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Green farmer faces fine for clearing
Peter Swift. Picture: Nic Ellis/The West Australian

A WA farmer is being prosecuted by the Department of Environment and Conservation for clearing native vegetation despite evidence that the land was cleared by the previous owner.

Peter Swift said aerial photographs showed the 14ha of vegetation was cleared before he bought the Manjimup property in 2007.

He faces a fine of up to $250,000 if convicted, a financial burden that would leave him bankrupt.

"It would completely finish me off, but I'm already under enormous financial strain even without taking lawyers' fees and a fine into account," Mr Swift said.

He said he found it particularly ironic that he was being accused of environmental vandalism after he had fenced off 60ha of his own land so he could plant vegetation to support the endangered Carnaby's cockatoo and other fauna.

"I'm innocent," Mr Swift said. "If anything, I'm a conservationist."

Neighbour Glynn Bevan said he saw the previous owner clearing the land before Mr Swift moved in.

"I witnessed bulldozing on the part of the farm where Peter is being accused of clearing," Mr Bevan said.

Mr Swift said he felt he had been treated badly by the DEC because he had been unable to discuss the allegations without officials saying that anything he said could be used against him in court. He had hoped the issue could have been dealt with through mediation.

Federal Canning MP Don Randall said Mr Swift had become the victim of ruthless and misguided bureaucracy.

"He is being targeted by rogue DEC officers who are hell-bent on prosecuting someone and not interested in justice," Mr Randall said.

Environment Minister Bill Marmion and a spokeswoman for the DEC said it would be inappropriate to comment because the matter was before the court.