as applicable. Export Flora List and amendments
The taxa to be permitted for export after being taken under this management plan are listed on the Commonwealth- and State- approved Export Flora List. Except in the case of test exports (see below), no flora may be exported under this plan if it is not listed on the Export Flora List. The Export Flora List contains both protected flora (Western Australian native plant species) that is allowed for export and Australian native flora that is not native to Western Australia (none of which has been declared as protected flora as of the commencement of the plan) and which is growing in Western Australia.
The Export Flora List is compiled by DEC in consultation with industry and through the WAFIAC (see section 6.5). The list is then forwarded to DSEWPaC for consideration. If DSEWPaC is satisfied that the taxa included on the draft list are being conserved adequately under the management arrangements in place through this plan, that Agency may approve the Export Flora List, and subsequently the export of the taxa included on it.
The Export Flora List is reviewed and modified as determined necessary by DSEWPaC and DEC during the period of operation of this management plan, following the procedure detailed below. This procedure includes the ability to temporarily add taxa to the Export Flora List on a small-scale trial basis while the potential for full export listing is assessed. At the time of initial approval of this management plan the Export Flora List was as attached at Appendix 1. Both DSEWPac and DEC will maintain copies of the current (at that date) approved Export Flora List during the operation of this plan and copies of the current list will be freely available to interested persons.
Where DEC and DSEWPaC agree that commercial harvesting of a species may not be sustainable, after advice from the WAFIAC, the species can be removed from the Export Flora List. Such decisions will be based on monitoring and research and take into account the precautionary principle. In addition, where DEC or industry considers that a particular species is no longer required for export, and hence does not need to remain on the Export Flora List, advice will be provided to the WAFIAC, seeking endorsement for the removal of that taxon from the list.
With regard to Australian native plants that are not native to Western Australia, if it is evident that species are not being exported in accordance with this Plan, but are being purported as being so, those species may be removed from the Export Flora List.
Where a proponent wishes to add a taxon to the Export Flora List, the following procedure will be followed.

  • The proponent will provide voucher specimens of the taxon to DEC for formal identification. DEC will determine whether the taxon is already represented in the Western Australian Herbarium and the distribution of the taxon based on herbarium specimens.

  • DEC and the industry will collate information on distribution and population status of commercial stands, desired end product, harvesting technique and regeneration capability of the taxon.

  • DEC will assess the application against section 303FO of the EPBC Act (Appendix 11) including, but not limited to, an assessment of the status of the species in the wild, the extent of its habitat, the threats to the species and the potential impacts of the proposed addition on the species or its habitat. DEC will then comment on the proposed inclusion of the taxon on the Export Flora List, and any restrictions on harvests which may be applicable, to WAFIAC for endorsement/comment. If endorsed by DEC and the WAFIAC the proposal will then be forwarded to DSEWPaC for endorsement and, if appropriate, inclusion on the Export Flora List.

  • Amendments to the Export Flora List accepted by both DEC and DSEWPaC will be appended to this approved plan as supplements, and will be advised to persons engaged in the flora industry.

Where a taxon is required to be exported for the purpose of evaluating commercial potential, the taxon may be considered for a test export of generally less than 20 specimens. Each test export will be subject to endorsement from DEC provided:

  • voucher specimens have been lodged with DEC, and the identity of the taxon is confirmed;

  • the taxon is not listed as Declared Rare or priority flora, nor listed as Threatened Flora under the Commonwealth EPBC Act; and

  • DEC is satisfied that there are no apparent flora conservation reasons for not permitting the harvest of that flora.

Such taxa will not be added to the Export Flora List until the formal process for adding the taxon has been completed. Declared Rare Flora (DRF) and Priority Flora
Because of the special protection afforded to Declared Rare Flora (refer to section 5.1.4), and hence the obligations that this places on land managers, DEC sets stringent requirements for adequate field surveys to reliably assess a taxon’s conservation status before it will be recommended for declaration as Declared Rare Flora (also referred to as Threatened Flora).
Consequently many taxa are known from only a small number of populations, and may be rare or threatened, but have not been adequately surveyed to demonstrate this. To provide some priorities for survey of these poorly known taxa, DEC maintains a Priority Flora list. In addition to the poorly known taxa, the Priority Flora list includes a further category for those taxa that have been adequately surveyed, and while being rare, are not considered to be threatened. These taxa are listed to facilitate the monitoring of their conservation status. The four priority levels at the time of approval of this plan, are as follows.
1: Priority One: Poorly-known species
Species that are known from one or a few collections or sight records (generally less than five), all on lands not managed for conservation, e.g. agricultural or pastoral lands, urban areas, Shire, Westrail and Main Roads WA road, gravel and rail reserves, and active mineral leases and under threat of habitat destruction or degradation. Species may be included if they are comparatively well known from one or more localities but do not meet adequacy of survey requirements and appear to be under immediate threat from known threatening processes.
2: Priority Two: Poorly-known species
Species that are known from one or a few collections or sight records, some of which are on lands not under imminent threat of habitat destruction or degradation, e.g. national parks, conservation parks, nature reserves, State forest, vacant Crown land, water reserves, etc. Species may be included if they are comparatively well known from one or more localities but do not meet adequacy of survey requirements and appear to be under threat from known threatening processes.
3: Priority Three: Poorly-known species
Species that are known from collections or sight records from several localities not under imminent threat, or from few but widespread localities with either large population size or significant remaining areas of apparently suitable habitat, much of it not under imminent threat. Species may be included if they are comparatively well known from several localities but do not meet adequacy of survey requirements and known threatening processes exist that could affect them.
4: Priority Four: Rare, Near Threatened and other species in need of monitoring
(a) Rare. Species that are considered to have been adequately surveyed, or for which sufficient knowledge is available, and that are considered not currently threatened or in need of special protection, but could be if present circumstances change. These species are usually represented on conservation lands.

(b) Near Threatened. Species that are considered to have been adequately surveyed and that do not qualify for Conservation Dependent, but that are close to qualifying for Vulnerable.

(c) Species that have been removed from the list of threatened species during the past five years for reasons other than taxonomy.
5: Priority Five: Conservation Dependent species
Species that are not threatened but are subject to a specific conservation program, the cessation of which would result in the species becoming threatened within five years.

Known populations of the poorly known priority taxa require monitoring to determine if their conservation status changes whilst field surveys are being undertaken. The list is distributed widely among field staff and interested botanists to encourage and provide a focus for monitoring and survey efforts.

The Priority Flora list is updated regularly, as information becomes available on new taxa that may possibly be threatened, or where survey shows a listed taxon to be more common, or better conserved than originally thought.
It is unlikely that poorly known taxa would support commercial harvesting unless the specimens are propagated. In general, therefore, Crown land populations of flora listed on DEC's Priority Flora list will not be allowed to be commercially harvested unless it can be demonstrated that they can withstand such harvesting. This would normally be due to the identification of new populations, and the subsequent removal of the taxon from the Priority Flora list or via special endorsements with supporting monitoring and management structures. Otherwise, taking of these taxa from Crown land will be restricted to harvesting for propagation or other purposes with conservation benefits. Priority flora populations being harvested on private property will be monitored to ensure their conservation status does not decline. Harvest control for priority flora is implemented through licence conditions.

5.2.4 Education
Education of industry operators on matters of flora conservation and licensing is seen as vital in the management of a sustainable commercial flora industry. Major avenues for education are listed below.
a) Talks and seminars are given by various organisations, including DEC and the Western Australia Department of Agriculture and Food. Topics covered include dieback and other disease management, identification of flora, sustainable picking methods, legislative and licence requirements, industry code of ethics and management requirements for individual taxa.

b) DEC develops educational material on a variety of topics which is circulated to industry.

c) The WAFIAC provides a mechanism for awareness raising across relevant sectors associated with the industry, and is also an outlet through which educational material and management advice can be disseminated widely to the various sectors of the industry. Summary minutes of WAFIAC meetings are also made available for inclusion in sectorial newsletters.

d) DEC attends industry association meetings and forums and provides advice to these groups.

Legislative amendments are proposed to provide the power to require licence applicants to demonstrate that they have a reasonable knowledge of the flora provisions of the Act, licence conditions, and taxa identification and other relevant matters such as dieback management.
In addition, training of DEC officers involved in administration, management and enforcement in relation to the flora industry is ongoing to ensure that personnel are skilled in the conservation of taxa used by the commercial flora industry and are familiar with DEC's management objectives and their implementation. Avenues used for training include:

· formal education including short vocational courses and longer tertiary qualifications;

· seminars and workshops;

· internal DEC courses; and,

· on-the-job training.

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