The New South Wales government has declared the Wollemi Pines, an ecosystem of ancient trees in the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, as an ‘asset of international significance’, pledging to bolster efforts to protect the 90 million year old flora species.
About a year after a herculean effort from firefighters saved the ancient trees from bushfires, state Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said long-term protections were needed to reduce the risk of fire exposure in the future.
While most of the Wollemi Pines — also known as ‘dinosaur trees’ — survived the 2019/20 bushfire season, several hundred juvenile trees were affected, and have yet to re-sprout.
The declaration will pave the way for special regulations that will require authorities to create a dedicated fire management strategy for the area, institute ecological monitoring and fund ongoing conservation management.
“This declaration enables us to take existing protections up another notch, and set specific legislative requirements including a dedicated fire management strategy to secure the survival of the species for generations to come,” Berejiklian said.
The move comes after a $6 million investment by the NSW government to bolster bushfire protections for important ecological sites, a response to the state’s bushfire inquiry.
The Wollemi Pines were only known in fossil records until their discovery in the wild in 1994, nestled in an undisclosed part of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies the trees as critically endangered. In recent years scientists have successfully cloned the pines, potting several in the Botanic Gardens of Sydney and Mount Annan.