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A community engagement event in the Tasmanian Midlands.
A community engagement event in the Tasmanian Midlands.

The Midlands Conservation Partnership

Established:

2011

Area:

7,360 ha

Participating properties:

14

Location:

Central Eastern Tasmania

The Tasmanian Midlands are home to some of the most threatened ecosystems in the world – temperate grasslands and grassy woodlands.

The Midlands Conservation Partnership (MCP) brings farmers and conservationists together to protect these important landscapes and the species that call them home.

Established in 2011, the MCP is a joint initiative of nature conservation organisations, Bush Heritage Australia and the Tasmanian Land Conservancy. It's supported by the generosity of philanthropists.

A working landscape, the Tasmanian Midlands have, since colonial settlement, been largely turned over to sheep farming and – increasingly – cropping, poppies, orchards and vegetables.

At the same time, it's an ecologically unique landscape. Surrounded by mountains, the Midlands have lower rainfall than the state’s west, south and east.

Ecologist Matt Appleby with John and Isabel Atkinson.

The Midlands are one of only two terrestrial priority places in Tasmania under the Federal Government’s 2022-32 Threatened Species Action Plan

The ecosystems that once flourished here are not well-protected in national parks and other protected areas elsewhere in Tasmania.

The MCP is working in partnership with farmers to support the co-existence of farming and nature so the landscape’s threatened species can flourish.

Ecologist Matt Appleby with John Atkinson.

What are we protecting?

The Midlands are rich in plant and animal species, many of which are endangered and found only in Tasmania. There are 32 nationally threatened species here and more than 180 plants and animals that are threatened in Tasmania.

The priority conservation target of the program is Tasmania’s critically endangered lowland native grasslands (Poa labillardierei grassland and Themeda triandra grassland).

These grasslands have, since colonisation, been reduced to less than 5% of their original extent.

Through the Midlands, only 30% of native vegetation remains and much of it has been degraded in some way. There's a pressing need to protect these precious remnants – they will not survive without action.

A community engagement meeting in the Midlands.

The Midlands are a refuge for three animals listed as priority fauna species under the Threatened Species Action Plan: 

  1. the Australasian bittern, 
  2. the Eastern Quoll and 
  3. the Growling Grass Frog. 

Eastern Barred Bandicoots and Tasmanian Wedge-tailed Eagles, and a suite of other threatened species, are also found in this landscape.

Among the grasslands are a host of threatened orchids. Four of these have their largest populations on properties protected under the MCP: 

  1. the Golfers Leek Orchid (Paraprasophyllum incorrectum)
  2. Tunbridge Leek Orchid (Paraprasophyllum tunbridgense)
  3. Midlands Greenhood (Pterostylis commutate) and
  4. the Fleshy Greenhood (Pterostylis wapstrarum).

Why is the partnership needed?

At the time of settlement in the early 1800s, the area was a mosaic of woodlands, grasslands, and wetlands, maintained by the traditional burning regimes of its Aboriginal custodians. The open landscape meant sheep grazing estates could be rapidly established on these native pastures. 

This form of farming left the native ecosystems relatively intact. However, with time, significant parts of the Tasmanian Midlands were turned to cropping and pastures fertilised for optimum yields.

Ecologist Matt Appleby with farmer Valerie Le Maitre.

By providing incentives against developing these areas into fertilised pastures or irrigated cropping, the MCP enables farmers to maintain their grazing tradition, protect ecosystems, and generate a reliable income from conservation. The MCP’s ecologists provide evidence-based guidance, helping conservation-minded farmers better manage the landscapes they cherish.

Since the partnership was established, it has secured the long-term protection and management of over 7,360 ha of high priority grasslands, wetlands, grassy woodlands, and forests across 14 properties. The MCP has secured 1,624 ha (11.6%) of its original goal of securing 8,000 ha (75%) of threatened native grasslands (Lowland Native Grasslands of Tasmania).

Ecologist Matt Appleby with farmer John Atkinson. Photo by James Hattam

Ongoing ecological monitoring and reporting informs appropriate management to ensure the condition of these ecosystems is maintained or improves through time. The program’s longevity also created a trusting relationship with farmers who turn to its staff for ecological advice.

Our vision

To promote and facilitate long-term community-based protection and management of threatened native grasslands and associated wetlands and woodlands in the Tasmanian Midlands.

Our impact goals

We're proud of what we've achieved in partnership with local landowners, and we know we have much more work to do. Our impact goals are:

  • By 2025, the Midlands Conservation Partnership is recognised as the pre-eminent model that delivers conservation impact in the Midlands agricultural landscape.
  • By 2027, 75% of the current extent of the nationally critically endangered lowland native grasslands and associated grassy woodlands and wetlands are protected in the Tasmanian Midlands focal landscapes, a designated priority place in the Threatened Species Action Plan 2022-32.
  • By 2027, the condition of the critically endangered lowland native grasslands and associated grassy woodlands and wetlands under stewardship has been maintained or improved.

Our structure

The Midlands Conservation Partnership (MCP) is a joint initiative of Bush Heritage Australia and the Tasmanian Land Conservancy. The model is funded through an endowment fund, the Midlands Conservation Fund, jointly owned by both organisations. The fund grows thanks to donations from philanthropists and members of the public.

The fund was established in 2011 as a company limited by guarantee. It is registered as a charity and on the register of environmental organisations. Its purpose is to provide secure and predictable funds to resource ongoing conservation management on properties secured through stewardship agreements in the Tasmanian Midlands. It is governed by a Board of Directors appointed by both organisations.

Our supporters

Bush Heritage and the Tasmanian Land Conservancy gratefully acknowledge the support for the Midlands Conservation Partnership from the Sidney Myer Fund and the Myer Foundation, the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation, the John T Reid Charitable Trust, the Elsie Cameron Foundation, the Thomas Foundation and a number of private supporters.

Species of the Midlands

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Stories from the Midlands

Sheep on a Tasmanian midlands farm.

BUSHTRACKS 27/03/2023

Lessons from the Midlands

A decade of collaboration between landholders, the Tasmanian Land Conservancy and Bush Heritage.

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BUSHTRACKS 13/04/2020

Farming for the future

On a farm in the Tasmanian Midlands, Simon Cameron is proving that conservation and superfine wool production can go hand-in-hand.

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BLOG 30/04/2018

Bringing fire back to Tassie Midlands

I was recently at Beaufront, a stunning property owned by farmer and private conservationist Julian von Bibra in the Tasmanian Midlands, working alongside University of Tasmania on an innovative new fire experiment that we hope will give us some insights into the effects of fire and grazing on vegetation composition and structure.

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BUSHTRACKS 13/06/2017

A biodiversity hotspot

At first sight, the dry landscape of the Tasmanian Midlands seems an unlikely contender for the title of ‘National Biodiversity Hotspot’. There are only 15 of these hotspots in Australia; areas with high concentrations of species that are endemic (unique) to each region, and which are threatened with destruction. So what makes the Midlands one of them?

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BUSHTRACKS 13/06/2017

Caring for the land

At the heart of the Tasmanian Midlands conservation project are the men, women and children on whose land the future of the Tasmanian Midlands hangs. For many of them, caring for the bush is not only second nature; it’s also a responsibility and a necessity.

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BUSHTRACKS 13/06/2017

Farming for change

Since 2012, Bush Heritage and the Tasmanian Land Conservancy have been working with farmers to restore the Tasmanian Midlands. Now, our efforts are starting to take root.

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BUSHTRACKS 13/06/2017

Paying the way to conservation

What do you do if you want to protect the natural bush on your land, while at the same time making a living off it as a 4th-generation Tasmanian farmer?

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BUSHTRACKS 13/06/2017

Standing in the way of extinction

For some threatened creatures, the grassy plains and woodlands of the Tasmanian Midlands are the only refuges they have left. That’s why we’re trying to save them.

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BLOG 23/11/2016

Ants on the move

At a partnership property in Tasmania's northern midlands I came across a White Gum with ants just erupting out of the crevices. It's a common enough phenomenon at this time of year, but no less fascinating to notice.

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BLOG 06/08/2016

Kirsty studies microbats

Kirsty Dixon will change your tune about bats. The University of Tasmania PhD candidate is studying microbats that call the Tasmanian Midlands home. The eight bat species in Tasmania are all forest dwelling – during the day they roost under bark and in old tree hollows.

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BLOG 05/08/2016

Studying bettongs & bandicoots

In the Midlands of Tasmania there are five bettongs named Egbert, Percy, Dot, Cyril and Maud. They're not pets, but they wear collars. They're not criminals, but Riana Gardiner tracks their every move. Riana is a PhD candidate from the University of Tasmania. She's one of five students investigating how native animals feed, move and avoid predators in the Midlands, a fragmented landscape. Riana has chosen to focus on Eastern Bettongs.

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BLOG 04/08/2016

Kirstin studies bettongs & quolls

Kirstin Proft is enamoured by all things bettong. She's a PhD student from the University of Tasmania. She describes Bettongs as 'weird and wonderful things... charismatic little animals, each with their own personality'.

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BLOG 03/08/2016

Glen Bain studies woodland birds

When Glen Bain moved to Hobart to start his PhD, he quickly learned the calls of the 12 bird species endemic to (only found in) Tasmania, like the Green Rosella and the Yellow-throated Honeyeater. Many other Tasmanian bird species are migratory – flying across Bass Strait to the mainland over winter.

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BLOG 02/08/2016

Studying quolls, cats & devils

Rowena Hamer walks through the supermarket with a trolley full of Seafood Basket, a cheap cat food. While she claims she looks like a crazy cat lady, the PhD candidate insists that it's all in the name of research. Rowena is one of five researchers from the University of Tasmania investigating the animals that live in the Tasmanian Midlands, one of Bush Heritage's priority landscapes.

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BLOG 01/08/2016

Ecology in the Tassie midlands

The Tasmanian Midlands is a patchwork of colours. White sheep are peppered across a paddock. There are red roofs, silver sheds, and swathes of brown soil, cultivated for crops. The patches of remnant native vegetation appear various shades of green. From a hill top, it’s all rather bucolic.

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BUSHTRACKS 21/12/2015

Landmark project looks to continue growth

The Tasmanian Midlands is a biodiversity hotspot, and refuge for dozens of nationally threatened species and nearly 200 plants and animals threatened in Tasmania.

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