Conservation partnerships – the lowdown

Saturday 20 June, 2009

Why is working with partners important for Bush Heritage, and what are the benefits? Stuart Cowell, Strategy, Policy and Evaluation Manager, explains.

Uunguu Rangers at Garmbemirri Ranger Camp. Photo Heather Moorcroft.

Uunguu Rangers at Garmbemirri Ranger Camp. Photo Heather Moorcroft.

Bush Heritage has traditionally been known as an organisation that ‘buys back the bush’ – or, to put it another way, we purchase land of high conservation value in order to manage the land for conservation, and to protect these values in the long term.

This is a good idea, and it has worked successfully to help us own and manage nearly 1 million hectares of land for conservation outcomes. But, for a couple of important reasons, it is not sufficient for us to rely on purchase alone – we have to use some different tools from the tool kit.

First, between them, farmers, pastoralists and Indigenous communities manage nearly 80 per cent of the continent, making them, and the land they manage, crucial to Australia’s environmental future. Some of this land is available for purchase, but much is not. Importantly, some of the most critical areas remaining for conservation action are in those areas where purchase is not possible.

Second, the long-term threats to Australia’s biodiversity require sustained and coordinated action at a scale that matches the scale of the threat – typically across properties, catchments and regions. For example, at many reserves we need to manage threats with adjacent property owners because the threats also impact on them. So, even where a property is owned for conservation, the sustainability of its values can be dependent on what happens next door or up the river. 

For these reasons, active partnerships that produce real conservation benefits are essential. Throughout the private land-holding conservation movement, most organisations recognise and act on this need.

A partnership approach has been pursued within Bush Heritage for many years to achieve conservation through working with others and to support our on-reserve activities. A number of partnerships have been established and maintained that will provide real and secure conservation into the future. Our work with many partners in projects such as Gondwana Link, the Tasmanian Midlands, Kosciuszko to Coast and Wunambal Gaambera Healthy Country, to name a few that have featured in recent issues of Bush Heritage News, demonstrates the success that can be achieved.

Bush Heritage assesses potential partnership opportunities with the same rigour we do our property purchases, evaluating conservation gains to be made, financial sustainability, our capacity, and that of our partner, to manage any threats, and the sustainability of the relationship.

As with our reserves, partnerships are secured through a variety of means, including formal agreements and covenant mechanisms.

A partnership approach brings many important benefits, for example:

  • sharing scarce management resources to provide an overall level of commitment that would otherwise need to be found by each individual;
  • sharing land management knowledge;
  • sharing effort and responsibility;
  • extending conservation action into areas where ownership cannot change; and
  • creating community ownership of conservation values.

Creating Bush Heritage reserves through purchase is one way that we can use our resources – people, enthusiasm and expertise – to substantially contribute to meeting the challenges facing biodiversity in Australia.

However, Australia’s biodiversity conservation needs will only fully be met when those resources also actively support partnerships for conservation management. We hope that the work begun in this area by Bush Heritage will continue to grow, and the organisation’s growth and success will be shared in the future by our partners.

With your ongoing support we can build these partnerships to create a lasting legacy for future generations. Through partnership – whether with pastoralists or traditional owners or with you, our supporters – we can achieve lasting conservation outcomes.

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