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Farmers  seek payouts to protect bush
Compo call: Farmers seek payouts to protect bush. Picture: Lincoln Baker/ The West Australian

WA farmers have revealed a radical plan to make taxpayers and environmentalists pay for the protection of bush on agricultural properties.

Peak industry group WAFarmers wants the State Government to compensate farmers financially in cases where restrictions have been placed on land clearing.

It also wants legislation to allow farmers to sell off parcels of bush to environmentally minded individuals and organisations.

WAFarmers president Dale Park said yesterday it was time for the conservation movement to put its "money where its mouth is" and pay for the protection of thousands of hectares of bush on privately owned farmland.

Mr Park said farmers were also pushing for the removal of criminal penalties for land clearing breaches under the Environmental Protection Act.

He said land clearing was a major issue for the farming organisation with a number of its members locked in disputes with the Department of Environment and Conservation.

"Most farmers don't think we will be able to clear any more land. What we want the Government to do is recognise that they have taken our land rights away from us and work out how they are going to compensate us for losing those rights," Mr Park said.

"Society and green groups have decided that we are not allowed to clear this land so let society put its money where its mouth is. If it is so important, the Government should compensate us for it or let us subdivide it so people in the city can buy it because it is of no use to us."

Mr Park described the State's land clearing laws as draconian and said that they should be re-written to allow farmers to clear land according to accepted agricultural practices.

The Conservation Council of WA said it was opposed to any move to weaken the State's protection of privately owned bush but gave conditional support to a system which allowed farmers to sell parcels of bush.

CCWA director Piers Verstegen said the council backed incentive-style measures to encourage landholders to protect and retain native vegetation.

Mr Verstegen said the measures could include allowing bush on farms to be placed under a covenant and sold separately provided it was not done to offset land-clearing on other parts of the farm.