• Outdoors Outdoors

Resident faces colossal fine after clearing national park land for illegal building construction: 'This sends a strong and very clear message'

"You should always check with the local council to see what is allowed and what is not."

"You should always check with the local council to see what is allowed and what is not."

Photo Credit: NPWS

An Australian resident landed in deep trouble for damaging a vast portion of national park land.

What's happening?

The unnamed offender was fined almost $22,000 ($14,600 USD) after clearing 0.35 hectares, about 8 acres, of native vegetation and building a structure in Koonyum Range, New South Wales, The Echo reported in January. The sanction included court costs and an $8,000 remediation penalty plus two one-year community corrections orders.

Since the parcel was located in Mount Jerusalem National Park, they were convicted in Mullumbimby Local Court on multiple charges of violating the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 and National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2019, per The Echo.

"The seriousness of the offences is reflected in the penalty imposed by the court," the outlet reported, noting the person did not check property boundaries.

Multiple endangered and vulnerable plants and animals live in the park.

Why is illegal clearing important?

"The felling of forest oaks impacts directly on the habitat and food resources of the glossy black cockatoo, a listed vulnerable species known to occur in the area," NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service area manager Jenny Atkins said.

"Trees are highly valued in the Byron Shire and their removal, without permission, is not tolerated by NPWS, or the broader community."

The beautiful bird — juveniles have yellow plumage around their necks and other body parts, and adults feature red tail feathers — has suffered from habitat loss since European colonization. Changes to bushfire patterns in the same timeframe as well as predation by feral cats and possums are among its other problems.

Deforestation contributes to the rapid heating of the planet by releasing stored carbon into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide and other gases envelop the planet like a blanket, trapping heat and creating a positive feedback loop.

This changes ecosystems, damaging some and shrinking habitats, for instance, whereas others are supercharged, allowing pests such as ticks to expand their ranges and increasing disease incidence.

What's being done about deforestation?

Stiff penalties may have a deterrence effect, educating and warning others about potential pitfalls. But deforestation is increasing worldwide despite conservation efforts.

At least in one corner of southeast Australia, government officials are committed to prevention efforts.

"This sends a strong and very clear message to people that before you clear land or cut down any trees or do any building work, even on your property, you should know where the property boundaries are," Atkins said.

"You should always check with the local council to see what is allowed and what is not."

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