Australia's most populous state was declared entirely in drought on Wednesday, and struggling farmers were given new authority to shoot kangaroos that compete with livestock for sparse pasture during the most intense dry spell in more than 50 years. Much of Australia's southeast is struggling with drought. But the drought conditions in New South Wales state this year have been the driest and most widespread since 1965. The state government said Wednesday that 100% of New South Wales' land area of more than 309,000 square miles, an area bigger than Texas, is now in drought, the AP reports.
Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair says farmers are enduring one of the driest winters on record. Farm reservoirs have dried up and crops are failing.The state government has lifted the number of kangaroos that farmers are allowed to shoot and reduced bureaucratic red tape facing landholders applying for permission to shoot. "Many farmers are taking livestock off their paddocks, only to then see kangaroos move in and take whatever is left," Blair says. "If we don't manage this situation, we will start to see tens of thousands of kangaroos starving and suffering, ultimately leading to a major animal welfare crisis." Wildlife groups, however, warn that farmers will end up killing off the "genetically superior kangaroos that can survive the drought."
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