So mining magnate Clive Palmer thinks the green campaign against, among other projects, his recently proposed coal mining development of the Bimblebox Nature Reserve in Queensland, might be funded by the CIA.

As we now know, Palmer was referring to a Greenpeace strategy document, leaked a fortnight ago, which raised the potential use of legal challenges to fight coal mining. Palmer, who’s no stranger to litigation himself, accused people linked to the document of treason.

One of the battlegrounds cited by Greenpeace in its response to Palmer’s, er, strange outburst, is the Bimblebox Nature Reserve.

“For Mr Palmer to dismiss environmental concerns over his own projects is worrying given that his China First mine in the Galilee Basin is proposed to be built on top of the Bimblebox Nature Refuge and that he is part of a proposal to build the world’s biggest coal port in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area,” said Greenpeace’s senior campaigner for Australia and the Pacific John Hepburn.

The Bimblebox Nature Reserve is part of a network of reserves on private land established under joint Commonwealth and state initiatives. These reserves were established to protect remnant bush land, address salinity and protect the Great Barrier Reef.

The owners of the reserve are well resourced, well connected and perhaps much tougher opponents than Palmer expected. When Palmer’s Waratah Coal took on Bimblebox late last year he just made things worse for himself.

“Fortunately, the black-throated finch has wings and can fly, but when you look at the nature reserve it was originally a farm and a pastoral area, which had ‘devoided’ all of the vegetation, the main trees and things like that. It was then donated as a nature reserve — the state government independently assessed it and it was given the lowest classification of any environmental reserve in the state,” Palmer asserted at a function in Yeppoon in December last year.

One of the part-owners of the refuge, Paola Cassoni, issued a press release shortly after Palmer’s appearance:

“He has revealed an incredible ignorance about the environment and the impacts that would result from this development.

“Over 95% of Bimblebox Nature Refuge is composed of remnant woodland. That means it has never been cleared. This place was saved from clearing when most properties around here were having their vegetation knocked down.

“It was also found to contain some of the  richest plant diversity in the region because it has never been heavily grazed. Those are the very reasons this reserve was created.

“The conservation agreements we signed with both the state and federal governments are the highest form of protection available for private land in Queensland. Clive Palmer needs to check his facts.”

These networks of nature reserves, established in 2002, stretch across Queensland, use voluntary labour for their management and are extremely well organised. They are seen by a broad cross section of the community and government as a template for public/private targeted cost effective conservation. It is not surprising that they have mounted an extremely professional campaign against his proposal to mine Bimblebox that threatens to set a precedent for all other nature reserves.

Some in the mining industry thought as they were not national parks, they would be easy pickings. They were poorly advised.

The International Union for Conservation and Nature recognised Bimblebox too:

“In 2003, the Bimblebox Nature Refuge Agreement (category VI IUCN protected area) was signed with the Queensland state government to permanently protect the conservation values of the property.”

Then there’s the comprehensive New York Times article published online late last year, which gave the campaign to “Save Bimblebox” international standing.

As if that was not bad enough for Palmer, there is now a commitment from the LNP in Queensland to get the Lock the Gate Alliance to protect nature reserves — which would include Bimblebox.

Palmer’s difficulties with this opposition, however, may well pale when compared to that of the LNP, set to take government this weekend. The LNP have made its call and he does not like it. But rather than attack the LNP, (he is the party’s largest donor, in fact) he has targeted what he thinks is the green movement with outside help from “other enemies”.