Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

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Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

Postby wildwanderer » Sat 30 Jun, 2018 2:14 pm

This is a bit of a philosophical question and I’m curious what other peoples view points are.

I was walking in a National Park recently and I remarked on how beautiful a grove of trees looked. They were in flower and with the light filtering through the leaves it looked like a storybook.

The reply I received from a walking companion was.. they are not native, will have to talk to the National Parks about removing those.. This person is active in volunteer bushcare so was serious about having them removed. To my knowledge the species I was looking at wasn’t a pest or an invasive tree.

It got me thinking.. what is so special about a native tree? Why do many people feel that we should only have native trees in our national parks? In NSW many of our natives are eucalyptus and its not like we have a shortage.. They are in abundance both in the National Parks and other forests.

So why the need to remove a tree that is not harming the rest of the environment and is beautiful to look at? I’ve seen National Parks do this on several occasions.

Invasive and weeds species im in favour of removing.
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Re: Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

Postby ribuck » Sat 30 Jun, 2018 3:57 pm

Usually, species diversity is a good thing for an ecosystem. But some people have the urge to manage things.

Most invasive weeds do not survive in NSW if the natural fire regime is allowed to play out.
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Re: Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

Postby MickyB » Sat 30 Jun, 2018 4:45 pm

The non native trees/plants might multiple quicker than the native ones. Might not be a problem immediatley but after years, decades or perhaps centuries the non native plants could 'wipe out' the native plants they are competing with.
Non native plants can also unbalance the ecosystem as they often don't provide the food or shelter that native animals need.
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Re: Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

Postby Warin » Sat 30 Jun, 2018 5:20 pm

wildwanderer wrote:So why the need to remove a tree that is not harming the rest of the environment and is beautiful to look at?


Even if it causes no damage, attracts no ferals nor advantaged/dissuades nothing ...

it still occupies an area that could/should have a native species there. :?
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Re: Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

Postby wildwanderer » Sat 30 Jun, 2018 5:28 pm

Warin wrote:
wildwanderer wrote:So why the need to remove a tree that is not harming the rest of the environment and is beautiful to look at?


Even if it causes no damage, attracts no ferals nor advantaged/dissuades nothing ...

it still occupies an area that could/should have a native species there. :?


but why though?

playing a bit of devils advocate but its a serious question. If there is no negatives to having the non native tree and its pleasant to look at why remove it?
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Re: Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

Postby Warin » Sat 30 Jun, 2018 5:39 pm

wildwanderer wrote:
Warin wrote:
wildwanderer wrote:So why the need to remove a tree that is not harming the rest of the environment and is beautiful to look at?


Even if it causes no damage, attracts no ferals nor advantaged/dissuades nothing ...

it still occupies an area that could/should have a native species there. :?


but why though?


Because there could/should be a native there. (playing the other devils advocate :twisted: )

[Personally .. there are far too many rampant weeds to be worried by something that is not running out of control. Things like privet, blackberry, lantana, etc are very much in evidence here in NPs]
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Re: Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

Postby Zzoe » Sat 30 Jun, 2018 7:11 pm

Native trees are generally better equipped (than introduced species) to provide habitat and food for the other plants and the animals that they've evolved over millions of years alongside of. The purpose of National Parks is not solely to provide a pleasant experience for humans; so the aesthetic quality of a plant as judged by a species that has no dependency upon it for food or habitat- only as a decorative experience- should be fairly low down the list of priorities :). We have plenty of urban parklands which do a good job at aesthetics.
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Re: Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

Postby north-north-west » Sat 30 Jun, 2018 8:34 pm

First, who judges whether or not the feral plants are damaging or limiting the ecosystem? Are you a botanist or ecosystem specialist? If not, your belief that they aren't hurting anything might not be all that accurate, and it certainly isn't based on science.

Second, it's not about individual plants, but about the system as a whole. Any unnatural change to the system will weaken it. That impact may be anywhere on the spectrum from minimal to catastrophic. And once the ecosystem damage goes beyond a certain point, recovery can be virtually impossible.

The ecosystems that exist in our national parks do not exist anywhere else in the world. If you want pretty non-native trees to look at there are plenty of places outside NPs where they exist so you can do that. But NPs are about protecting the native species and systems, not about aesthetic satisfaction for human visitors. It is impossible to avoid all human impact, but we do have a responsibility to minimise it. And that means removal of ferals, whether that be animals or plants.
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Re: Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

Postby ribuck » Sun 01 Jul, 2018 12:11 am

When people say "native", do they mean "native to planet earth"? Or "native to Australasia"? Or "native to Australia"? Or "native to one state"? Or "native to one national park"? Or "native to one hillside"? Or "native to one specific location on the hillside"?

Why arbitrarily choose "native to somewhere in Australia"?

As for weeds like lantana, mentioned above by warin, take a look at a national park after a bushfire - all the lantana is destroyed!

I'm reminded also of the situation with gorse (a highly invasive weed in New Zealand). A highly endangered species of NZ weta turned out to be well adapted to living in gorse, where it was sheltered from predators.
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Re: Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

Postby slparker » Sun 01 Jul, 2018 12:33 am

Why is judgement of the appropriateness of an exotic species contingent on whether a human finds it visually appealing?

I quite like the look of cats. Do they also belong in our national parks?
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Re: Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

Postby MickyB » Sun 01 Jul, 2018 8:37 am

ribuck wrote:When people say "native", do they mean "native to planet earth"? Or "native to Australasia"? Or "native to Australia"? Or "native to one state"? Or "native to one national park"? Or "native to one hillside"? Or "native to one specific location on the hillside"?

Why arbitrarily choose "native to somewhere in Australia"?


Plants found growing naturally in a national park are considered indigenous rather than native. You can get native plants, such as Sweet Pittosporum (Pittosporum undulatum), that are considered environmental weeds in some national parks.
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Re: Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

Postby ChrisJHC » Sun 01 Jul, 2018 9:21 am

Prickly Pear and Blackberry are just two plant species that were deliberately introduced because they either looked good or had nice berries.
They have both done untold damage to the bush.


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Re: Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

Postby wildwanderer » Sun 01 Jul, 2018 9:34 am

Interesting discussion.

I can see merit in the argument that plants indigenous to Australia are adapted and compliment the ecosystem. Though I think many assume that a non indigenous plant is going to negatively impact an eco-system... Certainly in some cases its negative.. but not all.. and im not advocating introducing species to a National Park but if its already there, creates an attractive enviroment and its not harming the eco-system why rip it up?

I agree with ribuck. What makes a native/indigenous planet superior to another plant on planet earth?

Several people have expressed the view that National Parks primary purpose is not to look pretty for humans but to ‘protect the native species and systems’. Noble sentiments but with the many threats we face from governments wanting to degrade our Parks so they can use land for houses or allowing the build of significant tourism infrastructure within our natural environments can we afford to have such a narrowly defined view of a National Parks purpose.?

Beauty inspires… and the more attractive a place is, the more people will like it and want to visit it.. and those visitors may be the ones who save it…

If an environment is filled with eucalypts that people see everywhere… it’s hard for your average John/Jane Smith to be inspired to vote against policy’s that put those environments under threat.

Not saying that many native/indigenous species are unattractive or unworthy of conservation… far from it.. but I think to destroy a beautiful natural environment just because its non-indigenous is ‘big picture’ doing the conservation effort a disservice.
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Re: Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

Postby north-north-west » Sun 01 Jul, 2018 9:51 am

Fine.
Then let's put roses in all our NPs 'cause they're real pretty. And tulips. And cats and rabbits are cute, so we'll let them go where they want. That will improve the aesthetics no end. After all, eucalypts are ugly trees compared to maples and oaks and firs, so let's replace the bulk of them. And bring in squirrels and otters - everyone loves otters, they're such fun . . .

Again: who decides which non-native plants and animals are appropriate to have in our NPs? Everyone has slightly different ideas of which are the 'prettiest' plants. If everyone's aesthetics are given even validity, it's no holds barred and no room left for the natives.
Again: how do you 'know' an introduced plant doesn't have a negative impact on the ecosystem? Any actual valid scientific evidence?

And adding the degradation of natural ecosystems by introducing non-native plant species to the other problems these places face isn't going to help in maintaining their health and integrity.

No-one is saying that native or indigenous plants and animals are overall 'superior' to others. But they are superior and highly preferable in our NPs, because that is part of why our NPs exist. And if we don't protect them, we run a great danger of losing these species permanently. They don't exist anywhere else. The ecosystems in which elms and chestnuts and lantana and foxes and meerkats play a natural part exist elsewhere. Neither those ecosystems nor the species which belong to them are in danger of degradation or extinction by removal of individual specimens from our NPs. Keep them in your yard if you want them. Go to a zoo or a botanical garden if you want the more exotic ones. But leave our native species somewhere to exist in peace.
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Re: Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

Postby wildwanderer » Sun 01 Jul, 2018 10:11 am

north-north-west wrote:Fine.
Then let's put roses in all our NPs 'cause they're real pretty. And tulips. And cats and rabbits are cute, so we'll let them go where they want. That will improve the aesthetics no end. After all, eucalypts are ugly trees compared to maples and oaks and firs, so let's replace the bulk of them. And bring in squirrels and otters - everyone loves otters, they're such fun . . .


:roll:
Why is there a need to go to the extremes of the debate and try to infer that those who disagree with you are advocating putting ‘tulips’ and ‘roses’ in a National Park or replacing the bulk of eucalypts with maples and oaks…

Off topic but this part of the reason our societies are so polarized... anyone who doesn’t support the defined point of view must be the enemy… Why not try and find middle ground instead ?

Edit spelling/sentence structure.
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Re: Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

Postby stepbystep » Sun 01 Jul, 2018 10:36 am

wildwanderer wrote:
north-north-west wrote:Why not try and find middle ground instead ?


Because the middle ground exists in the suburbs and the city outskirts. Australia has the greatest rate of extinction for plant/animal species in the world already. This is a no-brainer for goodness sakes. I genuinely love many plants, that's why I walk through the botanic gardens with such glee. I go to the national parks to connect with the essence of THIS country.
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Re: Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

Postby north-north-west » Sun 01 Jul, 2018 10:48 am

wildwanderer wrote:Off topic but this part of the reason our societies are so polarized... anyone who doesn’t support the defined point of view must be the enemy.


I am attacking this specific idea, not you.
And another reason we have this polarisation is because so many people ignore valid objections to their ideas. I've asked two questions twice. You still haven't responded. There's no way to reach a consensus if you won't discuss all facets of a concept.
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Re: Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

Postby stepbystep » Sun 01 Jul, 2018 10:58 am

To throw you a bone though wildwanderer....I'm in favour of more cultural burning to reduce the prevalence on invasive natives such as eucalyptus and various melaleuca/leptospernum species, also orietes and some others down here are making a mess of things and making the landscape increasingly dangerous to wildfire. Planting groves of pretty trees to 'improve' the aesthetic is defo for the 'middle ground' not NP's. imho :)
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Re: Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

Postby wildwanderer » Sun 01 Jul, 2018 11:00 am

north-north-west wrote:And another reason we have this polarisation is because so many people ignore valid objections to their ideas. I've asked two questions twice. You still haven't responded. There's no way to reach a consensus if you won't discuss all facets of a concept.

To respond to the specific questions.

Again: who decides which non-native plants and animals are appropriate to have in our NPs?

The national parks authority, the relevant government environmental dept and ultimately the people who voted for the government of the day. No perfect by any means but its what we have..

Again: how do you 'know' an introduced plant doesn't have a negative impact on the ecosystem? Any actual valid scientific evidence?

Im not claiming to be a scientist. I don’t know if an non-indigenous plant has a negative impact or not.. but I would like to see the parks authority/government dept environmental scientists be given the opportunity to determine if a non-indigenous plant is harmful or not before it is removed for no other reason than it is “non-indigenous”.

I could ask the same question. How do you know that the non-indigenous plant will have negative impact on the ecosystem?
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Re: Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

Postby wildwanderer » Sun 01 Jul, 2018 11:06 am

stepbystep wrote:To throw you a bone though wildwanderer....

hehe thanks :)

stepbystep wrote:Planting groves of pretty trees to 'improve' the aesthetic is defo for the 'middle ground' not NP's. imho :)


Im not advocating this.

I’m simply saying that if a non indigenous plant already exists and its determined to not be harming the eco-system then it shouldn’t be ripped up. Especially if it has another value.. including an aesthetic value.
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Re: Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

Postby north-north-west » Sun 01 Jul, 2018 3:13 pm

And, maybe just maybe, there is evidence that plants foreign to the ecosystem do invariably (or in all known cases, at least) have a negative impact? And maybe the relevant authorities are aware of that, and that is part of why there is a policy of removing them.
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Re: Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

Postby Warin » Sun 01 Jul, 2018 4:40 pm

wildwanderer wrote:
north-north-west wrote:
Again: how do you 'know' an introduced plant doesn't have a negative impact on the ecosystem? Any actual valid scientific evidence?

Im not claiming to be a scientist. I don’t know if an non-indigenous plant has a negative impact or not.. but I would like to see the parks authority/government dept environmental scientists be given the opportunity to determine if a non-indigenous plant is harmful or not before it is removed for no other reason than it is “non-indigenous”


Given that the govt employees are busy (otherwise they 'd be out of a job) I'd think with the present gov this would be handed over to outside contractors ... $,$$$ .. not worth the cost of a tree?

Is it worth the cost/risk? Particularly when that tree can be found in a botanic garden or a local park?
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Re: Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

Postby Son of a Beach » Mon 02 Jul, 2018 10:46 am

I think you need to consider what is the purpose of the national park - and this varies from park to park. However, in many cases I think that one of the purposes is to preserve the natural state of that area. Some parks may exist to protect cultural/historical significance, for recreation or for various other reasons. If preserving the natural ecosystem of the park is part of its purpose for existence, then it is logical to remove plants that have been introduced by humans (if such introductions are considered to be not-natural).

There are some well known exceptions to this, such as Gordonvale in Tasmania, where there used to be a well-known residence in the middle of the national park, including vegetable gardens, and decorative european plants. I think that some people would argue whether those plants should be removed, because they are not native to that location, or that they should be preserved because they have cultural and historical significance. Certainly on Maria Island where cultural and historical values are a major reason for the existence of the park, there are a lot of large non-native trees that are protected (eg, macrocarpa pines). But even there, such trees would not be permitted to to grow on other parts of the island where the natural environment remains largely unchanged.

Unfortunately, Australia doesn't really have (many) true 'national parks' in the same sense as the USA does. Most of our so called "national" parks are really 'state parks' as they are governed by states, not by the national government. But that's a story for another day.

(Edit: Last paragraph corrected as pointed out below.)
Last edited by Son of a Beach on Mon 02 Jul, 2018 3:14 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

Postby Warin » Mon 02 Jul, 2018 11:34 am

Son of a Beach wrote:Unfortunately, Australia doesn't really have true 'national parks' in the same sense as the USA does. Our parks are really 'state parks' as they are governed by states, not by the national government. But that's a story for another day.


There are a few truly 'National' Parks in OZ. Uluru and Kata Tjuta for example. See https://parksaustralia.gov.au/

Most, as you say, are State. In NSW the National Parks took over some areas that were set aside for recreation, they were called 'State Recreation Areas'- the main function was to provide primarily for the recreation of the public, not to preserve flora and fauna, preservation of flora and fauna is secondary. Lane Cove River National Park is one of them. And then within some National Parks some areas are regarded as more 'pristine' than others - the other areas could be viewed as buffers .. where some degradation is tolerated but removed before it can spread to the 'pristine' area.
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Re: Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

Postby Montaine » Mon 02 Jul, 2018 6:09 pm

Son of a Beach wrote:I think you need to consider what is the purpose of the national park - and this varies from park to park. However, in many cases I think that one of the purposes is to preserve the natural state of that area. Some parks may exist to protect cultural/historical significance, for recreation or for various other reasons. If preserving the natural ecosystem of the park is part of its purpose for existence, then it is logical to remove plants that have been introduced by humans (if such introductions are considered to be not-natural).


Exactly. I think that a good deal of conflict come from just that - peoples differing ideas about the purpose of national parks (actual legislation and policy aside). In terms of non-native species in national parks, it's unlikely anyone is suggesting that it is okay for them to be planted just because they look nice - that's what botanic gardens are for. Most people would agree that the need for eradication of invasive species is a given. But, in the instance where in the past, non-native but non-invasive species have been established in a national park, is there the same imperative to remove them? I don't think there is, necessarily. Not simply on the basis that they are non-native.

National parks serve purposes outside of nature conservation, including the conservation of historic, social and aesthetic values, and sometimes this might include examples of non-native vegetation.
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Re: Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

Postby madpom » Mon 02 Jul, 2018 6:36 pm

@ribuk. You are correct. If you wish to maintain the current balance in an ecosystem then 'Native' is highly abritary and is definately not enough. Locally sourced native is what should be viewed as desirable.

Even more so if a plant you introduce from elsewhere in the country exists in the local ecosystem. A plant from another region will have different adaptions to different climatic conditions, different pests, different synbiotic relationships with different innoculum, fungi, etc. By introducing it's genes to the local gene pool you are introducing those new traits to the entire local population. That can make all the offspring less well adapted to that location, or can affect the relationshops between them and other species that depend on them.

The moral question of whether we should preserve ecosystems as-it, adapt them to our liking, or simply ignore the effects of our actions on them (as all other species do) is a harder one to answer. There is no scientific right or wrong answer to that one: just as many ethical ones as there are options to choose from.
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Re: Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

Postby Hughmac » Thu 05 Jul, 2018 8:27 pm

Complete no brainer to me - National Parks primary purpose is the conservation of native flora and fauna, and anything that impacts that has no place there. God knows we have already lost enough of it.The logic of keeping exotic species in NPs for aesthetic reasons is the brain dead logic that has feral horses now protected in Kosciusko NP. As to the 'we have lots of gum trees' argument, there are around 800 different species, many with very limited distribution due to their environmental limits. E langleyi occurs in a single location south west of Nowra in Morton NP, or E paliformis, known from one location north-east of Cooma (Field Guide to Eucalypts Vol. 1, Brooker & Kleinig). Exotics have no place in National Parks.
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Re: Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

Postby johnw » Fri 06 Jul, 2018 12:24 am

Hughmac wrote:Complete no brainer to me - National Parks primary purpose is the conservation of native flora and fauna, and anything that impacts that has no place there. God knows we have already lost enough of it.The logic of keeping exotic species in NPs for aesthetic reasons is the brain dead logic that has feral horses now protected in Kosciusko NP. As to the 'we have lots of gum trees' argument, there are around 800 different species, many with very limited distribution due to their environmental limits. E langleyi occurs in a single location south west of Nowra in Morton NP, or E paliformis, known from one location north-east of Cooma (Field Guide to Eucalypts Vol. 1, Brooker & Kleinig). Exotics have no place in National Parks.

I totally agree Hughmac, and with similar views expressed earlier. I don't have time right now but may add further to this discussion later. I've been active in volunteer bushcare in a WHA NP and adjoining reserves for nearly 15 years, mainly focused on remote-ish locations badly impacted by urban runoff, and subseqent fires which have caused rampant regrowth of noxious and environmental weed species. Seed from horrors like gorse and broom species remain viable in the ground for up to 80 years. Some, e.g. broom are germinated by fire. Many environmental weeds would likely be seen as harmless and desirable garden plants by the general population. However they frequently have the potential to overtake and exclude native vegetation over time. I'm definitely not a scientist but some of those I work with are and have shared views. It is a never ending battle to deal with noxious species, let alone environmental weeds and newly discovered threats. The new discoveries are often in the category described by the OP - attractive looking non-native species. Examples of new threats that have come to the attention of scientists in recent years are Spiraea and some species of Rhododendron. Any plant growing in a NP that is not a native species endemic to that location, is a weed and should be eradicated.
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Re: Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

Postby MickyB » Fri 06 Jul, 2018 8:29 am

johnw wrote:Any plant growing in a NP that is not a native species endemic indigenous to that location, is a weed and should be eradicated.


Endemic means exclusively confined to a given region. eg Nothofagus gunnii grows naturally only in Tasmanian and so is a Tassie endemic.

An indigenous species may grow naturally in several areas eg. Nothofagus cunninghamii grows naturally in Tassie and Victoria and therefore can not be considered endemic to Tassie.

Endemic and indigenous species are both still considered native.
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Re: Plants/trees – Why are only natives desirable?

Postby Moondog55 » Fri 06 Jul, 2018 8:38 am

BUT
There are more than one type of park set aside and one of these types of "park" is that type set aside to preserve a certain landscape/cultural site/historic precinct.
Certainly in a "Wilderness area" [ of which IMO Australia has none really as all Australian land area is already modified to some degree by man] then introduced species whether native or exotic have no place but in areas set aside because of cultural and historical reasons to remove the exotics makes no sense as the park was set aside because of these same exotic species.
In the Norlane/Corio/Anakie area a certain wattle is highly endangered but in the rest of Australia it is considered a real pest species, so a real distinction needs to be made between "Native" and "Indigenous" species and what we consider to be "Weeds"
Some parks became established here in Victoria when the old Forests Commission Victoria was disintegrated and many of the FCV experimental/research plantations came under the envelope of the new department called Parks Victoria, I think we just have to accept that we have an Ad-Hoc system with no clear distinctions between different types of "National Park"
I too would like to see some REAL national parks funded federally and well protected but I think we need a constitutional change to allow that to happen unless we can allow these to be established under the guise of National Defense and Security and become Commonwealth Territory
Ve are too soon old und too late schmart
Moondog55
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