Covering one-sixth of Australia, Lake Eyre Basin spans four states—Queensland, Northern Territory, New South Wales and South Australia. As one of the world’s largest internal drainage systems, this expansive, dry wilderness is the site of one of the planet’s most spectacular natural phenomena. Following periodic heavy rainfall, the three river systems comprising Lake Eyre Basin—Cooper Creek, Diamantina River and Georgina River—flood across thousands of miles, moving life-giving water from the country’s tropical north to its arid center. These rivers are known as "Channel Country," a reference to the multiple channels these rivers have on vast, flat floodplains. These waters are vital for wildlife, particularly waterbirds that migrate from across the country to breed and feed. Maintaining the natural river flows of the Cooper Creek, Diamantina and Georgina rivers is essential for ensuring that the Channel Country habitat, and the wildlife that depend on it, is protected for the long-term.
We are working to secure long-term protection for the Channel Country’s natural river flows, wetlands and floodplains. Through our work with the Western Rivers Alliance, a partnership of of conservation and rancher groups, as well as driving a community round table forum featuring Aboriginal peoples, ranchers, irrigators, conservations and local and state government representatives, we aim to protect the area's major river systems—Cooper Creek, Diamantina River and Georgina River—under Queensland's Wild Rivers Act.
In December 2010, the first of these three rivers—Cooper Creek—and its surrounding basin were officially proposed under the Wild Rivers Act. The Basin covers 60.4 million acres, or twice the size of the state of Pennsylvania. Of the 60.4 million acres, we anticipate that 6.8 million acres will be permanently protected as a core protected area, and the remaining acres to be regulated under varying levels of protection. In August 2011, the Queensland Government released protection proposals for the remaining two Channel Country systems, the Georgina River and Diamantina River. These rivers cover 65 million acres with 7.15 million acres in core protected areas. It is hoped that all three rivers will be formally protected under the Queensland Wild Rivers Act early in 2012.