Australia: Red Gums - victims of politics?


Yesterday was a bizarre day in the politics of New South Wales, Australia. First out the blocks was the news that the premier, Nathan Rees, had announced a new 42,000 hectare National Park that would help protect the Red River Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) habitat of the Murray River basin. But later, in a major twist, Rees was ousted by Kristina Keneally who, according to commentators, has never put the environment near the heart of her politics.

So will Keneally honour the commitment?

It probably depends on how influential the state’s timber industry is with the new leader. They were, apparently, outraged by the announcement of this protection and all previous logging bans. However, in a landscape ravaged by an ongoing drought protecting the trees that are essential in holding the soils together, stabilising banks, and reducing flooding must be aligned with economic sustainability and better forestry management.

This incredibly important tree, which is distributed widely across Australia, forms the backbone of riverine ecosystems. Their canopy provides shade for the understorey plants to flourish, while their branches are used for bird nesting and feeding. Even their dead branches, which often drop into the rivers, are an important fish habitat.

Now the future of these trees - as do so many around the world - may be used as pawns in the lofty games of politicians.