A lack of uniform protection laws for native grasslands in the ACT and NSW is hampering conservation efforts, a federal parliamentary inquiry has heard.
The inquiry into Australia's faunal extinction crisis was also told on Friday it was this lack of uniform policy, and farmer's unawareness of the federal acts protecting grasslands, that saw energy minister Angus Taylor's brother under investigation for illegal land clearing.
Mr Taylor's brother, Richard Taylor, was found to have illegally destroyed grasslands protected under federal law on his Monaro farm.
The grasslands aren't protected under NSW law, but are in the ACT. Minister Taylor has a business connection with the farm, Jam Land.
Former Nationals senator John 'Wacka' Williams told the inquiry he heard of Richard Taylor's investigation, and the laws which landed him in trouble, when listening to the ABC in 2017.
Mr Williams called a meeting of National party members with environment department officials, where he had a "pretty stern" discussion with them regarding the laws.
He said the situation was "quite alarming and quite silly".
The federal laws, under the Commonwealth environment act, dictated what type of weed removal and control was allowed in native grasslands.
Environment department officials later told the inquiry Mr Taylor's specific compliance issue was not discussed at that meeting.
The inquiry was told only 2.7 per cent of referrals to the federal environment minister for environmental approvals related to agriculture.
Referrals are necessary when an action, typically a development, is deemed to have an impact on the environment.
The department's compliance officer Monica Collins told the inquiry that Richard Taylor's was the only compliance action in the three years that involved grasslands.
She said the investigation was still ongoing after three years.
"We would like to finish it soon," Ms Collins said.
ACT Labor senator Katy Gallagher questioned why a departmental review into the laws focused so heavily on the Monaro, something department officials pinned on proximity.
Ecologist Stephen Sarre told the inquiry that NSW law needed to match ACT law.
Professor Sarre recently discovered the grassland earless dragons found in Canberra and around Cooma, were two distinct, endangered species.
"I view this species as a bit of talisman for the grasslands," he said.
But he said the environmental laws had failed to protect rural landscapes.
Over 98 per cent of native grasslands across the country have been destroyed since European arrival, the inquiry was told.
The destruction of these types of landscapes was seeing smaller patches, leading to inbreeding amongst native species, Museums Victoria taxonomist Dr Jane Melville said.
La Trobe University lecturer Dr Coling Hocking said almost 20 years of offsetting had produced low positive results for grasslands.
"This concept is flawed and it results in a net loss," Professor Sarre said.