Munga-Thirri-Simpson Desert Declared Australia’s Largest National Park After 10-Year Campaign | South australia

The Munga-Thirri-Simpson Desert has been declared Australia’s newest and largest national park after a decade-long campaign to protect the region from exploration by fossil fuel companies.

The desert stretches as far as Queensland and the Northern Territory, but the area covered by the new national park lies in the Lake Eyre basin in South Australia and covers 3.6 million hectares.

The new park is double the size of Kakadu – Australia’s next largest national park – and four times the size of Yellowstone National Park in the United States.

The wilderness is a sanctuary for over 900 species of plants and animals, including dingoes, thorny devils and wedge-tailed eagles, and is the site of spectacular scenes during the rainy season when water is trapped. in the dunes.

Temporary wetlands come to life, attracting migrating birds and causing native flowers to bloom in a generally dry and arid environment.

Several First Nations groups maintain a connection to the region with unbroken custody dating back thousands of years. Peter Owen, director of the Wilderness Society of South Australia, hopes this legacy can continue.

“As far as desert systems around the world go, this one is in perfect shape,” Owen said Thursday.

“The Simpson Desert is a huge, untouched desert system with some of the longest parallel dune systems in the world. It is unspoiled wilderness that has honored the care of First Nations peoples for thousands of years. This sort of thing is no longer common in the world.

Dunes and wildflowers in the new Munga-Thirri-Simpson Desert National Park, which covers 3.6 million hectares. Photograph: Bill Doyle / Wilderness Society South Australia

South Australia’s Environment Minister David Speirs said the official proclamation marked “the biggest national park expansion in the state’s history.”

“It’s really exciting that South Australia is now home to Australia’s largest national park and, along with our other changes, gives significant conservation impetus and strengthens our reputation as a world-class eco-tourism destination.” , did he declare.

The announcement means that the total area protected by national parks legislation in South Australia has doubled to 7.9 million hectares.

Speirs said the government would set aside $ 130 million in funding to help conserve “vitally important ecosystems” that provide “a wide range of environmental, social and economic benefits.”

The Wilderness Society began seeking protection for the area in 2010, but efforts were unsuccessful when it was opened up to oil companies seeking to explore gas fields.

As a company interested in the area abandoned plans under community pressure, Tri-Star Energy, a Tennessee-based oil company, took over the lease in 2017 and announced plans to explore for gas in the region in 2020.

In response, the Wilderness Society met with the company and stepped up their campaign for the area to be protected.

Owen hopes the new national park makes unthinkable the prospect of major earthworks required during exploration – where grid patterns are bulldozed out of the landscape – and potential pipeline construction unthinkable.

“It will be a very strange situation if we announce a huge new national park and the bulldozers take off. It will not be satisfactory at all and I cannot see it happening, ”said Owen.

“We hope this is a very strong message that the community here wants to see this protected area.”

Comments are requested from Tri-Star Energy.

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