Technical ReportPDF Available

Submission to the review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

Authors:
  • Martin Hawes Track Management

Abstract

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act is Australia's foremost piece of (federal) environmental legislation, and it is required to be reviewed every ten years. The current review is open to public submissions, amid concerns that the review process might lead to a 'cutting of green tape' and a watering down of environmental protections in Australia. At present, the EPBC Act makes no mention of wilderness or wilderness values. Our submission presents a broad, detailed and comprehensively researched argument for the protection of Australia's remaining wilderness areas, stressing their ecological as well as recreational and other anthropocentric values.
Submission to the review
of the
Environment Protection and Biodiversity
Conservation Act 1999
Martin Hawes & Grant Dixon
March 2020
About the authors
Martin Hawes and Grant Dixon have a combined 60 years of experience in wilderness management,
research and advocacy, both in government land-management agencies and in the private sector.
They also have over a century of direct experience of wilderness, both in Australia and
internationally. They have authored numerous reports, submissions and peer-reviewed publications
on the topic of this submission, including the book Refining the definition of wilderness:
Safeguarding the experiential and ecological values of remote natural land, a pdf of which has been
appended to this submission. More detail about the authors is provided in Section 1. Key
publications by the authors are listed in the references.
Acknowledgments
Work on this submission was supported by donations from Ross Knowles, S. M. Brenan, and the
Wahroonga Fund of the Australian Communities Foundation. Donations were sought via the
Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network, and were auspiced by the Bob Brown Foundation.
We are grateful to Phillipa McCormack, Jonathan Miller, and Geoff Mosley for their assistance in
preparing this submission.
Cover Photo: Arthur Range, Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Photo by Grant Dixon.
EPBC Act Review 2020 – Submission by Martin Hawes & Grant Dixon
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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
This is a submission to the 2020 review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation
Act 1999 (henceforth referred to as ‘the EPBC Act’ or simply ‘the Act’) by independent wilderness
researchers Martin Hawes and Grant Dixon.
We argue that the EPBC Act should be amended to ensure, as far as possible, the protection of
Australia’s remaining wilderness areas1.
These wilderness areas have ecological, experiential, cultural and Indigenous values of national and
international significance. In particular, they provide vital ecosystem services including climate
change mitigation, carbon sequestration and the protection of biodiversity.
The protection of wilderness areas is the cornerstone for maintaining ecosystem integrity and for
protecting ecological values on a landscape scale.
Existing federal and state frameworks for protecting wilderness in Australia are inadequate. The
status or condition of many wilderness areas is being degraded by or is at risk from developments
such as mining and inappropriate tourism development.
We recommend that wilderness conservation be listed in the EPBC Act as an explicit object of the
Act and as a Matter of National Environmental Significance.
Additionally, we make specific recommendations that the Act be amended to achieve the following:
a) Include a definition of wilderness that defines wilderness in terms of its inherent
characteristics (such as naturalness and remoteness) regardless of its management status;
that reflects the experiential, cultural, ecological and Indigenous values of wilderness; and
that explicitly incorporates naturalness, remoteness and primitiveness as defining
characteristics of wilderness.
b) Specify explicit and measurable thresholds that distinguish wilderness from non-wilderness.
c) Acknowledge the values and significance of wilderness.
d) Acknowledge that Australia’s wilderness areas have national and global significance.
e) Acknowledge that wilderness contributes to and enhances World Heritage and National
Heritage values.
f) Specify statutory management principles for wilderness and for designated wilderness
protected areas. (See A8.12 for a definition of the term ‘wilderness protected area’.)
g) Encourage and facilitate the restoration of wilderness.
1 In this submission we address the issue of land-based wilderness only.
2 Unless otherwise indicated, numbered references in this submission refer to sections in this submission or its
appendix. The prefix A refers to sections in the appendix, e.g. ‘A1.3’. References to sections of the EPBC Act or
its Regulations are indicated with bold blue typeface, e.g. ‘3(1)’.
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With the exception of Indigenous3 land or land that is subject to current formal claims for Indigenous
ownership or other legally defined interests:
h) Require that nationwide assessments of the extent and Wild Character (as defined in A7.1.4)
of Australia’s wilderness areas be undertaken every ten years.
i) Classify as ‘controlled actions’ actions that will or may reduce the extent of wilderness areas
(regardless of their formal management status), or otherwise adversely affect their Wild
Character.
j) Require that the likely impacts of actions that may adversely affect the Wild Character of
wilderness areas be assessed using the NWI metric or a refined variant thereof.
k) Require the Minister to take all practical steps to prevent or, if prevention is impractical, to
minimise reductions in the extent or Wild Character of wilderness areas.
On Indigenous land or land that is subject to current formal claims for Indigenous ownership or other
legally defined interests:
l) Require the Commonwealth to approach the relevant Indigenous parties to explore options
to protect wilderness and wilderness values on such land and, where relevant, in areas
adjacent to such land whose remoteness and Wild Character could be adversely affected by
developments on such land.
Section 2 of this submission summarises the reasons why Australia’s wilderness areas should be
protected under the EPBC Act.
Section 3 lists our recommended amendments to the EPBC Act and its Regulations.
Section 4 lists our responses to some of the questions raised in Professor Samuel’s Discussion Paper.
The Appendix to this submission contains details relating to the definition, values and status of
wilderness, existing legal frameworks for wilderness protection, the risk of cumulative wilderness
loss, the implications of defining wilderness to be remote, methodologies for measuring, mapping
and delineating wilderness, and wilderness restoration. The Appendix also includes references.
3 Throughout this submission, the word ‘Indigenous’, when used in an Australian context, refers to both
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
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CONTENTS
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ........................................................................................................ 1
1. ABOUT THE AUTHORS ................................................................................................. 7
2. WHY THE EPBC ACT SHOULD BE AMENDED TO PROTECT WILDERNESS ........................ 8
3. RECOMMENDED AMENDMENTS TO THE EPBC ACT ..................................................... 9
4. RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS RAISED IN THE DISCUSSION PAPER ................................ 14
APPENDIX: DETAILS AND REFERENCES .............................................................................. 16
A1 DEFINITION OF WILDERNESS ..................................................................................... 16
A1.1 The need for a definition ................................................................................................ 16
A1.2 Accepted meanings of ‘wilderness’ ................................................................................ 16
A1.2.1 Broadly accepted meaning ..................................................................................... 16
A1.2.2 Meaning of ‘wilderness’ in an Australian context .................................................. 16
A1.3 The significance of remoteness ...................................................................................... 17
A1.3.1 The meaning of ‘remoteness’ ................................................................................ 17
A1.3.2 Remoteness and wilderness values generally ....................................................... 17
A1.3.3 Remoteness and ecological values......................................................................... 17
A1.3.4 Remoteness and experiential values ..................................................................... 17
A1.3.5 Remoteness and primitiveness .............................................................................. 17
A1.3.6 Relationship between remoteness and the size and shape of wild areas ............. 18
A1.3.7 Remoteness and cultural/Indigenous values ......................................................... 19
A1.4 De facto and de jure definitions of wilderness................................................................ 19
A1.4.1 The difference between de facto and de jure definitions ..................................... 19
A1.4.2 Examples of de facto and de jure definitions......................................................... 19
A1.4.3 Both types of definition are necessary .................................................................. 19
A1.4.4 De facto/de jure definitions and remoteness ........................................................ 20
A1.5 Our recommended definition of wilderness ................................................................... 20
A1.5.1 Core of the definition ............................................................................................. 20
A1.5.2 Compatibility of wilderness with Indigenous use .................................................. 20
A2 VALUES OF WILDERNESS ........................................................................................... 22
A2.1 Overview ....................................................................................................................... 22
A2.2 Ecological values of wilderness ...................................................................................... 22
A2.2.1 Role in the maintenance of terrestrial life ............................................................. 22
A2.2.2 Evolutionary processes can continue unhindered ................................................. 22
A2.2.3 Protection of biodiversity ....................................................................................... 22
A2.2.4 Protection of habitats and species ......................................................................... 22
A2.2.5 Buffers against climate change .............................................................................. 23
A2.2.6 Intactness ............................................................................................................... 23
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A2.2.7 Wilderness areas provide ecosystem services ....................................................... 23
A2.2.8 Remoteness from roads ......................................................................................... 23
A2.2.9 Protection from edge effects ................................................................................. 23
A2.2.10 Protection from direct human impacts .................................................................. 23
A2.2.11 Landscape-scale conservation ............................................................................... 23
A2.2.12 Wilderness conservation as proactive ................................................................... 24
A2.3 Experiential values of wilderness ................................................................................... 24
A2.3.1 Self-reliant recreation ............................................................................................ 24
A2.3.2 Inspiration and spiritual values .............................................................................. 25
A2.3.3 Largeness enhances the experience of wildness ................................................... 25
A2.4 Cultural and Indigenous values of wilderness ................................................................. 25
A2.4.1 Wilderness represents an essential dimension of culture ..................................... 25
A2.4.2 Intangible values .................................................................................................... 25
A2.4.3 Education and ethics .............................................................................................. 25
A2.4.4 Indigenous values ................................................................................................... 25
A2.4.5 Intrinsic value of wilderness ................................................................................... 26
A2.4.6 Wilderness as emblematic of human restraint ...................................................... 26
A2.5 Social and health benefits of wilderness ........................................................................ 26
A2.5.1 Social benefits ........................................................................................................ 26
A2.5.2 Wilderness therapy ................................................................................................ 26
A2.5.3 Wilderness and mental health ............................................................................... 26
A2.5.4 Wilderness and Indigenous health ......................................................................... 27
A2.6 Contribution of Australia’s wilderness to National Heritage and World Heritage values . 27
A2.6.1 National Heritage and World Heritage areas containing wilderness ..................... 27
A2.6.2 Wilderness contributes to World Heritage values ................................................. 27
A2.6.3 Wilderness contributes to National Heritage values ............................................. 27
A2.6.4 Examples ................................................................................................................ 28
A3 EXTENT AND STATUS OF WILDERNESS ....................................................................... 29
A3.1 Status of wilderness globally .......................................................................................... 29
A3.1.1 Area remaining as wilderness ................................................................................ 29
A3.1.2 Extent of recent wilderness loss ............................................................................ 29
A3.1.3 Global significance of Australian wilderness .......................................................... 29
A3.2 Status of wilderness in Australia .................................................................................... 29
A3.2.1 Area of wilderness in Australia .............................................................................. 29
A3.2.2 Wilderness in designated wilderness areas and national parks ............................ 29
A3.2.3 Unprotected wilderness areas ............................................................................... 29
A3.2.4 Some wilderness areas traverse state boundaries ................................................ 30
A4 EXISTING LEGAL FRAMEWORKS FOR WILDERNESS PROTECTION ............................... 32
A4.1 The EPBC Act .................................................................................................................. 32
A4.2 New South Wales ........................................................................................................... 32
A4.3 South Australia .............................................................................................................. 33
A4.4 Western Australia .......................................................................................................... 33
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A4.5 Victoria .......................................................................................................................... 33
A4.6 Tasmania ....................................................................................................................... 33
A5 THE RISK OF CUMULATIVE WILDERNESS LOSS ........................................................... 34
A5.1 Cumulative degradation of World Heritage and National Heritage values ...................... 34
A5.2 Cumulative degradation of wilderness values ................................................................ 34
A6 IMPLICATIONS OF DEFINING WILDERNESS TO BE REMOTE ........................................ 35
A6.1 The terms ‘remoting buffer’ and ‘wilderness region’ ...................................................... 35
A6.2 Management implications of defining wilderness to be remote ..................................... 35
A6.3 Implications for the ecological values of wilderness protected areas .............................. 35
A6.4 Implications for other values of wilderness protected areas........................................... 36
A7 MEASURING, MAPPING AND DELINEATING WILDERNESS .......................................... 37
A7.1 The National Wilderness Inventory metric ..................................................................... 37
A7.1.1 Development of the metric .................................................................................... 37
A7.1.2 International use of the metric .............................................................................. 37
A7.1.3 Description of the metric ....................................................................................... 37
A7.1.4 Wild Character ....................................................................................................... 37
A7.2 Delineating wilderness ................................................................................................... 37
A7.2.1 The need to delineate wilderness .......................................................................... 37
A7.2.2 Use of the NWI metric for delineating wilderness ................................................. 38
A7.2.3 Proposed 5 km/half-day rule for delineating wilderness ....................................... 38
A7.2.4 Examples of previous use of the 5 km delineation rule ......................................... 38
A7.2.5 Examples of previous use of the half-day delineation rule .................................... 39
A7.3 Potential for setting national standards for wilderness preservation .............................. 39
A8 WILDERNESS PROTECTED AREAS: RATIONALE, DESIGN AND MANAGEMENT ............. 40
A8.1 Meaning of the term ‘wilderness protected area’ .......................................................... 40
A8.2 Rationale for wilderness protected areas ....................................................................... 40
A8.3 Design of wilderness protected areas ............................................................................. 40
A8.4 Land tenure of wilderness protected areas .................................................................... 41
A8.5 Management of wilderness protected areas .................................................................. 41
A8.5.1 Maintenance of Wild Character ............................................................................. 41
A8.5.2 Other management requirements ......................................................................... 41
A9 WILDERNESS RESTORATION ...................................................................................... 42
A9.1 Approaches to wilderness restoration ............................................................................ 42
A9.2 Restoring remoteness .................................................................................................... 42
A9.3 Restoring naturalness .................................................................................................... 42
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A9.4 Timescales for restoration .............................................................................................. 42
A9.5 Ecological advantages of wilderness restoration ............................................................ 42
A9.6 Examples of past wilderness restoration ........................................................................ 43
A9.7 Examples of potential future wilderness restoration ...................................................... 43
REFERENCES ..................................................................................................................... 44
ATTACHMENTS ................................................................................................................. 48
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1. ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Martin Hawes and Grant Dixon are independent Tasmanian-based wilderness researchers
with 60 years’ combined experience in wilderness management and advocacy. They are
the authors of numerous articles, reports and research papers on wilderness-related
subjects4 and are members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
World Commission on Protected Areas.
Martin and Grant have particular expertise in the field of wilderness definition, assessment
and mapping. In 2005 they were commissioned by the Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife Service
(PWS) to assess the wilderness values of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area
using the original and modified versions of the National Wilderness Inventory metric
(Hawes et al. 2015; see A7.1). The PWS commissioned Martin to repeat the task in 2015
(DPIPWE 2016).
Martin and Grant have had three papers accepted for presentation at the 11th World
Wilderness Congress in Jaipur in March 2020 (now postponed due to the Covid-19 virus.)
Their book Refining the definition of wilderness: Safeguarding the experiential and
ecological values of remote natural land, which was co-authored with Chris Bell, was
published in 2018. A pdf of this book is attached to this submission.
Martin was engaged in 2019 as an expert witness on wilderness values to the Tasmanian
Resource Management and Planning Appeals Tribunal (RMPAT) appeal relating to a
proposed remote-area luxury tourism development in the Tasmanian Wilderness World
Heritage Area. His witness statement included an exhaustive analysis of the wilderness
values of the affected region, and of the likely impacts of the proposed development on
those wilderness values.
4 See for example Hawes & Heatley 1984; Dixon 1990; Dixon et al. 2016; Hawes 2017; Dixon 2017; and Hawes
& Dixon 2018.
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2. WHY THE EPBC ACT SHOULD BE AMENDED TO PROTECT WILDERNESS
The case for protecting and restoring Australia’s wilderness areas under the EPBC Act
(henceforth referred to as ‘the Act’) can be summarised as follows. The following
statements are justified in detail, and with references, in the Appendix.
2.1 Australia’s wilderness areas have ecological, experiential, cultural and Indigenous values of
national & international significance (see A2).
2.2 Wilderness areas provide vital ecosystem services including climate change mitigation,
carbon sequestration and the protection of biodiversity (A2.2.7).
2.3 Wilderness protected areas (i.e. areas whose design and function includes the protection
of wilderness, as defined in A1.5) are inherently well suited for protecting ecosystem
integrity and ecological values on a landscape scale (A6.3).
2.4 Wilderness protection is an essentially proactive, rather than reactive, approach to nature
conservation (A2.2.12).
2.5 Wilderness restoration is an effective and efficient way of restoring ecological integrity and
connectivity on a landscape scale (A9.5).
2.6 Existing federal and state frameworks for protecting wilderness in Australia are inadequate
(A3.2.2, A 3.2.3).
2.7 Many Australian wilderness areas, and/or the values associated with those areas, are
under threat from developments such as logging and tourism development (A3.2.3).
2.8 Federal legislation would ensure a uniform and consistent approach to the definition,
protection and monitoring of wilderness throughout Australia.
2.9 Some of Australia’s wilderness areas traverse state boundaries (A3.2.4).
2.10 Wilderness protection under the Act would allow the establishment of national standards
with direct relevance to ecological objectives such as climate change mitigation and
conservation of biodiversity (A2.2.3, A2.2.5).
2.11 A legal framework for wilderness protection can incorporate and build on extensive pre-
existing mechanisms and standards for defining, mapping, monitoring and managing
wilderness (7.3).
2.12 Existing methodologies for wilderness mapping provide the means for making objective
assessments of landscape conditions linked to measurable and definite outcomes (7.1,
7.3).
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3. RECOMMENDED AMENDMENTS TO THE EPBC ACT
We recommend the following amendments to the Act and its Regulations:
3.1 Include a definition of wilderness
The definition should:
Define wilderness in terms of its inherent characteristics (such as naturalness and
remoteness), regardless of its management status (see A1.4.1).
Reflect the ecological, experiential, Indigenous, and cultural values of wilderness
(see A2).
Explicitly incorporate naturalness, remoteness and primitiveness as defining
characteristics of wilderness.
Relevant section of the Act: 528.
George Gill Range escarpment, Watarrka National Park, Northern Territory. Photo by Grant Dixon.
The Act should acknowledge that most areas in Australia identified by this definition as
wilderness have been for tens of thousands of years, and in many cases still are, inhabited,
utilised, modified and managed by Indigenous people. It should also acknowledge that
Indigenous people have deep cultural and spiritual affiliations with areas thus identified as
wilderness.
See A1.5 for our recommended definition of wilderness.
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3.2 Specify explicit and measurable thresholds that distinguish wilderness from non-
wilderness
We recommend (see A7.2) that areas be identified as wilderness, and thus trigger
provisions in the Act to protect Matters of National Environmental Significance, if they are
at least:
5 km remote in linear distance from the nearest major infrastructure and major
landscape disturbance (as defined in A7.2.3) and
Half a day remote by non-mechanised travel from the nearest point of mechanised
access (as defined in A7.2.3).
Relevant section of the Act: 528.
3.3 Acknowledge the values and significance of wilderness
See A2.
Relevant sections of the Act: The values and significance of wilderness should be
acknowledged (if only briefly) in the new objects clause that we recommend (3(1);
see 3.6 below). Such acknowledgement could also form part of the list of wilderness
management principles in the Regulations (e.g. that a wilderness management plan
must identify the values and significance of the relevant wilderness area, and explain
the management actions that will be taken to protect those values and that
significance). The detail associated with this acknowledgment could be well-suited
to a policy statement under the Act (https://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/policy-
statements).
3.4 Acknowledge that Australia’s wilderness areas have national and global significance
See A3.1.3.
Relevant sections of the Act: The management principles, particularly the Australian
World Heritage management principles (323) and National Heritage Management
Principles (Act 324Y).
New section covering wilderness areas that are not currently listed as World
Heritage or National Heritage.
3.5 Acknowledge that wilderness contributes to and enhances World Heritage and National
Heritage values
The Act should acknowledge that wilderness areas in World Heritage sites and
National Heritage sites contributes to and enhances the World Heritage and
National Heritage values of those sites, specifically those listed in A2.6.
Relevant sections of the Act: The Australian World Heritage management principles
(323) and National Heritage Management Principles (324Y).
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3.6 Include wilderness protection as an explicit object of the Act
Relevant section of the Act: 3(1).
3.7 List wilderness protection as a Matter of National Environmental Significance
Relevant section of the Act: Part 3 Division 1.
3.8 Include a new section in Part 15 of the Act, specifying that ‘the Regulations must
prescribe management principles for wilderness and wilderness protected areas’
Relevant section of the Act: Part 15. In the same form as provisions for World
Heritage Areas (323) and National Heritage Places (324Y).
3.9 Specify statutory management principles for wilderness and wilderness protected areas
Key management principles for wilderness include the following:
Protecting wilderness requires protecting its naturalness, remoteness and
primitiveness. ‘Naturalness’ in this context does not exclude ecological and
landscape conditions resulting from traditional Indigenous occupation and use of the
land.
Maintaining the remoteness of wilderness implies requiring that wilderness areas be
surrounded by remoting buffers (see A6.1) that are free of major infrastructure and
mechanised access (as defined in A7.2.3).
Wilderness can and should be measured using the National Wilderness Inventory
(NWI) metric or a refined variant thereof (see A7.1). The NWI metric is a measure of
the geospatial characteristics of a location or area (such as ground cover category
and distance from roads) that contribute to its naturalness, remoteness and
primitiveness. The NWI metric and variants thereof have been widely used to
measure the extent and quality of wilderness both within Australia and
internationally.
The Act should acknowledge that the NWI metric has been refined and can be
further refined5 to take account of factors (such as viewshed disturbances) that
affect the ecological, experiential and other values associated with wilderness.
We recommend the use of the term ‘Wild Character’ to refer to the quantity that is
calculated using the NWI metric (see A7.1.4).
See also A8.5.
Relevant sections of the Act: Regulations.
5 See for example Hawes et al. (2015) and Chapter 8 of Hawes et al. (2018).
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3.10 Encourage and facilitate the restoration of wilderness
See A9.
Relevant sections of the Act: New section required.
With the exception of Indigenous land or land that is subject to current formal claims for
Indigenous ownership or other legally defined interests:
3.11 Require periodic nationwide assessments of Wild Character
The Act should require that nationwide assessments of the extent and Wild
Character of Australia’s wilderness areas be undertaken every ten years.
These assessments should be undertaken using the NWI metric or a refined variant
thereof.
Relevant sections of the Act: May require new section.
3.12 Classify as ‘controlled actions’ actions that will or may reduce the extent of wilderness
areas or otherwise adversely affect their Wild Character
Such classification should apply regardless of the management status of the
wilderness areas in question.
Relevant sections of the Act: Part 7 Division 1.
3.13 Require that the likely impacts of actions that may adversely affect the Wild Character of
wilderness areas be assessed using the NWI metric or a refined variant thereof.
This requirement should apply regardless of the management status of the
wilderness areas in question.
Relevant sections of the Act: Probably best incorporated in a Policy Statement.
3.14 Require the Minister to take all practical steps to prevent or, if prevention is impractical,
to minimise reductions in the extent or Wild Character of wilderness areas.
Relevant sections of the Act: New section required.
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On Indigenous land or land that is subject to current formal claims for Indigenous
ownership or other legally defined interests:
3.15 Require the Commonwealth to approach the relevant Indigenous parties to explore
options to protect wilderness and wilderness values on such land and, where relevant, in
areas adjacent to such land whose remoteness and Wild Character could be adversely
affected by developments on such land.
Relevant sections of the Act: Principle of management in the Regulations.
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4. RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS RAISED IN THE DISCUSSION PAPER
Q1 Should the EPBC Act be expanded to add further MNES?
Yes. Wilderness protection should be added to the list of MNES.
Q2 How could the principle of ecologically sustainable development (ESD) be better
reflected in the EPBC Act?
For the reasons given in A2.2, protecting Australia’s remaining wilderness areas and
restoring wilderness areas would significantly improve the prospects for ecological
sustainability in Australia.
Wilderness by definition is land that is largely free of modern technological development6.
Indeed, its undeveloped condition is one of its key values (A2.2, A2.3). Hence, the principle
of ecologically sustainable development (ESD) can be better reflected in the Act by
protecting and restoring wilderness areas and by maintaining them in a largely
undeveloped condition.
Q3 Should the objects of the EPBC Act be more specific?
Yes. Wilderness protection should be explicitly listed as an object (see 3.6).
Q4 Should the matters of national environmental significance within the EPBC Act be
changed? How?
See response to Q1.
Q9 Should the EPBC Act position the Commonwealth to take a stronger role in delivering
environmental and heritage outcomes in our federated system?...How do we know if
outcomes are being achieved?
Wilderness can be objectively monitored and mapped (A7).
Periodic nationwide mapping of the extent and Wild Character of Australia’s wilderness
areas would provide objective and definitive information on the extent to which these
areas, and the wilderness values associated with them, are being protected.
Q10 Should there be a greater role for national environmental standards in achieving the
outcomes the EPBC Act seeks to achieve? In our federated system should they be
prescribed through:
Non-binding policy and strategies?
… with the Commonwealth taking a monitoring and assurance role?
6 Wilderness may include low-key infrastructure for management, cultural and recreation purposes, such as
walking tracks and management-only helipads. However, the management objectives for wilderness should
including restricting such infrastructure and excluding it entirely from high-value (i.e. high Wild Character – see
A7.1.4) wilderness areas.
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Non-binding policy and strategies will almost certainly be insufficient.
The national standard for wilderness protection should be that the extent and Wild
Character of all existing wilderness areas are to be maintained. This standard should be
enforced except on Indigenous land and land under current formal claims of Indigenous
ownership or other legally defined interests.
Q11 …Should the EPBC Act have a greater focus on restoration?
Yes: See 3.10.
How will we know if we’re successful?
We will know if wilderness restoration initiatives are successful by inventorying wilderness
and Wild Character nationally on a regular basis.
The EPBC Act could also include mechanisms for states to report on the progress of
restoration initiatives.
Q16 Should the Commonwealth’s regulatory role under the EPBC Act focus on habitat
management at a landscape-scale rather than species-specific protections?
Landscape-scale protection should be an important, although not the sole, focus of the Act.
Wilderness protection can play an important part in this, as it enhances and contributes to
the protection of habitats and other ecological values at a landscape scale.
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APPENDIX: DETAILS AND REFERENCES
A1 DEFINITION OF WILDERNESS
A1.1 The need for a definition
A clear definition of wilderness is an essential foundation for identifying and monitoring
wilderness and for protecting its associated values (Hawes et al. 2018). However, there is
currently no single agreed definition of wilderness, either within Australia or
internationally (Carver et al. 2016).
A1.2 Accepted meanings of ‘wilderness’
A1.2.1 Broadly accepted meaning
In a legal, academic and land management context, the word ‘wilderness’ is generally
associated with extensive tracts of largely natural and undeveloped country. For example,
the European Commission defines a wilderness area as
…an area governed by natural processes. It is composed of native habitats and
species, and large enough for the effective ecological functioning of natural
processes. It is unmodified or only slightly modified and without intrusive or
extractive human activity, settlements, infrastructure or visual disturbance.
A1.2.2 Meaning of ‘wilderness’ in an Australian context
In an Australian context, wilderness is generally associated with naturalness and
remoteness. For example, in the 1990s the Australian Heritage Commission defined a
wilderness area (Robertson et al. 1992) as
…an area that is, or is capable of being restored to be: of sufficient size to enable
long term preservation of its natural systems and biological diversity;
substantially undisturbed by colonial and modern technological society; and
remote at its core from points of mechanised access and other evidence of
colonial and modern technological society.
The National Forest Policy Statement (Commonwealth of Australia 1995) defined
wilderness as
land that, together with its plant and animal communities, is in a state that has
not been substantially modified by, and is remote from, the influences of
European settlement or is capable of being restored to such a state; is of
sufficient size to make its maintenance in such a state feasible; and is capable of
providing opportunities for solitude and self-reliant recreation.
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Similarly, the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area Management Plan 2016 (DPIPWE
2016) defines a wilderness area as
…an area that is of sufficient size, remoteness and naturalness to enable the
long-term integrity of its natural systems, diversity and processes, the
maintenance of cultural landscapes and the provision of a wilderness
recreational experience.
The recognition of naturalness and remoteness as the defining characteristics of wilderness
underpins the National Wilderness Inventory approach to measuring and mapping
wilderness (see A7.1).
A1.3 The significance of remoteness
A1.3.1 The meaning of ‘remoteness’
Remoteness can be defined and measured in various ways, and relative to various types of
physical and anthropogenic features. The two types of remoteness commonly considered
in wilderness assessments are linear (map) remoteness from features such as roads, dams
and settlements, and time remoteness from points of mechanised access.
A1.3.2 Remoteness and wilderness values generally
The values of wilderness can be broadly categorised as ecological, experiential, cultural and
Indigenous (see A2). The remoteness of wilderness contributes to all of these values, as
explained below.
A1.3.3 Remoteness and ecological values
Physical distance from disturbed areas such as logging areas and land cleared for
agriculture helps to isolate and insulate a location or area from ecological disturbances
such as anthropogenic fire, air and water pollution, and invasive species (Landres 2013).
The access-time remoteness of a location or area helps to protect it from impacts such as
poaching and recreational trampling (Hawes et al. 2018).
A1.3.4 Remoteness and experiential values
Remote areas are places where the visitor can stand with their senses steeped in nature,
isolated from the demands, distractions, and physical evidence of the modern
technological world (Hawes et al. 2018). Access to such places requires challenging, self-
reliant journeys: journeys that help to re-attune the mind and body to the energies and
rhythms of the natural world from which and in which humanity emerged and evolved. The
sense of remoteness is essential to the ‘wilderness experience’: the experience of finding
oneself both immersed in and intimately connected to the vastness of primeval nature.
A1.3.5 Remoteness and primitiveness
The concept of remoteness is strongly linked to that of primitiveness, the word ‘primitive’
implying lack of evidence of modern technological society. Such evidence can include
factors such as the presence of recreational infrastructure (such as walkers’ huts) and the
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sight and noise of aircraft overflights. Evidence of this nature is strongly dependent on
proximity to/remoteness from the infrastructure or disturbance in question. For example,
the impact of a building, or of regular overflights, on the primitiveness of a location will be
dependent on their remoteness from that location.
A1.3.6 Relationship between remoteness and the size and shape of wild areas
Most existing definitions of wilderness require wilderness areas to be large. However, by
itself the largeness of an area says nothing about the remoteness of the localities within it.
The latter are a function of the scale of an area, the orientation of its boundaries (i.e. its
shape), and the location of intrusions such as buildings and vehicle tracks. For example, a
large area could potentially have a ‘starfish’ shape with a high boundary-to-area ratio, and
contain little if any remote country (see Figures 1 and 2). Similarly, the construction of a
publicly accessible helipad in a previously remote area would substantially reduce the
remoteness of the surrounding country, although it would make little difference to the
areal extent of physically disturbed country.
Fig 1. Regions 1 and 2 have identical area. Red lines indicate roads.
Fig 2. Remoteness isolines illustrate that Region 1 encompasses more remote country, and areas with higher
remoteness, than Region 2.
If wilderness is defined to be remote, as we recommend (A1.5), wilderness protected areas
must encompass regions that include wilderness areas together with their remoting
buffers (A6.1). Such regions will not only be large but will also have a high degree of
connectivity and integrity, in the sense that they will comprise large, non-fragmented,
convex tracts of undeveloped country.
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A1.3.7 Remoteness and cultural/Indigenous values
Tracts of country of the sort described in the previous paragraph have characteristics that
are widely associated with the recreational and cultural values of wilderness:
characteristics that are perhaps best summarised by Aldo Leopold’s phrase ‘a blank spot on
the map’ (Leopold 1949). Many people value the existence of areas that are wild,
extensive, free from development and relatively inaccessible. This is illustrated, for
example, by the widespread public opposition to current proposals to construct a
helicopter-accessible ‘luxury standing camp’ at Lake Malbena in Tasmania’s Central
Highlands (Law 2019).
Remoteness can protect cultural and archaeological features (such as sacred sites) from
impacts such as theft, vandalism, and unsanctioned visitation (DPIPWE 2016).
Areas designed and managed to protect remoteness will necessarily have spatial
characteristics such as extensiveness and connectivity that contribute to landscape
integrity (see A6.3), which in turn can contribute to the area’s value from a cultural and
Indigenous perspective.
A1.4 De facto and de jure definitions of wilderness
A1.4.1 The difference between de facto and de jure definitions
It is important to draw a clear distinction between de facto and de jure definitions of
wilderness. The former define wilderness based on its inherent characteristics, regardless
of its management status. The latter define a category of land management, together with
the management objectives and specifications that are associated with that category.
A1.4.2 Examples of de facto and de jure definitions
The definitions of ‘wilderness’ and ‘wilderness area’ cited in A1.2 are all examples of de
facto definitions. By contrast, IUCN has adopted the following de jure definition of a
wilderness area (Dudley 2013):
Category Ib protected areas [i.e. wilderness areas] are usually large unmodified
or slightly modified areas, retaining their natural character and influence,
without permanent or significant human habitation, which are protected and
managed so as to preserve their natural condition. (Our emphasis.)
A1.4.3 Both types of definition are necessary
Both de facto and de jure definitions of wilderness are necessary for effective wilderness
protection and management.
A de facto definition is necessary for identifying, measuring, mapping, and monitoring
wilderness, regardless of its management status or level of protection.
A de jure definition is necessary for identifying and delineating areas that are to be
managed for wilderness protection, and for specifying the management objectives that are
to be pursued to achieve that objective.
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To avoid confusion, we recommend that the terms ‘wilderness’ and ‘wilderness area’ be
used exclusively in the de facto sense, and that the term ‘wilderness protected area’ be
reserved for de jure use.
Note that to effectively protect one or more wilderness areas, a wilderness protected area
must contain those areas and their associated remoting buffers (see A6.1).
A1.4.4 De facto/de jure definitions and remoteness
A problem with relying solely on de jure definitions such as the IUCN definition of a
‘wilderness area’ (A1.4.2) is that under such definitions, the boundaries of a ‘wilderness
area’ will frequently abut anthropogenic features such as roads and agricultural land.
Hence, not all of a ‘wilderness area’ will be remote, and in some cases, none of it will be.
Insisting that a ‘wilderness area’ contain remote country or be ‘remote at its core’ (see
A1.2.2) improves this situation, but it doesn’t avoid the possibility that parts of a
‘wilderness area’ thus defined may be neither remote nor serve as a remoting buffer to a
remote area.
The problem can be avoided by adopting, as we recommend, a de facto definition and
making remoteness a defining characteristic of wilderness (A1.5).
A1.5 Our recommended definition of wilderness
A1.5.1 Core of the definition
In our book Refining the definition of wilderness (Hawes et al. 2018) we propose defining
wilderness as follows:
Wilderness is land characterised by a high degree of
biophysical naturalness;
linear remoteness from infrastructure and landscape disturbances; and
time-remoteness from points of mechanised access
as well as having minimal evidence of modern technological society.
The terms used in this definition are explained in detail in chapter 7 of Refining the
definition of wilderness, which is attached to this submission as a pdf.
A1.5.2 Compatibility of wilderness with Indigenous use
Wilderness by the above definition can include areas that are or have been sustainably
inhabited, utilised and influenced by Indigenous people following traditional, wilderness-
based ways of life. In particular, the word ‘natural’ in this context does not exclude
ecological and landscape conditions resulting from traditional Indigenous occupation and
use of the land.
The protection of wilderness, as hereby defined, is compatible with the protection of
Indigenous heritage and with the involvement of Indigenous people in the management of
that heritage.
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Note that the terms ‘infrastructure’ and ‘landscape disturbances’ in this context are
defined in terms of their type and scale, not in terms of the cultural affiliations of the
people who use or create them. For example, by this definition an area containing a
campfire or small hut could qualify as a wilderness, whereas an area containing a vehicle
track could not7, regardless of who built or used these features.
Indigenous rock art, West Kimberly region, Western Australia. Photo by Grant Dixon.
7 Unless the vehicle track was obsolete, i.e. permanently closed to vehicular access.
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A2 VALUES OF WILDERNESS
A2.1 Overview
Wilderness has ecological, experiential, cultural, Indigenous and intrinsic values. These are
outlined in the following sections.
A2.2 Ecological values of wilderness
A2.2.1 Role in the maintenance of terrestrial life
Wilderness areas play an important role in the maintenance of the integrity of ecological
processes necessary for life on Earth, not least because they include the most natural land
remaining (Allan et al. 2020; Department of Conservation & Land Management (WA), ud).
A2.2.2 Evolutionary processes can continue unhindered
The Earth’s natural systems are under threat from human growth and inappropriate
development, climate change, and other environmental degradations. Wilderness areas
are places where ecosystem processes, including evolution, can continue largely
unhindered by human development (Dudley 2013). Protecting wilderness areas is a cost-
effective, natural solution to these threats that builds planetary resilience (Casson et al.
2016).
A2.2.3 Protection of biodiversity
All other factors being equal, landscapes with high Wild Character will better promote
nature conservation objectives than landscapes with low Wild Character (Mackey et al.
1998). Wilderness areas are now the only places that contain mixes of species at near-
natural levels of abundance (Watson et al. 2018). They act as a buffer against species loss,
the extinction risk for species within wilderness communities being on average less than
half that of species in non-wilderness communities (Di Marco et al. 2019). Wilderness
qualities, which contribute to habitat connectivity, make ecosystems resilient against most
of the important pressures affecting biodiversity, and help in achieving favourable
conservation status of many species and habitats (European Commission 2013).
A2.2.4 Protection of habitats and species
Wilderness areas are critical for wide-ranging and migratory species reliant on intact
ecosystems and their associated ecological processes. They also represent residual habitats
for disturbance-sensitive species and for those that have a conflictual coexistence with
humans, such as many of the world’s large carnivores (Watson et al. 2016).
As noted in the 1974 Report of the National Estate (Australia 1974):
…wildlife has the best chance of surviving in its diversity within wilderness areas,
whether reserved by zoning within national parks, or as a special category of
reservation.
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A2.2.5 Buffers against climate change
Because wilderness protected areas by definition are relatively large (see A6.3), they
possess greater ecological resilience (Mackey et al. 1998). In addition, they often span a
range of climatic gradients and therefore potentially provide refugia for certain species, or
can facilitate species migration, in the face of accelerated global climate change (ibid.).
A2.2.6 Intactness
Wilderness protected areas are characterised by a high degree of geographical and
ecological intactness (A6.3). Larger, more intact areas have high inherent connectivity and
offer opportunities for a more varied spectrum of habitats (Casson et al. 2016). They
therefore provide the best opportunities for effective long-term retention of species,
communities and ecological processes at minimum cost, including buffering against large-
scale threatening processes such as climate change and fire (European Commission 2013;
Lesslie 2016).
A2.2.7 Wilderness areas provide ecosystem services
Wilderness areas provide vital ecosystem services including buffering and regulating local
climates, water regulation, air quality, food security, nitrogen fixation, pollination, carbon
sequestration, and the protection of genetic diversity. They also serve as reference areas,
allowing scientists to compare less-modified natural landscapes with areas that have been
changed by modern human activity (Kormos et al. 2015, Mittermeier et al. 2003, Watson et
al. 2016, Watson et al. 2018.).
A2.2.8 Remoteness from roads
Being remote from roads, wilderness areas are protected from many of the ecological
impacts associated with roads and proximity to roads including traffic mortality, the
isolation and fragmentation of populations, and the enhanced dispersal of weeds and feral
animals (Mackey et al. 1998, Ibisch et al. 2016).
A2.2.9 Protection from edge effects
Being remote from areas subject to major anthropogenic disturbance, wilderness areas are
relatively protected from the effects of anthropogenic fires and pollution, and from edge
effects such as those associated with invasive weeds, pathogens and the drying out of
disturbed forests (White et al. 2000, Laurence et al. 2007).
A2.2.10 Protection from direct human impacts
Being remote from access, wilderness areas are less susceptible to impacts associated with
human access, such as trampling, firewood collection, poaching and foraging (Hawes et al.
2018).
A2.2.11 Landscape-scale conservation
Protecting wilderness implies protecting and managing natural systems on a landscape
scale. Wilderness protected areas alone are not adequate for nature conservation, but they
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are the cornerstone on which regional strategies for landscape-scale nature conservation
are built (Margules & Pressey 2000).
A2.2.12 Wilderness conservation as proactive
While measures to protect threatened species are undoubtedly necessary, excessive
emphasis on such measures has been dubbed ‘deathbed conservation’ because it neglects
the broader challenge of preventing population decline to the point of ‘threatened’ status
(Bastmeijer 2016), including the decline of currently abundant species and ecosystems
(Carver & Fritz 2016, Gregory et al. 2014). By contrast, wilderness conservation is
essentially proactive as it provides a high measure of protection to entire landscapes and
the entirety of the biota therein.
A2.3 Experiential values of wilderness
The term ‘experiential values’ refers here to values associated with the human experience
of wilderness, both direct and indirect.
Recreational rafting in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Photo by Grant Dixon.
A2.3.1 Self-reliant recreation
Wilderness areas provide settings for challenging self-reliant recreation in natural and
often beautiful and spectacular environments (Landres et al. 2015, New South Wales, ud).
The values associated with such recreation include physical and mental challenge,
companionship, solitude, freedom, and expressions of humility (Casson et al. 2016).
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A2.3.2 Inspiration and spiritual values
The experience of wilderness is often associated with spiritual values such aesthetic
beauty, awe, wonder, and connectedness, as well as the religious and philosophical
freedom associated with being in an environment that is separate or apart from everyday
society’s rules, regulations and mental pressures (Casson et al. 2016). Such experiences are
potentially profound and transformative (Ashley et al. 2013, Ewert et al. 2011).
A2.3.3 Largeness enhances the experience of wildness
The size of wilderness areas is important, as people identify spiritually with the wilderness
and feel emotionally bound to the landscape. The largeness of an area often determines
the perception of ‘wildness’, i.e. whether a visitor can experience solitude, wholeness and
other spiritual experiences (European Commission 2013). By our definition, wilderness
areas together with their associated remoting buffers (see A6.1) will inevitably be large:
specifically, at least as large as a circle of radius 5 km (i.e. 7,800 ha).
A2.4 Cultural and Indigenous values of wilderness
A2.4.1 Wilderness represents an essential dimension of culture
Wilderness represents an essential dimension of human culture, which is that humans, like
all other species, were born in the wilderness: they evolved for millions of years in caves,
woodlands and open savannahs (Casson et al. 2016). Wilderness areas are an invaluable
resource for inspiring cultural and artistic expression (European Commission 2013).
A2.4.2 Intangible values
Spiritual, ethical, psychological, democratic, and other intangible societal and individual
values and benefits are derived from wilderness settings (Landres et al. 2015). Such
settings provide avenues, either through the landscape itself or through the types of
activities typically engaged there, to change human attitudes, belief systems, and
behaviours (Ewert et al. 2011).
A2.4.3 Education and ethics
Other potential benefits of wilderness include spiritual growth/renewal of the human
spirit; improved environmental/ecological learning, education and appreciation; a
perception of one’s sense of fit in the grand scheme of things; and promotion of
environmental stewardship and ethics (Roggenbuck & Driver 2000).
A2.4.4 Indigenous values
Wilderness brings cultural and non-material benefits to both Indigenous and non-
Indigenous populations, such as solitude, respect for sacred sites, and respect for ancestors
(Dudley 2013). A wilderness area can be a sacred landscape or a sacred natural site, visited
by certain peoples or followers of a particular religion or spirituality (Casson et al. 2016).
Indigenous cultural values are evident in intangible knowledge associated with Australian
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wilderness areas including story, song, dance, language, kinship, custom, ceremony and
ritual (e.g. Aboriginal Heritage Tasmania, ud).
A2.4.5 Intrinsic value of wilderness
There is growing appreciation of the intrinsic value of nature and the importance of
respecting and protecting the diversity of life on Earth (Casson et al. 2016). Many people
believe that wilderness has a right to exist for its own sake; or, to put this another way,
that areas of the natural world that exist and flourish in a largely unaltered condition,
independently of human needs and desires, have intrinsic value (e.g. Curry 2011;
Thompson 2017).
A2.4.6 Wilderness as emblematic of human restraint
Wilderness by definition is land that is largely free of modern technological development.
As such, its continued existence stands as evidence of modern humanity’s capacity to curb
its acquisitiveness and exercise humility and restraint in its relationship with the natural
world (Landres et al. 2015).
A2.5 Social and health benefits of wilderness
Numerous studies have demonstrated social and psychological benefits connected with
wilderness experiences (Ewert 2011). These are summarised in the following sections.
A2.5.1 Social benefits
The social benefits associated with exposure to and experience of wilderness areas include
improved social skills, improved self-esteem, improved life outlook, personal
empowerment, decreased delinquency, improved sense of community, increased self-
awareness, increased ecological awareness, and improved capacity to deal with challenging
situations (Schuster 2004).
A2.5.2 Wilderness therapy
Wilderness therapy is widely employed as a treatment modality, particularly for troubled
and at-risk adolescents8 (Hill 2007).
A2.5.3 Wilderness and mental health
Studies have reported symptomatic improvements and decreased hospital readmission
rates for patients with mental health issues following exposure to wilderness environments
(Pawlowski 1993, Gabrielsen et al. 2018). A recent estimate of the mental health benefit of
natural areas (including, but not limited to, wilderness areas) put their value globally at
USD 6 trillion [sic] annually (Buckley et al. 2019).
8 Not all the areas employed for ‘wilderness therapy’ meet the standards of wilderness by our recommended
definition, but some certainly do. See for example https://www.dooloomai.org and
https://www.outwardbound.org.
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A2.5.4 Wilderness and Indigenous health
Many Indigenous peoples maintain a strong belief that continued association with and
caring for ancestral lands is a key determinant of health. Individual engagement with
Country provides opportunities for physical activity and improved diet as well as boosting
individual autonomy and self-esteem. Internationally, such culturally congruent health
promotion activities have been successful in programs targeting substance abuse and
chronic diseases (Burgess et al. 2005).
A2.6 Contribution of Australia’s wilderness to National Heritage and World Heritage values
A2.6.1 National Heritage and World Heritage areas containing wilderness
The following National Heritage sites in Australia contain wilderness areas. Asterisks
indicate sites that are also World Heritage areas.
Australian Alps National Parks and Reserves
Fitzgerald River National Park
Heard and McDonald Islands*
Kakadu National Park*
Macquarie Island*
Greater Blue Mountains*
Purnululu National Park*
Tasmanian Wilderness*
Wet Tropics of Queensland*
The West Kimberley
Australian Antarctic Territory
A2.6.2 Wilderness contributes to World Heritage values
Wilderness can contribute to and enhance the following values, which are listed as
qualifying values for World Heritage (UNESCO 2020):
exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or
which has disappeared (Value 3; see A1.3.7);
outstanding example of a traditional human settlement (Value 5; consider for
example the status of the Tasmanian Wilderness as an Aboriginal cultural
landscape – DPIPWE 2016);
exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance (Value 7);
on-going ecological and biological processes (Value 9; see A2.2);
the conservation of biological diversity (Value 10; see A2.2.7).
A2.6.3 Wilderness contributes to National Heritage values
Wilderness contributes to and enhances the following values, which are listed as qualifying
values for National Heritage listing (Department of Environment & Energy, ud):
possession of uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of Australia's natural or
cultural history (Item b; see A2.2.7);
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importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of Australia's
natural or cultural places (item d [i]);
importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of Australia's
natural or cultural environments (Item d [ii]);
particular aesthetic characteristics valued by a community or cultural group
(Item e);
outstanding heritage value to the nation because of the place's strong or special
association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or
spiritual reasons (Item g);
outstanding heritage value to the nation because of the place's importance as part
of Indigenous tradition (Item i).
A2.6.4 Examples
The following examples illustrate how wilderness contributes to the National Heritage and
World Heritage values of specific areas in Australia.
Wilderness is recognised as a significant value of the National Heritage listed
Australian Alps National Parks and Reserves, with over 20 per cent of these parks
zoned for wilderness protection (Parks Victoria 2016).
UNESCO has recognised that the exceptional biodiversity values of the Greater Blue
Mountains area are complemented by numerous other values, including wilderness
(UNESCO, ud).
The Purnululu National Park Management Plan refers to ‘the wilderness values for
which [the park] is renowned’ (Department of Conservation and Land Management
(WA), 1995).
The Australian government recognises the presence of ‘one of the largest rainforest
wilderness areas in Australia’ as a key value of the Wet Tropics of Queensland
(Department of Environment and Energy, ud).
The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area Management Plan 2016 (DPIPWE
2016) states:
It is this quality [i.e. wilderness] which underpins the success in meeting all
four [World Heritage] criteria for a natural property and is the basis for the
maintenance of its integrity.
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A3 EXTENT AND STATUS OF WILDERNESS
A3.1 Status of wilderness globally
A3.1.1 Area remaining as wilderness
Global studies indicate that a total of 30.1 million km2, or 23.2% of the world’s land area
remains as wilderness, with the majority located in North America, North Asia, North Africa
and Australia. This estimate excludes Antarctica and other ‘rock and ice’ and ‘lake’
ecoregions. In other words, 77% of land (excluding ‘rock and ice’ and ‘lake’ ecoregions) has
been modified by the direct effects of human activities (Watson et al. 2016).
A3.1.2 Extent of recent wilderness loss
Alarming losses comprising 3.3 million km2 or approximately 10 per cent of global
wilderness areas occurred during the period 1997-2016 (ibid.). Note that the criteria used
to delineate wilderness in calculating the foregoing estimates are different from our own
(see A7.2). However, at a global and continental scale the difference is unlikely to result in
a significant difference in the findings.
A3.1.3 Global significance of Australian wilderness
Australia is one of only five countries that collectively contain 70% of the world’s remaining
wilderness outside Antarctica (Watson et al. 2018).
A3.2 Status of wilderness in Australia
A3.2.1 Area of wilderness in Australia
According to the study referenced in A3.1, approximately 2.0 million km2 of Australia
remains as wilderness, or 26 per cent of the country’s land area (Watson et al. 2018; see
Map 1).
A3.2.2 Wilderness in designated wilderness areas and national parks
Much of Australia’s wilderness is located within designated wilderness areas, national
parks and World Heritage Areas. Examples include wilderness areas in the Avon Wilderness
Park, Kakadu National Park and the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. However,
such inclusion does not necessarily guarantee that the wilderness and its associated values
are protected. For example, a tourism development currently proposed in the Tasmanian
Wilderness World Heritage Area could degrade the remoteness and hence the wilderness
values of the area (Law 2018). At the time of writing, the legality of this development
remains under dispute.
A3.2.3 Unprotected wilderness areas
Significant areas of wilderness in Australia remain in areas that have no reserve status, or
have reserve status that is inadequate to protect wilderness values. Examples include
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wilderness areas in Tasmania’s takayna/Tarkine region (Dixon 2017) and much of the
Gibson Desert (Bastin & ACRIS 2008).
Unprotected wilderness in Tasmania’s takayna/Tarkine region. Photo by Martin Hawes.
A3.2.4 Some wilderness areas traverse state boundaries
Several wilderness areas in Australia lie across state boundaries. In particular, extensive
wilderness areas traverse the boundaries between Western Australia, South Australia and
the Northern Territory. Areas of wilderness also lie across the NSW/Queensland border,
the NSW/ACT border and the NSW/Victoria border.
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Map 1. Wilderness in Australia in 1993 (green & purple areas) and 2016 (green areas).
Source: University of Queensland School of Earth and Environmental Sciences.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/dec/21/losing-the-wilderness-a-tenth-has-gone-
since-1992-and-gone-for-good
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A4 EXISTING LEGAL FRAMEWORKS FOR WILDERNESS PROTECTION
A4.1 The EPBC Act
Wilderness is not mentioned in the main body of the EPBC Act. The EPBC Regulations list
‘Wilderness area (Category Ib)’ as one of the IUCN protected-area categories, and list the
IUCN management principles for this category (Regulations Schedule 8 Part 2).
The IUCN protected-area classification system has not been consistently and coherently
applied in the context of the Australian protected-area system. For example, while the
Yellabinna Wilderness Protection Area in SA and the Wollemi National Park in NSW have
been classed as Category Ib (i.e. ‘Wilderness’), many major protected areas containing
extensive wilderness have been classed in their entirety as Category II. Examples of the
latter include Kakadu National Park, Purnululu National Park, and the major national parks
that contain most of the wilderness of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.
(Source: Department of Environment and Energy 2018.)
The management principles for IUCN Category II protected areas include no specific
guidelines for wilderness protection (Dudley 2013).
A4.2 New South Wales
The Wilderness Act 1987 contains a de jure definition of a wilderness area, defining it as an
area so declared under the Act or under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. The Act
states that an area shall not be identified as wilderness unless:
a) the area is, together with its plant and animal communities, in a state
that has not been substantially modified by humans and their works or is
capable of being restored to such a state,
b) the area is of a sufficient size to make its maintenance in such a state
feasible, and
c) the area is capable of providing opportunities for solitude and
appropriate self-reliant recreation.
The Act lists the management principles for wilderness areas as:
a) to restore (if applicable) and to protect the unmodified state of the area
and its plant and animal communities,
b) to preserve the capacity of the area to evolve in the absence of
significant human interference, and
c) to permit opportunities for solitude and appropriate self-reliant
recreation (whether of a commercial nature or not).
The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 lists as an objective ‘the conservation of
landscapes and natural features of significance including wilderness and wild rivers’.
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A4.3 South Australia
The Wilderness Protection Act 1992 provides for ‘the protection of wilderness and the
restoration of land to its condition before European colonisation’. It identifies wilderness as
land that ‘must not have been affected, or must have been affected to only a minor extent,
by modern technology’ and ‘must not have been seriously affected by exotic animals or
plants or other exotic organisms’.
The Code of Management for Wilderness Protection Areas and Zones, established under
the Wilderness Protection Act 1992, includes as an objective:
To maximise the naturalness and remoteness, i.e. the wilderness quality, of
wilderness areas, and in particular…protect and, where practicable, enhance
wilderness quality. (Department of Environment and Heritage (SA) 2004).
A4.4 Western Australia
The Conservation and Land Management Act 1984 allows for areas to be classified as
‘wilderness areas’. The Department of Conservation and Land Management Policy
Statement No 62 defines ‘wilderness quality’ as ‘the extent to which a location is remote
from and undisturbed by the influence of modern technological society’. It defines a
‘wilderness area’ as ‘an area that has a wilderness quality rating of 12 or greater and meets
a minimum size threshold of 8,000 hectares in temperate areas or 20,000 hectares in arid
and tropical areas’.
Management policies for wilderness areas include the exclusion of mechanised transport
and aircraft landings except for rescue, fire emergency or essential management
operations, or reasons of cultural importance to rightful indigenous communities
(Department of Conservation & Land Management, ud).
A4.5 Victoria
The National Parks Act 1975 includes the objective ‘to make provision for the preservation
and protection of the natural environment, including wilderness areas and remote and
natural areas’. The Act makes provision for the creation of wilderness parks and for the
designation of areas as wilderness zones.
A4.6 Tasmania
The National Parks and Reserves Management Act 2002 includes as a management
objective for national parks ‘to preserve the natural, primitive and remote character of
wilderness areas’. The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area Management Plan 2016
(DPIPWE 2016) includes a de facto definition of a wilderness area (see A1.4) and zones
much of the TWWHA as Wilderness Zone, in which development is strongly restricted.
However, not all wilderness in the region is included in or adequately protected by the
zone.
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A5 THE RISK OF CUMULATIVE WILDERNESS LOSS
A5.1 Cumulative degradation of World Heritage and National Heritage values
The EPBC Act Regulations recognise the risk of cumulative degradation of World Heritage
and National Heritage values. Regulation 2B.01 (l) states:
A management plan for a declared or proposed World Heritage property or a
National Heritage place…must set out means by which the plan will seek to
prevent, or minimise the impacts of, any actions likely to degrade the relevant
World Heritage or National Heritage values, including actions leading to
cumulative degradation.
Regulation 10.01, 2.02 (d) states:
A management plan for a declared World Heritage property should…state
mechanisms to deal with the impacts of actions that individually or cumulatively
degrade, or threaten to degrade, the World Heritage values of the property.
Since wilderness contributes to World Heritage and National Heritage values (A2.6.2,
A2.6.3), the cumulative loss of wilderness in World Heritage and National Heritage listed
areas represents a cumulative loss of the values of these areas.
A5.2 Cumulative degradation of wilderness values
Cumulative impacts to the environment are the result of multiple activities whose
individual direct impacts may be relatively minor but in combination with others result are
significant environmental impacts (Clark 1994). Individual developments such as the
construction of walkers’ huts or remote-area helipads may have relatively minor impacts
on the extent and quality of wilderness areas, but the cumulative effect of such impacts
over time can lead to ever-increasing loss of wilderness.
Note that ‘compromise’ between wilderness protection and development generally implies
the loss of some wilderness or wilderness values (i.e. loss of Wild Character). Hence, over
time, the ostensibly acceptable approach of seeking compromise between wilderness
protection and development can lead to ever-increasing losses of wilderness.
While some losses are potentially reversible, impacts that involve physical disturbance to
wilderness areas and/or their remoting buffers may take decades or centuries to
rehabilitate, and may be irreparable (Leung & Marion 2000).
In view of (a) these risks, (b) the ecological and other values of wilderness, and (c) the
limited and decreasing extent of wilderness globally (Watson et al. 2016), developments
that will cause or are likely to cause further loss of wilderness or wilderness values should
rigorously restricted and prevented as far as possible.
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A6 IMPLICATIONS OF DEFINING WILDERNESS TO BE REMOTE
A6.1 The terms ‘remoting buffer’ and ‘wilderness region’
A key implication of defining wilderness to be remote (see A1.5) is that for wilderness to
exist, it must be surrounded by a tract of country (i.e. land or sea) that makes it remote.
We refer to the tract of country that serves this function as the remoting buffer of the
wilderness in question (see Map 2).
Note that the existence of the remoting buffer is not merely desirable; it is a logical
necessity of the wilderness being remote.
We use the term wilderness region to refer to a track of country that comprises one of
more wilderness areas together with their associated remoting buffers. Again, see Map 2.
Map 2. A wilderness region comprising a wilderness area together with its remoting buffer
A6.2 Management implications of defining wilderness to be remote
A secondary implication of defining wilderness to be remote is that for wilderness to be
protected, its remoteness must be protected. This in turn implies that its remoting buffer
must, like the wilderness itself, be kept free of major infrastructure and mechanised
access.
To effectively protect a wilderness area, a wilderness protected area must contain at a
minimum the entire wilderness region associated with that area.
A6.3 Implications for the ecological values of wilderness protected areas
Since wilderness protected areas must contain wilderness areas together with their
associated remoting buffers, they are necessarily:
Locally extensive and connected, in the sense that every part of them will lie in a
circle of country of radius equal to the threshold of remoteness that delineates the
wilderness (see A7.2.3);
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Large, for the same reason; and
Compact, in the sense of having a relatively low boundary to area ratio (since the
buffering process tends to smooth out the boundary).
Each of these properties is advantageous for protecting ecological values on a landscape
scale (Durán et al. 2016; Fischer & Church 2003; Nalle et al. 2002).
A6.4 Implications for other values of wilderness protected areas
As explained in A6.3, wilderness protected areas necessarily comprise extensive, intact
landscapes. These qualities contribute to the experiential and cultural values of wilderness
(see A1.3.7, A2.3.3), while landscape integrity (e.g. integrity of Country) can contribute to
Indigenous values (e.g. Altman 2003).
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A7 MEASURING, MAPPING AND DELINEATING WILDERNESS
A7.1 The National Wilderness Inventory metric
A7.1.1 Development of the metric
The National Wilderness Inventory (NWI) wilderness-assessment metric was developed by
the Australian Heritage Commission in the 1980s, and was used to assess wilderness values
across Australia (Lesslie & Maslen 1995). The metric was reused, along with a modified
version, to reassess wilderness values across the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage
Area in 2005 (Hawes et al. 2015) and in 2015 (DPIPWE 2016).
A7.1.2 International use of the metric
Variants of the NWI metric have been used for wilderness assessments in a wide range of
regions and countries including Europe (Kuiters et al. 2013), the United Kingdom (Carver,
Evans & Fritz 2002), Austria (Plutzar et al. 2016), Iceland (Ólafsdóttir et al. 2016), and China
(Cao et al. 2019).
A7.1.3 Description of the metric
The NWI metric calculates wilderness values as the sum of four variables, of which three
are measures of remoteness and the fourth is a measure of biophysical naturalness. Values
are calculated for each square in a grid of suitable resolution. The metric can be thought of
as a measure of ‘wildness’ across a spectrum ranging from ‘settled and developed’ to
‘highly remote and large undisturbed’ (Lesslie 2016). Variation in wildness across the
landscape can be measured using explicit, repeatable and quantitative methods (Mackey
et al. 1998).
A7.1.4 Wild Character
The quantity that is calculated using the NWI metric has been called by various names
including ‘Wilderness Quality’ (Lesslie & Maslen 1995), ‘Wilderness Value’ (DPIPWE 2016)
and ‘Wilderness Character’ (Jaeger & Sand 2015). We prefer and recommend the term
‘Wild Character’, partly because this term reflects the distinction between wildness, which
exists as a continuum, and wilderness, which designates an area that can be categorically
and cartographically distinguished from non-wilderness (Hawes et al. 2018).
A7.2 Delineating wilderness
A7.2.1 The need to delineate wilderness
Wilderness protection and management requires drawing lines on maps (Bastmeijer, 2016;
Carver & Fritz, 2016). The location of those lines should be based as far as possible on
objective criteria (Hawes et al. 2018). A key requirement is to have a reliable basis for
identifying which areas qualify for protection on the basis of their existing or potentially
restorable wilderness values. In short, one needs a clear and replicable basis for identifying
existing and potential wilderness areas.
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A7.2.2 Use of the NWI metric for delineating wilderness
One way to delineate wilderness is to set a threshold value of Wild Character (see A7.1.4).
This was done, for example, under the Tasmanian Regional Forests Agreement, in which
‘high value wilderness areas’ were characterised as areas having Wilderness Quality
greater than 12 (Public Land Use Commission 1997). The same threshold is specified in
Western Australia’s Conservation and Land Management Act 1984 (see A4.4).
The drawback of this approach is that owing to the complexity of the formulas used to
calculate what we are calling Wild Character, it becomes very difficult to determine the
extent and management requirements of the remoting buffers that are required to
maintain both the extent and Wild Character of the areas thus delineated.
A7.2.3 Proposed 5 km/half-day rule for delineating wilderness
In light of the difficulty noted in the previous section, we recommend delineating
wilderness as land that is at least 5 km remote from the nearest major infrastructure and
landscape disturbances, and half a day remote by non-mechanised travel from the nearest
point of mechanised access.
The rationale for specifying half-day remoteness is that accessing wilderness will
consequently require at least one overnight stay in primitive country.
The remoting buffer for an area of wilderness thus defined will consequently include all
areas that are less than 5 km or half a day remote from that area.
The terms ‘major infrastructure’, ‘major landscape disturbances’, ‘non-mechanised travel’
and ‘point of mechanised access’ must of course be rigorously defined. See the attached
book Refining the definition of wilderness, section 7.2, for more discussion on this point.
‘Major infrastructure’ will include features such as roads and vehicle tracks, dams,
settlements, and powerlines, but will exclude features such as walking tracks and small,
isolated buildings.
‘Major landscape disturbances’ will include disturbances such as cleared land and
intensively logged forests, but will generally exclude land affected by wildfires.
‘Point of mechanised access’ will include roads, vehicle tracks, aircraft landing sites and
navigable coastlines and waterways accessible to the general public. It will generally
exclude sites accessible only for management, emergency, or Indigenous cultural purposes.
A7.2.4 Examples of previous use of the 5 km delineation rule
Hawes and Heatley (1984) used an 8-km threshold to identify wilderness in Tasmania.
Hawes et al. (2018) recommend a 5 km/half-day threshold. Government wilderness
surveys in Iceland have identified wilderness areas on the basis of their being more than
2500 ha in extent and at least 5 km remote from any human structure or infrastructure
such as roads, buildings and dams (Ólafsdóttir et al. 2016). An earlier global reconnaissance
of wilderness set a much higher size threshold for wilderness (400,000 ha), but used a
similar threshold (6 km) for remoteness (McCloskey & Spalding, 1989).
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Research indicates that a significant percentage of the ecological impacts associated with
roads extends up to 5 km from them (Ibisch et al. 2016).
A7.2.5 Examples of previous use of the half-day delineation rule
In New Zealand, the ‘Wilderness’ opportunity class of the Recreation Opportunity
Spectrum is determined by a range of conditions including an access remoteness of at least
half a day’s walking time from the nearest motorised access point (Cessford & Dingwall
1997). In addition, The New Zealand Department of Conservation’s Visitor Strategy (1996)
requires that designated wilderness areas be large enough to take at least two day’s foot
travel (implying at least one overnight stay) to traverse.
A7.3 Potential for setting national standards for wilderness preservation
The adoption of a nationally applied definition of wilderness (see A1.5) and thresholds for
wilderness delineation (A7.2), together with the existence of objective and reproduceable
metrics for measuring wilderness (A7.1), would facilitate the development of national
standards for wilderness preservation. For example, standards could be set on a regional
basis, prohibiting reductions in the net area of wilderness, and prohibiting or strictly
limiting reductions in Wild Character within identified wilderness areas.
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A8 WILDERNESS PROTECTED AREAS: RATIONALE, DESIGN AND
MANAGEMENT
A8.1 Meaning of the term ‘wilderness protected area’
The term ‘wilderness protected area’ (WPA) is used here to mean a protected area the
management objectives for which include the protection of the wilderness values
(specifically the extent and Wild Character – see A7.1.4) of the wilderness areas that it
contains.
A8.2 Rationale for wilderness protected areas
Designating WPAs is likely to be the best way to ensure that wilderness areas are
systematically delineated and that the extent and Wild Character of the wilderness they
contain are systematically protected by appropriate management.
Quartzite crags and submontane forest, Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Photo by
Martin Hawes.
A8.3 Design of wilderness protected areas
A WPA whose primary objective is protecting the extent and WC or one or more wilderness
areas must contain, at the minimum, those wilderness areas together with their associated
remoting buffers (A6.1). In other words, it must contain the entire wilderness region
associated with those wilderness areas.
The entirety of the wilderness region must be kept free of major infrastructure such as
roads, vehicle tracks, dams, and powerlines, and major anthropogenic landscape
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disturbances such as logging areas and cleared land. It must also be kept free of
mechanised access (unless required for essential management, emergency, or Indigenous
cultural purposes).
A8.4 Land tenure of wilderness protected areas
The land tenure of WPAs will typically be national park or the equivalent thereof. This land
tenure may be different from that of surrounding areas: for example, a WPA may be a
national park in its own right. Alternatively, and more commonly, WPAs will be identified
by a management category (such as zoning) within the context of more extensive
protected areas.
A8.5 Management of wilderness protected areas
A8.5.1 Maintenance of Wild Character
Maintaining the Wild Character of WPAs requires restricting all types of anthropogenic
development within both wilderness areas and their remoting buffers. Some types of
minor development (such as walking track construction) may be acceptable in some areas,
providing it has no adverse effect on WC. The likely impact of any proposed or likely
developments should be assessed by undertaking quantitative before/after assessments of
WC before such developments are allowed to proceed.
A8.5.2 Other management requirements
Beyond maintaining Wild Character, management of WPAs should follow the guidelines for
IUCN Category Ib areas, as listed by Casson et al. (2016). The requirement to follow these
guidelines should be stated explicitly in the Act; indeed, it would be preferable for the IUCN
guidelines to be included in the Act.
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A9 WILDERNESS RESTORATION
A9.1 Approaches to wilderness restoration
If one accepts our recommended definition of wilderness as (basically) remote, natural,
primitive land, it follows that an area can potentially be restored to wilderness by restoring
its naturalness, remoteness and/or primitiveness.
A9.2 Restoring remoteness
Our definition of wilderness (see A1.5) requires it to have two types of remoteness, namely
linear remoteness from infrastructure and landscape disturbances, and access-time
remoteness from points of mechanised access.
Linear remoteness can potentially be restored by removing and/or rehabilitating
infrastructure such as buildings and vehicular tracks.
Access-time remoteness can potential be restored by limiting mechanised access, for
example by closing roads or banning off-road vehicular use.
A9.3 Restoring naturalness
Naturalness can potentially be restored by either passive or active rehabilitation: for
example, by actively rehabilitating a former remote-area landing strip, or by allowing
previously cleared areas to naturally revegetate.
A9.4 Restoring primitiveness
Primitiveness can potentially be restored by removing or reducing evidence of modern
technological society. Examples of ways in which this might be achieved include preventing
or restricting aircraft overflights, removing infrastructure such as beacons, and minimising
the viewshed impact of developments outside wilderness areas.
A9.5 Timescales for restoration
The timescales required for wilderness restoration will vary widely depending on the type
of restoration involved. In some situations the restoration of access-time remoteness can
be achieved fairly quickly, even immediately, providing limited physical impacts are
involved: for example by banning off-road vehicular use in a sandy coastal area.
The rehabilitation of physical disturbances such as those associated with roads and logging
operations may take decades or centuries, if it occurs at all (see e.g. Dixon & Hawes 2015).
A9.6 Ecological advantages of wilderness restoration
Since wilderness has the ecological values listed in A2.2, wilderness restoration has the
potential to restore or partially restore these values. In particular, it has the potential to
enhance the integrity and connectivity of ecological systems on a landscape scale. For
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example, the removal and rehabilitation of a road from an otherwise roadless area can
potentially increase the integrity and connectivity of the landscape, partly by reducing the
edge effects associated with proximity to roads (see A2.2.8).
A9.6 Examples of past wilderness restoration
The remoteness, and hence the Wild Character, of some parts of the Tasmanian
Wilderness World Heritage Area have been restored by the closure and revegetation
(variously assisted or unassisted) of vehicle tracks and airstrips (Hawes et al. 2015). For
example, the 26 km long Jane River Track in the Franklin–Lower Gordon Wild Rivers
National Park, which was cleared as a vehicle track in the 1970s, has now substantially
revegetated. The track is barely discernible in some forested sections, and is barely usable
even as a walking track.
An example of wilderness restoration achieved by restoring naturalness is the largely
unassisted revegetation and repopulation (by native wildlife) of Macquarie Island,
following the successful eradication of cats, rats, mice and rabbits on the island (Australian
Antarctic Division 2014).
A9.7 Examples of potential future wilderness restoration
Examples of options for future wilderness restoration, again in Tasmania, include:
Closure of vehicle tracks and further restriction of vehicular access on the Tarkine
Coast, Tasmania.
Closure of roads and natural rehabilitation of former logging areas in the Picton
Valley. (Note: complete restoration of forest ecosystems in the valley could
potentially take centuries, if it occurs at all.)
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ATTACHMENTS
PDF of Hawes, M., Dixon, G. & Bell, C. 2018, Refining the definition of wilderness:
Safeguarding the experiential and ecological values of remote natural land. Also
downloadable at http://bit.ly/refiningwilderness.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Poster
Full-text available
We prepared this poster for display at the 11th World Wilderness Congress in Jaipur, which was scheduled for March 2020 but which has been delayed indefinitely by the coronavirus. The poster summarises our arguments for the adoption of a global, qualitative definition of wilderness that takes into account the experiential as well as the ecological values of wilderness, and that includes remoteness as a defining characteristic of wilderness.
Article
Full-text available
Reducing the rate of global biodiversity loss is a major challenge facing humanity¹, as the consequences of biological annihilation would be irreversible for humankind2–4. Although the ongoing degradation of ecosystems5,6 and the extinction of species that comprise them7,8 are now well-documented, little is known about the role that remaining wilderness areas have in mitigating the global biodiversity crisis. Here we model the persistence probability of biodiversity, combining habitat condition with spatial variation in species composition, to show that retaining these remaining wilderness areas is essential for the international conservation agenda. Wilderness areas act as a buffer against species loss, as the extinction risk for species within wilderness communities is—on average—less than half that of species in non-wilderness communities. Although all wilderness areas have an intrinsic conservation value9,10, we identify the areas on every continent that make the highest relative contribution to the persistence of biodiversity. Alarmingly, these areas—in which habitat loss would have a more-marked effect on biodiversity—are poorly protected. Given globally high rates of wilderness loss¹⁰, these areas urgently require targeted protection to ensure the long-term persistence of biodiversity, alongside efforts to protect and restore more-degraded environments.
Article
Full-text available
Global conservation policy must stop the disappearance of Earth's few intact ecosystems
Article
Full-text available
This paper investigates the effectiveness of a Norwegian wilderness therapy programme, Friluftsterapi, which is offered to adolescents within a specialized mental health care setting. This mixed methods study incorporated (1) psychometric pre-, post-, and 12 month follow-up data, (2) executive functioning data, and (3) qualitative data from two rounds of individual participant interviews. The results indicate that group averages remained largely the same between the pre-and post-tests, however that health measures generally improved one year later (Cohen's d effect sizes ± 0.5). Interview data revealed that the processing of the Friluftsterapi experiences takes time and that for many several months are required before the impact is fully internalized and translated into improved daily functioning. In conclusion, the Friluftsterapi experience is perceived as valuable, and it appears to contribute towards improving the mental health of many participants. A refined version of the treatment programme is suggested and briefly presented in the conclusion.
Article
Full-text available
Definitions of wilderness that disregard or downplay the significance of remoteness leave wilderness vulnerable to developments that can substantially compromise its experiential values. These values are best protected by defining wilderness character in terms of naturalness and remoteness, and by making the preservation of wilderness character the primary objective of wilderness reserves.
Article
Full-text available
Roads fragment landscapes and trigger human colonization and degradation of ecosystems, to the detriment of biodiversity and ecosystem functions. The planet’s remaining large and ecologically important tracts of roadless areas sustain key refugia for biodiversity and provide globally relevant ecosystem services. Applying a 1-kilometer buffer to all roads, we present a global map of roadless areas and an assessment of their status, quality, and extent of coverage by protected areas. About 80% of Earth’s terrestrial surface remains roadless, but this area is fragmented into ~600,000 patches, more than half of which are <1 square kilometer and only 7% of which are larger than 100 square kilometers. Global protection of ecologically valuable roadless areas is inadequate. International recognition and protection of roadless areas is urgently needed to halt their continued loss. Read more on www.roadless.online ...
Article
Full-text available
Humans have altered terrestrial ecosystems for millennia [1], yet wilderness areas still remain as vital refugia where natural ecological and evolutionary processes operate with minimal human disturbance [2-4], underpinning key regional- and planetary-scale functions [5, 6]. Despite the myriad values of wilderness areas-as critical strongholds for endangered biodiversity [7], for carbon storage and sequestration [8], for buffering and regulating local climates [9], and for supporting many of the world's most politically and economically marginalized communities [10]-they are almost entirely ignored in multilateral environmental agreements. This is because they are assumed to be relatively free from threatening processes and therefore are not a priority for conservation efforts [11, 12]. Here we challenge this assertion using new comparable maps of global wilderness following methods established in the original "last of the wild" analysis [13] to examine the change in extent since the early 1990s. We demonstrate alarming losses comprising one-tenth (3.3 million km(2)) of global wilderness areas over the last two decades, particularly in the Amazon (30%) and central Africa (14%). We assess increases in the protection of wilderness over the same time frame and show that these efforts are failing to keep pace with the rate of wilderness loss, which is nearly double the rate of protection. Our findings underscore an immediate need for international policies to recognize the vital values of wilderness and the unprecedented threats they face and to underscore urgent large-scale, multifaceted actions needed to maintain them.
Technical Report
Full-text available
This report examines the performance of management for back-country (generally overnight) walking tracks in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA). The evaluation concludes that the extensive walking track network in the TWWHA provides a diverse range of recreational walking opportunities which are highly valued by Tasmanian bushwalkers, and attract significant numbers of interstate and international visitors. Management performance in relation to the sustainability of walking tracks has been mixed. Good progress has been made in stabilising and improving some badly degraded sections of walking tracks, and excellent results have been achieved for extensively hardened tracks that have an ongoing works and maintenance program, such as the Overland Track and Frenchmans Cap Track. However numerous back-country tracks throughout the TWWHA are in substandard condition, and some tracks and campsites are actively eroding and degrading (e.g. South Coast Track, Port Davey Track, and tracks in the Arthur Range). There are ongoing issues associated with successfully managing environmentally sustainable levels of walker usage in sensitive areas of the TWWHA, and unplanned tracks and routes are continuing to expand. Recent recreation planning and investment in tracks, supported by an ongoing works program, are anticipated to improve management performance for back-country walking tracks in several areas including the Walls of Jerusalem.
Chapter
Wilderness is relative; it occupies parts of a spectrum of environmental modification ranging from synthetic high-input urban and agricultural systems through to environments with minimal human interference (Lesslie RG, Taylor BG, Biol Conserv 32:309-333, 1985). This chapter considers the wilderness continuum concept which accounts for the degree to which a place is remote from and undisturbed by the influences of modern technological society, accepting that there are no absolutely inaccessible and undisturbed areas remaining on earth. The focus of the wilderness continuum concept on degrees of remoteness and naturalness in the landscape contributes to our understanding of how modern conservation landscapes can be created, including the role of larger and more intact natural areas. Discussion points to the need for comprehensive disturbance mapping and monitoring focused on patterns of land use, settlement and access across the landscape - as these represent key drivers of terrestrial environmental change. A review and discussion of Australian National Wilderness Inventory (ANWI), a wild land evaluation program conducted in Australia during the 1980s and 1990s (Lesslie RG, Maslen M, National wilderness inventory: handbook of procedures, content and usage, 2nd edn. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1995), is provided. More recent environmental assessments that draw on the work of the ANWI are introduced. An updated global assessment of wilderness quality based on ANWI methods is presented.