Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Strip Mine a Nature Preserve? I Know: But This Seems to be Real

"Save Steve's Place"

"The Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve (SIWR) is a wetland conservation property and a tribute to Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin.

"The 135,000 ha property, in Queensland's Cape York Peninsula, is home to a set of important spring fed wetlands which provide a critical water source to threatened habitat, provide permanent flow of water to the Wenlock River, and is home to rare and vulnerable plants and wildlife.

"The Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve (SIWR) was acquired as part of the National Reserve System Programme for the purpose of nature conservation with the assistance of the Australian Government.

"The Situation

"The Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve (SIWR) is being threatened by strip mining. Cape Alumina Pty Ltd has lodged mining lease applications which include approximately 12,300 ha of the Reserve. Cape Alumina company documents indicate an intention to mine 50 plus million tons over a 10 year period commencing 2010. The greater part of this mine is on SIWR...."

Sounds Like a "Captain Planet" Episode Plot - but I Think This is a Legitimate Request

When I read this the first time, I thought it very likely that someone was collecting email addresses for a spammer - or running a fairly sophisticated scam.

I looked up who registered the domain - and it led me back to Australia Zoo. A website which, although it indulges in rather more exuberant displays that I regard as necessary, does seem to be connected with the late Steve Irwin. And, refers to the strip mining issue.

Oh, Come on! Strip Mine a Nature Preserve?!

I'm not a lunatic-fringe environmentalist. I'm a human being, some of my best friends are humans, and I don't think we're a cancer on Mother Earth.

That said, I do think it's a good idea to take care of the organic fuzz that coats this ball of rock we call home. And, I know that some people with business interests can want very strange things.
Case in Point: Buffalo River State Park, Minnesota
Decades ago, I was impressed by the gall of a businessman in Minnesota. He wanted - demanded would be a better way of putting it, I think - rights to 'unused' land owned by the State of Minnesota. There was sand there, he explained: and he had to have it. No other spot would do.

Generally speaking, I don't have trouble with the idea of digging up a field to get at the sand or gravel that's under it. What usually happens is that trucks haul sand away until they've leveled the area - and after that it doesn't take too many years before local grasses and weeds take over. Unless a farmer speeds up the process with fertilizer and seed.

In this case, however, the 'unused' land was a tract of prairie that hadn't been disturbed since the last glaciers retreated. Buffalo River State Park has recreational facilities (on the north side), but it is also one of the very few places where a large remnant prairie still exists.

Since most of northern Minnesota is made out of sand and gravel left by the last glaciation, I didn't - and don't - understand why this particular patch of sand was so vitally important.

The sand man's effort failed, and we've still got relatively undisturbed prairie there.

Australian Wildlife Preserve or a Strip Mine - Yes, You Can Make a Difference

Here's the deal: There really does seem to be someone who wants to tear up a wildlife preserve in Australia.

People who would just as soon not see this happen are collecting signatures for a petition. They'd like yours.

If you're in Australia, fine. If you're not, also fine: They've got forms for both.
Thanks to irish_brigid, on Twitter, for the heads-up on this.


Peter said...

Hi! This is a bloody disgrace. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I have signed the petition!

Take Care,

lisleman said...

thanks for the post - I'll spread the word

Most places in the US require the land be returned to the condition it was but I guess there is only limited success with that.

I actually grew up enjoying the benefits of a strip mine that was turned into a recreation lake. I think it can work sometimes.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...


Agreed. My pleasure, and thanks!

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...


The early 'successes' with returning strip-mined land to its original condition were, as I recall, more successful as photo-ops than as habitats.

I'm with you on "I think it can work sometimes." A mistake that conservationists sometimes make, I think, is forgetting that things change on Earth. We'd be hip-deep in dinosaurs (or not here at all) if that weren't true.

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