Deepening and doubling our impact
Nature has shown us time and time again that we need to do more. Thirty years ago, a group of people heard this call and stepped up to prevent two forest blocks from being logged, in what would become the foundation story of Bush Heritage Australia.
Five years ago, recognising that Australia was in the middle of what some scientists were describing as the ‘sixth great species extinction’, Bush Heritage decided to increase the scope of our conservation work under the objectives of the 2017-2022 Strategic Plan.
In this time, we grew the area of land that we work across from 4.98 million hectares to 11.3 million hectares, driven largely by investing in our Aboriginal partnership program.
The number of threatened species protected on our reserves increased, supported by strong conservation plans and processes. Our active supporter base grew to over 55,000 people. And our brand awareness is now the strongest it has ever been.
Today, nature is still facing increased threats and there is still more work to be done. So, we are stepping up once more. At the end of 2021, we announced our most ambitious strategy to date: to deepen and double our impact across more than 30 million hectares of land – an area larger than the size of Tasmania and Victoria combined – by 2030.
As ambitious as this goal is, we know it is achievable thanks to the foundations we've established in our 30 years and because of our people, our community, our right-way approach, science and technology, and through our astute use of all resources.
At the heart of our new strategic plan are three key pillars around which our growth will occur: reserves, Aboriginal partnerships and natural capital in agriculture.
Building on our existing expertise in land management, we will double the amount of land that we own and manage alongside Traditional Owners to 2.4 million hectares.
We will also deepen our relationships with Aboriginal partners on Aboriginal-held land through a right-way approach. And, in an emerging focus area, we will work with farmers to enhance and protect biodiversity on productive lands.
Our 2030 Strategy signifies a shift towards longer-term strategic planning at the highest levels of our organisation because we know that’s what real, transformational change requires.
A growing workforce
In order for Bush Heritage to deliver its ambitious goal of deepening and doubling its impact by 2030, it will need to grow its operational capacity – and it’s wasting no time in getting started.
Over the last year, 10 new full-time equivalent roles have been created, with a particular focus on increasing the number of Aboriginal-identified roles to better support the growth of Bush Heritage’s Aboriginal Engagement program.
These new roles take the number of Aboriginal-identified staff at Bush Heritage to 13. Several other positions have been created to provide increased ecological, administrative and legal support. This includes a legal officer to help with conservation covenant management and property law, and a corporate partnerships manager to help strategically grow Bush Heritage’s collective impact.
Further to this, we are building on our capability to deliver on our 2030 Strategy through development opportunities and training for our people – Bush Heritage staff, volunteers and partners – who enable us to achieve our ambitious targets and help grow Bush Heritage’s collective impact.
Regenerating the rangelands of WA
A new carbon project on our Hamelin Reserve, Malgana country in Western Australia, will allow thousands of hectares of native vegetation to recover while at the same time generating income for the reserve and local community through associated carbon sequestration.
Hamelin is a 202,644-hectare former sheep station that sits adjacent to the Shark Bay World Heritage Area. Although the reserve was de-stocked after its purchase in 2015, stray goats and sheep from neighbouring properties continue to slow vegetation recovery and exacerbate soil erosion.
To enable country to regain its full potential, Bush Heritage and our neighbours constructed 84km of boundary fencing, most of which was completed last year. It’s expected that, with careful management, the subsequent regeneration of vegetation will capture over 800,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere throughout the project’s 25-year lifespan.
By working in consultation with Traditional Owners and carbon project partner Climate Friendly, this project is expected to generate carbon credits and income to support Bush Heritage and Malgana people to undertake important conservation work into the future to further protect local World Heritage values.
A single source of truth
Bush Heritage ecologists, field officers, reserve managers, partners and volunteers monitor the species, threats, vegetation and habitats on our reserves almost every day of the year. With over 1.2 million hectares of land to assess, that equates to a lot of data.
Last year, our Science and Conservation team commenced implementation of an enterprise-level ecological database that will standardise how our monitoring data is digitised, collected and reported; centralise its storage into one easily accessible system; and ensure that it can be integrated and shared with other systems around the world.
Project Echo, as it’s been dubbed, will not just radically simplify our workflows, it will also fundamentally improve our capacity to measure, analyse and report our impact, and allow us to more easily collaborate and share our learnings with others.
It will also facilitate the storage and use of data from innovative new remote monitoring technologies such as remote soil sensors, audiometers and satellite imagery – all of which will be essential tools to help us deepen and double our impact towards 2030.
Farming for the Future
Across Australia, farmers are realising that managing and protecting the natural capital on their properties can benefit both environmental and business outcomes.
Drought resilience, enhanced productivity and reduced spending on inputs can all contribute to a healthy bottom line, while access to stewardship payments and carbon credits provide additional incentives and means for farmers to invest in evolving their practices.
But farmers need clear evidence of the link between natural capital and farm profitability if the practice is to be adopted more widely. Farming for the Future is a multi-year research program led by the Macdoch Foundation and the National Farmers Federation, with support from PwC, that aims to fill this evidence gap through a study of more than 1000 farms.
The program builds on the work of the La Trobe University Smartfarms Farm-scale Natural Capital Accounts project that is compiling accounts for 50 farms across eastern Australia. As the biodiversity conservation partner for both these projects, Bush Heritage ecologists are assessing the native vegetation condition on those farms.
The data they collect will be compiled into natural capital accounts and will contribute to insights and tools that other farmers can use to make informed decisions about their businesses. The accounts also create the opportunity for Bush Heritage to engage farmers, farm advisors and their stakeholders in planning for biodiversity (and other) improvements on farm, that will be reflected in future accounts.
“You can’t manage what you don’t measure, and most farmers haven’t ever put biodiversity on the books. They’ve never measured how healthy their remnant vegetation is or asked, ‘how much do native pest-eating birds in that remnant vegetation benefit the crops in nearby paddocks?”
-Angela Hawdon, Business Development and Strategic Projects Manager