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Tasmanian Midlands

7,500 ha
Participating properties:
Central Eastern Tasmania

Between Tasmania’s Eastern Tiers and Great Western Tiers is one of Australia’s 15 national biodiversity hotspots – the woodlands and grassy lowland plains of the Tasmanian Midlands.

Surrounded by mountains, the Tasmanian Midlands has lower rainfall and is ecologically distinct from the wetter regions in the west, south and north of the state.

The area is home to 32 nationally threatened species and more than 180 plants and animals threatened in Tasmania. It’s also a refuge for animals now lost from or struggling on the mainland, including the Eastern Bettong, Spotted-tail Quoll and Eastern Barred Bandicoot.

A rich farming region dotted with convict-era farmhouses, and interspersed with a patchwork of woodlands and grasslands, it’s an environment under-represented in National Parks and other conservation areas.

At settlement in the early 1800s the area was a mosaic of woodlands, grasslands and wetlands, maintained by traditional burning regimes of its Aboriginal custodians.

The open landscape allowed sheep grazing estates to be quickly established on native pastures – a form of farming that left the native ecosystems relatively intact.

Native grasses in the Tasmanian Midlands. Photo Matthew Newton.

However in recent decades, as farming practises have changed and intensified, native grasslands and woodlands have declined and increasingly given way to agricultural pastures and cropping.

Less than 10% of the original native grasslands and 30% of all native vegetation remains, much of it degraded in some way.

There’s now a pressing need to protect these precious remnants. In collaboration with the Tasmanian Land Conservancy, our Midlandscapes project is helping landholders protect the plants, animals and natural features of the region on productive farms.

White Gum forest in the Tasmanian Midlands. Photo Matt Appleby.

What the Midlandscapes Project protects

Animals: Tasmanian Devil (nationally endangered), Spotted-tail Quoll (nationally vulnerable), Eastern barred Bandicoot (nationally vulnerable), Tasmanian Wedge-tailed Eagle (nationally endangered), Eastern Bettong (extinct on mainland, nationally endangered).

Plants: Black-tipped Spider Orchid (critically endangered), Pungent and Golfers Leek Orchids (critically endangered), Silky Bush Pea (vulnerable in Tasmania), Tunbridge Buttercup (endangered).

Vegetation communities: Lowland native grasslands, Ephemeral wetlands, White Gum grassy forest.

What we’re doing

Most native vegetation in the Tasmanian Midlands is privately owned, and many landholders have long historical connections to the landscape. Given this, and the high value of land in this agriculturally productive region, buying properties to manage them for conservation isn’t practical or appropriate.

In collaboration with landholders and the Tasmanian and Australian governments, Bush Heritage and the Tasmanian Land Conservancy work together to implement the Midlandscapes Project, designed to foster conservation on private land.

Ecologist Matt Appleby working with landowner Sam Riggall. Photo Annette Ruzicka.
Ecologist Matt Appleby working with landowner Sam Riggall. Photo Annette Ruzicka.

A key initiative within the project is the innovative Midlands Conservation Fund, which provides stewardship payments to farmers for conserving biodiversity on their farms, alongside agricultural production.

Landholders who take up stewardship agreements are paid a fee for putting portions of their land toward conservation. These agreements then provide annual performance payments for meeting conservation targets.

Our ecologists help identify native plants and animals, and help develop and implement plans to protect them, which include fencing, grazing management and restoration of native vegetation.

The first participants

In June 2013 the Midlands Conservation Fund was launched at the ‘Beaufront’ property of Julian von Bibra at Ross in Tasmania’s Northern Midlands. Julian is conserving 190 hectares of endangered grasslands and woodlands on his farm under the fund.

“The Midlands Conservation Fund means we now have a model that’s committed to conservation and farmers working together for shared goals,” said Julian.

“Essentially, conservation now has a place on the farm balance sheet.”
Julian von Bibra at a fenceline between pasture and native grassland. Photo Matthew Newton.

A long-term commitment

Landowners initially commit to stewardship agreements for up to 10 years with the intention of extending for rolling 5-year terms.

Since its establishment in 2013, the fund has raised $3.7 million through private donations. It’s now supporting 14 Midlands farmers to protect 7500 hectares of high-conservation value land.

Generous donors include the Sidney Myer Fund and the Myer Foundation, John T Reid Charitable Trusts and others.

The stewardship agreement model will be more viable for farmers in the long-term than traditional conservation covenants because it’s underpinned by a fund that will provide money for conservation in perpetuity.

The Critically Endangered Black-tipped Spider Orchid. Photo Matt Appleby.