Bush Heritage CEO Doug Humann outlines Bush Heritage's long-term goals and an ambitious new fundraising campaign already achieving results for conservation.
Blue pincushion (Brunonia australis
) among a profusion of wildflowers at Eurardy Reserve, WA. Photo Libby Smith.
You and I are the guardians of one of the world’s mega-diverse countries. The uniqueness of our species, their diversity and abundance have been recognised worldwide as being of immeasurable value. Also recognised have been the rate of extinctions of our species, the loss and fragmentation of habitats and the decline in Australia’s environmental health.
Alarm bells are ringing, not only in Australia but internationally as well. Scientists from around the nation have determined that if we're to effectively conserve Australia’s animals and plants we need to protect about another 22 million hectares of quality habitats (nearly 3% of Australia’s land surface) in a range of ecosystems.*
This is an achievable goal but we need to act immediately, and you and I have a significant role to play.
The spider orchid Caladenia sp. is one of many wildflower species protected at Eurardy Reserve, WA. Photo Libby Smith.
Bush Heritage and its supporters will help to reach this national target and we've already made some major gains in the past few months. However, we must step up our activities because in many regions of Australia time is running out.
Every day, properties that have potential for conservation move from one owner to the next. On some of these properties conservation will be a primary or secondary goal, but on others it will not. Often, with the enthusiasm of recent ownership and significant resources to develop the business, a new owner intensifies activities on the land. This usually means increased environmental damage.
It may be through residential or industrial development, or through further loss of native vegetation as land goes under cultivation or irrigation, or where the establishment of permanent water by sinking bores or building dams opens up more land for regular grazing. Every time this happens, habitats are damaged or lost and species suffer.
At present we're seeing a wave of regional extinctions throughout our agricultural lands, and species are disappearing from whole districts. If we're to halt this decline, then we must act, and we must act now!
Waterfowl, including wood duck, flock to the wetlands at Cravens Peak Reserve, Qld. Photo Wayne Lawler / EcoPix.
Bush Heritage is on a mission. Our aim is to conserve, within the next 20 years, one-third of the land needed to meet the national 22 million hectare target: that is, seven million hectares, or 1% of Australia’s land area. This equates to an area the size of Tasmania.
To achieve the first stage of our 20-year plan,we need $20 million. Thus we have launched the Anchors in the Landscape campaign.
This campaign will enable us to secure key areas of land predominantly in our ‘anchor’ regions (see insert), to manage this land for the long term and also, importantly, to build regional conservation initiatives with our reserve neighbours, local and indigenous communities and other key property owners and managers.
No longer can we be satisfied with just working within our reserve boundaries. We must support and encourage others to instigate, or further develop, conservation management on their land.
Twenty million dollars seems like a vast sum to find but, in just over a year, through the commitment and generosity of individuals and funding organisations, we've already raised almost two-thirds of this amount in donations and grants, and pledges that have been committed over three years.
The contributions of The Nature Conservancy and the Thomas Foundation deserve special mention. The Australian Government, through the Natural Heritage Trust’s National Reserve System program, has provided support for the purchase of Cravens Peak Reserve, as well as other reserves that have been acquired or are currently under negotiation.
Zebra finches are colourful residents of Cravens Peak Reserve, Qld. Photo Wayne Lawler / EcoPix.
The purchase of our two most recent properties, Cravens Peak in far-western Queensland and Eurardy on the Batavia Coast of Western Australia, has secured another 260 000 hectares of land. These new reserves protect important vegetation communities and threatened arid-zone wildlife. There are at least 900 plant species on Eurardy alone, of which at least 29 are a priority for protection.
For the next two years we have an ambitious land acquisition plan that includes buying further large reserves in the Gulf Country or Uplands of Queensland and smaller reserves in south-west Western Australia and the grassy woodlands of Victoria and New South Wales.
A new partnership with the Nature Foundation of South Australia will help us to acquire our first property in that state. This acquisition in South Australia is an example of how we'll continue to take up opportunities outside our ‘anchor’ regions when there are real benefits for biodiversity. This property is sufficiently large to be viable for the long term, is really important regionally and will help to protect many poorly reserved ecosystems and species that urgently need secure habitats.
Conservation Programs Manager Paul Foreman and Reserve Manager Jo Rule at Cravens Peak Reserve. Photo Wayne Lawler / EcoPix.
Through our partnership with the Indigenous Land Corporation we've been invited to support Aboriginal people in selecting, acquiring and managing land of high conservation value. The acquisition of such properties will be funded by the Indigenous Land Fund’s Environmental Acquisition Program and the land will be owned by Aboriginal organisations.
The first property under consideration is a 41 000 hectare property in South Australia, proposed for acquisition by the Adnyanathanha people.
Join the campaign
If we're to buy the land and undertake the work that we need to do, we must reach our $20 million target. This no longer seems such a daunting task because of the enthusiasm and generosity shown by our supporters. Every gift is bringing us closer to completing Stage One of our 20-year plan to protect the land and its wildlife.
We have vitally important work to do and we need to do it now if we're to meet the environmental challenge before us. I am asking for your help and hope that you'll be inspired to assist us however you can. Together we will help to build sufficient protected habitats to secure our wonderful native species and protect our unique natural heritage.
We'll also pass on to those who follow us a healthier and more resilient environment. This is the legacy I want to leave for the future.
* Possingham, H. et al. 2002. Setting Biodiversity Priorities (background paper).