Concerned about weakening land clearing laws in many of Australia’s states (specifically NSW, WA and Queensland), The Wilderness Society last week announced plans to buy a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones) in order to film land clearing and thereby raise awareness of the issue.
Across those states, the conservation organisation claims an area the size of the Melbourne Cricket Ground is cleared every three minutes, but where words may fail to impact the more jaded members of the public, video footage is hoped to engage.
By using drones, The Wilderness Society hopes to gain access to typically well-hidden and remote areas where deforestation may otherwise go unnoticed.
Dubbed ‘Sky Scout’, the initiative may be the best way to halt the irreparable loss of native forests before it’s too late, says The Wilderness Society’s national nature campaigner, Jessica Panegyres.
“Using technology, both in raising the funds and in deploying the drones, is the best way we can help arm journalists, decision makers and local communities with a more accurate picture of what’s going on,” Panegyres said.
“We need to get these drones up into the air to show the public that devastation usually associated with places like the Amazon is happening in our own back yard.”
While the plan is to raise $30,000 or more via the Pozible crowdfunding website, some pastoralists have expressed concern over the plan, saying the drones could spook livestock.
Grazier Graham Elmes told The Courier Mail he would not be surprised if some farmers took matters into their own hands.
“People could take a shot at them (drones). If you don’t know what it is or what it is doing there, what options do you have?”
While UAVs have been used for ecological research, there are some concerns that improper use of the devices could disturb or harm unsuspecting wildlife.
At the time of writing, the Sky Scout crowdfunding initiative had already exceeded its stated target, with eight days remaining.